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Personality types.

So, you know, I have a personality type where it’s hard for me to talk about things that are controversial. I don’t want to be noticed; I don’t want to argue with anyone; I want everyone to be happy and peaceful.

But there are also issues that burn inside me. Topics and questions that are very important to me. That are important to God, too, but He doesn’t give everyone the same interests– so if you don’t care about this to the degree I do, that’s OK with me; there are most likely issues you really care about and I don’t. To various people He gives various issues to care about because we are finite.

So, I have to reconcile two things about myself– my desire to be only nicely noticed and not be involved in controversy while at the same time, speaking out the things that God makes burning issues in my heart.

I am learning to speak (instead of remaining silent) in a calm, peaceful, non-argumentative but assertive way about issues that I care about deeply. They are hard for me to talk about because people are already so assertive, and loudly so, and argumentative about these topics. And the church of God needs to be very careful about what issues we argue about and how we “argue.”

I want to say also, this issue does not define my life, and I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who do not agree with my position.

First, to define my subject: breastfeeding (or infant feeding) and babies crying and reflecting the nature of God as mothers.

Second, I want to define my audience.  Ideally, I’m talking to women who are struggling with their consciences in this issue. As mothers, we should want with our whole beings to feed and comfort the cries of our babies. God made us this way. So, ideally, I’m talking to moms who are in the balance on these issues.

Third, here’s my (very simple) message:

  1. Feed your baby.
  2. Answer your baby when he cries.

Some of you may be amazed that we need a theological argument for doing these very simple, innate (natural, instinctive, unlearned, inborn) practices.

I myself am amazed by this.

But, if this is the need of the age, then … I will accept that.

I will also shoot from the hip and name names. I think it’s mainly today Ezzo’s book (“Babywise”) that promotes scheduled feeding as “God’s way” of feeding babies  and ignoring your baby’s cries as essential for good parenting. This book is very popular among Christian parents.

I think its seemingly “godly” strictness, its flashy promises of a lengthy list of benefits, and the name advertising it boldly as “God’s way” make this a formidable issue for a remarkable number of Christian women …

I want to pause here. You see that paragraph above? That is why I am writing. I am writing boldly and assertively, though it is not my nature to do so, because others (ie., Ezzo) are making bold, assertive statements. I will answer with a corresponding boldness and assertiveness, though I have no desire to argue.

So, back to my message.

I. Feed your baby. Feed your baby. Feed your baby. Babies feed for many wonderful reasons. They are hungry, they are thirsty, something hurts, they want to be close to mommy, the sucking action itself is comforting. … God made babies to feed– it’s designed to be both physical and emotional. Babies need this–physically and emotionally. He didn’t turn your breasts off and on every three hours, which He could’ve very easily done. He made most women capable of feeding their babies very frequently.

I know Ezzo has mocked (in his book) those who cue feed and portrayed it as something horrible. But I want to tell you– he’s lying to you there. I have 4 children, ages 9 to 10 months. I have exclusively breastfed each one for the first ten months of life. I never ever looked at a clock about this issue. I have flown back and forth over the Atlantic numerous times with happy, complimented, non-sleep-medicated babies and children. I have traveled around the States, we love camping, I have lived, lived, lived a joyful mostly-in-motion life– all breastfeeding almost nonstop for about 10-11 years now.

I have slept. SleptSleptSlept. My babies have all slept very well at night right next to me. They’ve all slept for long stretches. The current baby sleeps all night and wakes up with me in the early morning to refeed and fall back asleep and I get up. I don’t recall that I have ever put my feet on the floor to stand up during a night. Ever.

My point is not that parenting is easy. My point is that Ezzo (or whoever) is lying to you when he says that schedule feeding is easy, or at least easier than cue feeding. It’s not.

I would also be so bold as to say that my choices have probably made my life easier and my children easier to handle. I’ve not had any breastfeeding issues. I’m not promising that you won’t if you do what I do. But what I mean is that scheduling and other such rules can make breastfeeding and sleeping actually harder.

As for E’s ideas about God’s orderliness and it’s supposed application to breastfeeding … stand back from the Word of God and look at It’s entirety in your mind…. Pan through the whole of Scripture…. Now lay over the ideas of strict scheduling. …

You know, it’s really not there. Really. It’s. Not. There.

