Incident-to-Incident Parenting

Posted on March 27, 2009 · Posted in Shaping Influences

In the last post in this series, Joshua’s mom responded to his complaining attitude with a careful, thoughtful response that seems almost unrealistic. How could a mother respond this carefully in the middle of a busy afternoon? Obviously, this was a response that she had planned for. The communication between Mom and Dad was good. He was the one who remembered how hard it had been for him when one of his good friends moved away, when he was about the same age as Joshua. They had both noticed Joshua being more moody and complaining. The parents had been talking about this for a few days. They planned ahead to have family worship that focused on Philippians 2:14-16. They agreed on that particular day that Mom would look for an opportunity to talk with Joshua when he complained about being asked to do something.


So, that afternoon, when Josh complained about straightening up the living room, she was ready. She had gone over in her mind what she had wanted to say beforehand. Then that night the family talked about the situation in family worship. They prayed about Joshua’s friend moving away and started thinking about helping Josh find new friends. A problem that could have plagued Joshua for years was averted. Instead of being frustrated with his parents, he was thankful that they really did understand him. More importantly, Josh learned how valuable God’s word is. He was reminded that God had planned everything about his friend moving away. Joshua was told that this was not a sign of God being unkind to him, but rather, as Hebrews 12 says, he was able to endure this hardship as a sign of God’s love for him.
You might think this is a lot of planning to have to do. On one hand, it is. But isn’t it typical of the kind of planning that one would do for a major event at church or a family workday or some other important project? Joshua’s parents were proactive. The event of a friend moving way has the potential to be a powerful shaping influence. These parents turned this situation into an influence for good. Joshua had a better view of the sovereignty of God. The relationship with his parents was strengthened. And Josh went on to find two new friends who became godly influences in his life.
Do plans always work out this smoothly? No, they don’t. But in this situation, Joshua’s parents were taking positive steps to care for their son. Yes, it took extra time–but the benefits were huge. They could have said something like,
“Josh, that is enough of your complaining. You are just feeling sorry for yourself. You know that it is not good to mope around and complain. You will feel better after you have done your work. It is what God wants.”
While all those things may have been true, they would not have been helpful. A valuable opportunity to trust God more and to receive adorning help (Proverbs 1:8&9) from mom and dad would have been lost.
This type of parenting is the opposite of what I call “incident-to-incident” parenting. In incident-driven parenting, parents are in drive-by mode – firing truths and Bible verses in scattershot fashion as they drive by their children’s incidents on the way to more important things. So, even though some good things may be said, the delivery is hit-or-miss. Good parenting requires planning that is gospel driven. Outward behavior can certainly be addressed with the drive-by method–but only careful, prayerful planning will address the issues of the heart with the power of the gospel.
Take time to consider your own parenting style. Is it mostly the drive-by approach, or is it more in line with the gospel-centered thoughtfulness that Josh’s parents employed? The pressures of a busy schedule and non-stop activities tend to push parents toward the drive-by method. Ask God for the wisdom and courage to make the gospel the center of your parenting. If you have questions or thoughts, please let me know. Helping parents embrace gospel-driven parenting is the mission of this blog. Such parenting brings light to the eyes and joy to the heart.

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