In my time of serving families, I have had thousands of conversations with hundreds of parents from all walks of life. In some cases it’s merely a casual dialogue; in other cases, however, the parent is emotionally distraught and at their wit’s end.
Through these conversations, I’ve learned that each conversation has the potential to be a valuable resource to parents. This has led me to begin providing you with a new parenting resource entitled Frequently Asked Parenting Questions.
Every month I will provide you with answers to some of today’s most challenging parenting questions. The answers to these questions are taken from my experience in raising my own family, counseling numerous families in crisis, and helping parents understand how to apply biblical principles to today’s challenges. Whether your family is stable, being challenged through various trials, or in a crisis situation, I am confident you will find help and wisdom in these collections of questions and answers. Hopefully, they will help take your family to a whole new level.
This month’s question is a tough topic to tackle, one that is often overlooked in the parenting paradigm.
What Does it Mean to Parent to the “Spiritual” and Not to the “Carnal” Aspect of My Teen?
C.S. Lewis once said “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” In other words, we are not fundamentally human beings who occasionally have spiritual experiences. We are fundamentally spiritual beings having a human experience. This is a necessary presupposition if you want to please God and develop emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically sound children and a healthy family.
One aspect to spiritual parenting is as you discipline yourself to live by the spirit and not by the flesh you must also remember to parent to your child’s spiritual side. This sometimes means going against–not just your teen’s carnal desires, but against your own carnal desires as parents also.
For example, it is so easy to bail our kids out of the natural consequences of their actions. This is a carnal instinct that is often veiled in what we would call compassion. But, this is a lie. It is the devil’s compassion. It’s a compassion that uses a Godly term with the devil’s dictionary. In God’s economy there is no real compassion when we enable our kids to be derelict just because we don’t want to inconvenience them or ourselves.
All discipline is spiritual; because, it is an act that goes counter intuitive to our carnal desires. When we discipline ourselves to exercise there is a deeper part of us that overrides our carnal desire to be lazy. The same is true with our kids–only they don’t have the self-discipline to do the right thing. This is why they need parents.
As the adult, your brain development and any self-discipline you exercise, or may have had imposed upon you from childhood, has given you the capability to master the spirit/carnal battle. Children, on the other hand, are intricately designed to be fully dependent upon the training of their parents.
An example of a child’s spirit/flesh battle is when he continues to engage in an activity that he knows isn’t legal, healthy, holy, or pleasing to his parents; yet, deep inside, he’s yearning for someone to stop him. It’s like riding a wild bull–he really doesn’t want to be there, but he doesn’t dare let go either.
For instance, no kid wants the break in fellowship and heartache caused by sassing and disobeying his parents. That is the spiritual side of the child. By the same token, if sassing and disobeying gets him the activity or thing that his carnal desires are crying out for, then, for a kid, usually the carnal side wins. He’s willing to break fellowship with his parents to satisfy his carnal lusts. He’s not emotionally or spiritually mature enough to overcome–even though fellowship with his parents is truly more important to him in the grand scheme of things. It’s the same reason an alcoholic or drug addict will betray the ones he loves most for the next drink or drug.
Parents must stick to their guns on the issues of discipline–even when it hurts. Hebrews 12:11 says, “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.” When we parent to the spiritual side of our kids, we are training them for good things and a good future. If we don’t train them for good things now by allowing them to endure a little pain and suffering when their actions deserve it, then we are training them for failure for the long haul. Now, you tell me which is more compassionate? Which is more Godly? Sin always has its rewards on the front end. Sin is nothing more than lust fulfilled and responsibility avoided.
In short, a child relies on the parents to help in the brain’s biological development; so, he too will know how to navigate the spiritual/carnal battle. Thus, a foundational principle to the biblical parenting paradigm is to train up the child; or, parent to the spiritual side–which often wars against the carnal.