In fact, I could give you a lot of “Bible verse” reasons for cue feeding:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Is.49:15

Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children. I Thess 2:7

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:11-13

I could wax on and on, loading up reasons why God wants us to generously cue-feed our babies and respond to their cries, using these verses (and several others). But I won’t. I don’t think I should twist into Scripture what is not really meant there. Ezzo, however, has no such compunctions, and that is my point.

My message is, dear mother, you can feed your baby freely and generously with a non-accusative conscience. God designed you to do that, and to want to do that. You can comfort your baby at your breast. I will tell you from experience, it is sweet to do that. It is handy! And it’s a great way to affirm that special bond that God created to be between you and your child. Don’t let someone steal your joy by creating rules that have “an appearance of godliness, but deny the power thereof.”

I want to talk for a moment about “independence.” Several baby masters use this term in a desirable fashion, to mean things like your baby should fall asleep independently, your baby should play independently, your baby should emotionally soothe himself independent of you.

I am trying to speak carefully here, but I want to say, in very strong terms, that that kind of thinking is dangerous. And here is why:

God specifically designed human babies, babies made in His image with parents made in His image, to have long, vulnerable childhoods, to be extremely (compared to other mammals not made in God’s image) underdeveloped when born and to have complex needs (compared to a baby animal’s needs).

The neediness of infancy, childhood, and adolescence is all designed. God designed our babies to need us to soothe them, to need us to help feel safe, to need us and our responsiveness in order to develop emotionally. Babies are not capable of emotionally soothing themselves. For example, they are not learning to “soothe themselves” when they cry themselves to sleep.

Especially small babies. Don’t haste to harden your heart toward that neediness, toward that baby. If we accept it, and give ourselves to serve our babies, then as they gradually grow into independence, we can give that over to them, too, with wisdom and while having a strong emotional bond formed with them.

I will speak personally for a moment. I have been very thankful for the bonding “dependency” disciplines of mothering–gestating, birthing, breastfeeding, wearing my babies in slings close to me, sleeping next to them, and answering their cries. Giving myself over to serve them as God created and only I can do.

Because I particularly struggle with feeling emotional bonds with my kids. And I struggle with keeping them connected when I lose that contact of breastfeeding and wearing and all. I am still learning how to sustain emotional bonds (dependence, if you will) with my kids as they grow older.

2. I want to shift into including my second message: Answer your baby when(ever) he cries.

Hmmmm. I have raised these kids with responding to all their cries and breastfeeding generously, and accepting their neediness and serving them in it … And they are growing up quite “independent,” ready to go off to camp without me, walk to the store without me, fall asleep without me …. I even dare to say that consistently responding to them has helped them grow in feeling confident and secure.

And at the same time, I still keep us close, working to keep our emotional connection strong and healthy.

I haven’t been run ragged, I’m not yanked here and there by the whims of my children. I have grown in dignity and confidence and love as a mother. These disciplines, plus developing a fuller understanding of God’s nature expressed through motherhood, have grown me into loving the job of mothering. It becomes easier and more enjoyable.

So if someone is claiming otherwise– that responding to their needs will ruin your children, and ruin you, it’s a lie.

Vitaliy was recently at workshop for rehab center leaders. Two American men came to Ukraine– they lead biblical healing groups for people enslaved to various forms of sinful s’xual behavior. They talked about childhood, what should make up a normal, healthy childhood. Their words are very insightful:

  • Children need to be children (play, develop, etc).
  • Children need to imitate their parents.
  • Children are basically emotional humans– they do not understand logical reasoning.
  • Children need to know that their parents will fight for them, protect them.
  • Children need to have strong emotional connections with each parent.
  • The main work of parents is to meet their children’s emotional and physical needs unconditionally (only God can meet their spiritual needs).

Selah.

Selah again.

As I have grown in my ability to be patient with children who are being children, I have become a more loving person. As I have invested years into meeting my children’s physical and emotional needs, I have become a more loving person.

God has designed the neediness of childhood. He designed it with parents in mind–to make us more able to express His image.

Feed your child–God made him to need you. Answer his crying–God designed him to need you. It is a blessing for you that he needs you so deeply, that he so strongly wants to be connected to you. This neediness will be your friend for years as you continue to guide your child into relationship with the One upon whom we are all fully needy and continually dependent.

