Yesterday my my two oldest girls and I talked for almost half an hour. They poured their hearts out to me and each other and at one point all three of us were crying. It was one of my proudest moments as a father but it wasn’t always this way. Among parents (and especially among religious, traditional, or intentional parents) there is so much pressure to raise good and obedient children. Our proudest moments are when we hear things like “Oh you’re children are so well behaved” or “You’re children are so quiet”. And, as a result, the majority of our energy goes into reinforcing this behavior and our biggest fears become the moment at the grocery store or in front of friends when a child freaks out or rebels.
But our proudest parenting moments should not be about obedience, they should be about intimacy. This was modeled to us by a God in the Bible who wanted to walk with his children in a garden. He brought them to a mountain to see them but they sent a representative. He wanted to rule them directly but they preferred a king. The more this happened obedience began to replace intimacy in our relationships with God. It has also done this in our parenting.
What’s the alternative? To begin to prioritize the type of relationship with children where we draw them to our hearts. In doing this we model how our God draws us to his heart. Instead of freaking out about disobedience start freaking about the patterns and moments where we resort to behaviors and wrote verbage to feel good. To begin to brag about how close the Heavenly Father wants to be with us and how close we want to be with our children. As our children draw closer to our heart and the heart of The Father they will become obedient. But they will also become more compassionate and humble. And a whole bunch of other things that just following rules never seems to accomplish.