Message by Allan Meyer 6 & 7 Sept 2020
Life Group Discussion Study by Andrew ChisholmThe Risks of Parenting
This year on Father’s Day, Allan Meyer shared a terrific message that reminded us of the risky and paradoxical role parents have (see A Dangerous Moment in Fathering
). A father (or mother) is responsible to express love towards their child through both affirmation and discipline. As the writer to the Hebrews notes, an important parental responsibility is appropriate training, correction or discipline.9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:1-13
However, the responsibility to train and correct can create critical moments of danger and opportunity within the parent-child relationship. The danger is that harsh discipline often if not inevitably creates an angry response. So Paul counsels fathers in his letter to the Ephesians: “… Do not exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Ephesians 6:4 (Message version)
As Allan noted, there is a fracture in the human soul that amplifies and distorts the consequences of discipline. Parents can over discipline out of their own family of origin hurts and experiences. Children can perceive appropriate discipline wrongly as proof of failure and a place of rejection. At worst we can see it as divine retribution. So parents face the difficult task of bringing correction with love and affirmation. We do not always succeed at that task. So what is the path ahead? How can we walk that difficult path as both parents and children and find hope?Guideposts for the Risky Journey of Parenting
In his message, and a conversation I had with him the following week (see Fathering
), Alan gave us some important guideposts for the risky journey of parenting. Here are four of them:• Affirmation.
Allan spoke on the importance of affirmation and he shared how his own father found it difficult to speak words of love and affirmation. Discipline without affirmation is bound to fail. It tears at the fracture in the human heart. Without affirmation, discipline cannot achieve its positive training role. To balance the pain caused by discipline we need to have a bias towards affirmation.• Tone of Voice.
Allan suggested that tone of voice was an important element of maintaining a positive and affirming spirit while also providing correction and admonition. I know in my own experience learning to moderate my tone of voice has been an important key to not exasperating children and later grandchildren as I give them input.• Repair Work.
Allan also emphasised the need to follow up after correction is given. There is relational repair work that needs to be done if we are to avoid the dangers of harsh correction. That does not imply avoiding issues, but providing follow-up after an issue is confronted; and that follow-up should aim at repairing the hurt and reinforcing the child’s sense of value. Also repair work is not just a matter of balancing correction equally with affirmation. Affirmation needs to go over and above to do its full work in repairing the broken human heart.• Humility and Forgiveness.
Finally, Allan shared about the importance of seeking forgiveness and acknowledging our own shortcomings. No parent gets it 100 percent correct. Yet our mistakes also provide us opportunities to demonstrate some powerful parenting principles. These are principles of showing humility, seeking forgiveness, and working to do better next time. In some respects, I think it is these qualities which best enable us as both parents and children to discover both grace and value in our relationships.
So why not take some time as a Life Group to explore your own experience of the parent-child relationship. Take it gently because for some this might be quite a difficult topic to explore. However, as you open up to each other on these issues, I believe it is possible to find healing, hope and wisdom so we can be both better parents and better sons and daughters.Discussion Questions
1. What has been the most positive experience you have had with parental figures in your life?
2. Share a time when you have been able to have a positive influence in a child or a younger person’s life through a balance of correction and affirmation.
3. Read through Hebrews 12:1-12 and Ephesians 6:1-3. What can we learn from these passages about the delicate balance of correction and affirmation that is required in parenting?
4. Why do you think moderating ones tone of voice is such an important aspect of setting boundaries and consequences?
5. Why do you think it is important to consciously do “repair work” after correcting a child?
6. Why is it difficult for us to express humility and seek forgiveness from a child?
7. What other practical ways can you think of to navigate the dangerous rapids of parent-child relationships?
Pray for each other and particularly those where there has been hurt, pain or difficult experiences in parent-child relationships.