Also, I’d like to share that I have practiced cue-feeding and responding to my babies’ cries, and I love it. I really love it. My husband loves it, too. The older I get and the more perspective I get, the more I love it and the more thankful I am for it. We both are.

We have a close, intimate, wonderful marriage. Cue feeding and answering our babies’ cries (and co-sleeping, etc) have only helped us grow in loving each other and each member of our family. If someone tells you that this is not possible and these things will wreck your marriage, I’m here to tell you that it is possible, and that lack of love and selfishness are what wreck marriages, not meeting children’s needs.

I want to end here by re-stating that I don’t talk about this a lot openly for several good reasons. 1) It’s important, but it’s not that worth arguing about. 2) It doesn’t define my life or the whole of parenting. 3) I have quite a few friends who would disagree with me, and that is OK. I thank them for this quiet space to express who I am and how God has blessed me.

I will end with the prayer our pastor often parts with:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1Cor13:9-12)

One element of several popular Christian parenting books that I have found distressing is the confusion (or non-deliniation) between the sin nature vs. the ages-n-stages children go through.  For example, around 2, a child goes through a negative (“no”) phase because s/he is learning a new level of separation from the mother. That little tidbit helped me not to make every No as a battle of the wills, to adapt my mothering to this stage of development.  

The Bible doesn’t criticize childhood. Children go through fairly standard stages of development, mentally and physically. Of Jesus as a child it’s written, “And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luk 2:40) Nothing is criticized about being a child. It’s not painted as a time of foolishness or inferiority.

One major mistake several parenting books make is misapplying Proverbs. When Proverbs talking about “foolishness” and the “fool,” it doesn not have in view a small child. It is more talking about a teenaged child. Everywhere in the Bible, children are cared for as children, not treated as fools that need to be beaten.

Here are some examples:

Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels . . . (Gen 31:17)

Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. (Gen 33:12-13)

Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, … and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” (Exo 2:5-6)

Jesus gives us several examples of how He viewed children, and interestingly, there is no condemnation of foolishness or other childlike qualities. Becoming a mature adult is a goal (Gal 4:3), as Paul showed us (I Cor 13), but Jesus points out that there are elements of life and faith that come easily to children that we need to imitate.

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mat 18:3-6)

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mat 19:13-14)

Look at what these children did!

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)

God shows Himself to be, over and over again, gentle toward and protective of children. (“In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom.” (Isa 40:11) And He Himself designed their stages of development! Some of the most valuable tidbits I’ve learned to help me with parenting are basic facts about usual developmental stages and what I can expect.

So, when reading parenting books, I ask myself a few filtering quetsions:

  • Does this book help me understand and respect my children as children?
  • Does this author expect children to behave like adults? (Sure, adulthood is the goal, but there is a lot to go through before that stage.) Does it expect some type of robotic, adult-like obedience?
  • Does this author teach me as a parent to be gentle and patient with my children? Or am I being taught to be authoritative and slow to mercy?
  • Is spanking or other negative styles of discipline the main tools I’m being given, or am I being taught positive skills to nuture relationships while teaching obedience.

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My friend Tulipgirl is hosting her annual truth-about-Ezzo week starting on Monday, and since Im leaving town tomorrow, I wanted to put some thoughts into the conversation that I’ve been pondering lately.

Also, I want to say, that my heart’s desire is to speak lovingly. I think Ezzo teaches several false, misguided, dangerous things, but I never want to be disrespectful of an individual mother. Please don’t take my criticisms of Ezzo as a criticism of anyone personally. We all love our children and want to raise them to love the Lord. (And I have plenty of areas of motherhood I just plain stink at, and I desperately need God’s Spirit to live in me each day, so I offer these thoughts in humility, wanting to speak the truth in love.)

The context of these thoughts grew out of my visiting what I later learned to be an Ezzo-promoting church. The pastor speaking about childrearing that day made one comment (scenario) about breastfeeding, and I got to thinking afterwards, why do parents have to be trained to be suspicious of their baby’s desire to breastfeed? Hence, the approach of my following comments. . . .

Is the baby’s desire to breastfeed something we should be suspicious of?

According to Ezzo, the answer is yes. We see this through Ezzo’s use of controlled access, strict timing, and breast-only-as-food (not emotional comfort).

And while Ezzo does weave some elements of God’s nature into his method (like “order”), let’s put aside his conclusions for a moment and examine anew: What is Scripture’s view of and approach to breastfeeding? Is Ezzo’s way really an expression of God’s heart for babies and children at the breast? Does God encourage mothers to breastfeed the way Ezzo is promoting?

(The format of this post: I will make some comments about verses, then quote the verses.)

Look in these verses at God’s expression of breastfeeding as a blessing, of being happy and satisfied, emotionally comforted and delighted; as the breast and mother’s arms being the natural place a child belongs:

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.” For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isa 66:10-13)

In the following verses, are there any expressions of control or suspicion of breastfeeding children? Or rather, are they shown praising God and their breastfeeding is a normal stage of life? Nothing is said about control, motive, or timing. In fact, “nursing” is a description of their very childhood!

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)

Here, God is displaying His tender care and gentleness to His children. His words evoke warmth and feelings of love and safety. He is showing us how He, God Himself, treats the “nursing” lambs—and that is you and me. We are God’s nurslings.

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Isa 40:11)

Here again, any suspicion? Control? Rather, again, “nursing” is the child’s one descriptive written in this verse. And again, it describes us as God’s children. We are objects of God’s compassion; He will never forget us. And can a mother forget and not have compassion on her nursing child? The rhetorical answer is no. There’s no way a mom could or should forget her nursing child; there’s no way she should not have compassion on her baby. Although God’s answer assumes it’s possible. . . What is Ezzo wanting to teach us?

Can a woman forget her nursing child, And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. (Isa 49:15)

Paul uses a “nursing mother” to describe his gentleness to these believers. Let’s be sure that those who are teaching us how to mother teach us this gentleness:

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. (1Th 2:7)

In these verses in Job, even orphans are being breastfed! And those who grab them away from the breast are the wicked ones here, removing food from the needy.

“Others snatch the orphan from the breast, And against the poor they take a pledge. “They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, And they take away the sheaves from the hungry. (Job 24:9-10)

Here is another sad picture. Animals instinctively offer their breasts, but people can become cruel and refuse to feed their hungry babies.

Even jackals offer the breast, they nurse their young; but the daughter of my people has become cruel like ostriches in the wilderness. The tongue of the infant cleaves to the roof of its mouth because of thirst; The little ones ask for bread, but no one breaks it for them. (Lam 4:3-4)

Another beautiful picture the Bible gives us of the breast is Jesus’ own breast, when His beloved disciple, John, was reclining there. It’s even mentioned twice by John! Once before Jesus’ death, once after His resurrection:

There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13:23)

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper . . . (John 21:20)

Again, I don’t want to offend, but I do want to expose Ezzo’s teaching that binds parent’s consciences regarding the freedom in the Lord that they have to breastfeed how they want/need and to offer comfort from the breast to their babies (Colossians 2:23 may even apply here, rules with an “appearance of wisdom” . . . but lack any true spiritual value).

Ezzo seems even to teach us to have opposite feelings for and evaluations of our children’s desire to breastfeed than what God says. God is showing breastfeeding as a natural descriptive of childhood, a time of special protection and gentleness and care. We need to ask ourselves if Ezzo is really teaching us God’s heart towards our babies.

(*More to come: next topic is the confusion of the baby’s sin nature with the nature of the baby.)

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Tulipgirl reposted a good post about spanking. Many Christians don’t acknowledge that spanking is controversial, and in some cases, does cross lines into abuse. Here’s some down-to-earth suggestions in order to understand this issue.

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Tulipgirl.com is having her annual parenting/ezzo-philosophy week. She and several of her commenters have insight into parenting issues that many of us don’t stop to consider before it’s too late.

She has a sensitive, respectful style, too. It’s worth staying tuned there this week!

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I have some other thoughts about parenting and power, and thankfully, “Thatmom,” Karen Campbell, said it already! Here’s what she writes:

The Pearls’ philosophy demands that parents place themselves in a position of control and power over their children, luring and enticing the parent into self idolatry. It teaches that a parent is to conquer the child’s will and body, doing whatever is necessary, emotionally or physically, to achieve success. It places the parent, especially the father, in the position of sovereign over the child, giving him prophet, priest, and king status, even saying that a father can offer righteousness to a child through the use of the rod. It is the same desire for power over God and creation that Satan used for his own purposes in the Garden. And this desire for power and control over children conceives the sin of abuse, which, in the case of little Lydia Schatz, caused her death.

That’s bad power; it’s a bad concept of power.

For a great read on parenting, discipline, etc. please read this post she put up today from a homeschooling dad.

Psalm 103:13 ~ “Just as a father has compassion on {his} children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that compassion is part of teaching children. Children typically imitate their parents so why not let them imitate compassion.

. . .

Ephesians 6:4 ~ “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that dads should be fair about discipline. For those who know the humble instructions of the Lord there is nothing more fair than that.

Colossians 3:21 ~ “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that children will give up and stop caring if they are never given positive reinforcement. Certainly beating a child until they stop crying as the Pearls are alleged to endorse is forbidden by this verse.

1 Thessalonians 2:7 ~ “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing {mother} tenderly cares for her own children.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that children are to be tenderly cared for. I remember passing my daughter around on a pillow, she was so small at birth.

1 Titus 3:4 ~ “{He must be} one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that bringing attention to good manners, emphasizing them and insisting that they be used produces a well run household having the dignity of self-controlled children. 1 Titus and 2 Titus mostly describe a well run house.

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Couple of things I want to say on this topic.

One main thing is that it’s better to cultivate the natural love power that God instilled in your child for you, than to spend most of your time exercising the punishment or negative power that you have.

What does this mean? Clay Clarkson in Heartfelt Discipline talks about the natural affection children have for their parents. I think Ross Campbell speaks of this, too. Parents are in a unique position to transmit love and acceptance to children that no one else in the world can do for that child.

Not long ago, I understood that God is not scared or repulsed by my sin. He dealt with it in Christ on the cross. Now I am perfectly accepted. And you know, it’s only that acceptance that moves me towards postive transformation—not fear, shame or guilt.

Be careful with parenting instructions that teach you to be heavy handed, to prove your parental authority by exertion of force, to use mental or emotional manipulation or unkindness with your child. How does God treat you? How does He feel towards you? The way you treat your chilren changes you. Who are you becoming?

Yes, there is a lot we want to see changed or developed or transformed in our kids—God sees the same with us. God doesn’t demand perfection from us, and we cannot demand this from our kids. He’s slowly working in us “to will to do of his good pleasure.” Childrearing is part of that process in your child’s life if s/he becomes a believer. It’s OK that it takes time, years, to be transformed. It doesn’t have to be when a child is 2 or 3 or even 10. Christlike transformation is a lifelong process for us all.

Use of positive desire in childrearing is extremely desirable. As much as possible, we should be dispensing positive elements like focused attention, time, pleasant eye contact, holding, hugging, etc. And doing that while we are instructing or correcting. It doens’t mean our kids never cry or experience unpleasant things. But the overall tone of our interactions should be positive.

Pleasant feelings are the healthiest motivators—if the pleaant feelings are moving in the direction of guiding the child to do what is right. For this reason, training should be as positive and pleasant as possible. And also for this reason, punishment should not be the primary means of relating to a child.

This important concept of using positive means to control your child’s behavior is exactly the opposite of what is being taught from some Christian sources today. . . . Misunderstanding the true needs of their children, reactive parents have gone along with harsh, discipline-oriented parenting and then later watched their chilren develop anti-parent, antiauthority, anti-God attitudes and values. (Campbell, RP, 165-166)

Bad power is the power like the unsaved “lord” over those beneath them. It’s an interesting thing for me to examine how I am using my power as a parent. Am I using it to spank? Yell? Punish by withholding myself? To assert my parental authority? Or am I using it to edify and nurture? To bless and give pleasure while training?

The commands to God for children to obey their parents are given to the children.  God didn’t say “parents, make your kids obey you.” Sure, at young ages, we definitely train and teach them to obey. But we do that knowing that they need to reach maturity where they themselves desire and choose to do this, imperfectly, sure. But Christ lived the perfect life for us all. And we are in Him, we have that perfection applied to our accout already.

Parents, need, at some level, to accpt vulnerability before their kids. Strangs as it may sound. But . . . I am still thinking . . .

more to come if i can get my thoughts in order . . .

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