This NPR blog post came up on my Facebook feed this morning. I found it interesting because it is written by someone in the same field I study: cognitive and developmental psychology.
What she writes is good advice – from a psychology point of view. However, something BIG is missing.
Here is the article:
When she talks about rats and levers she is referring to behaviorism and methods that involve punishment and reward. She is pointing out a “gap” in parenting because knowing a behavior is wrong is not enough to stop it. She encourages parents to go beyond punishment and reward to change behavior.
Her words are good advice, but not enough.
When we punish and reward our children, or when we punish and reward ourselves as parents, we are applying the law. The law is good; it shows us what God expects, it shows us how we fall short, it shows us we need God.
But, if we use law alone, we create a gap between us and God. Punishment, reward, and adherence to the law will never close that gap.
God closes it with grace, with mercy, with forgiveness and with the unconditional love that caused Him to send His Son to redeem us from our sins and to send His Spirit to work in our hearts.
Secular parenting advice can give us new techniques and help us to think about what we do as parents – but it can never fill the gap.
If you are hoping to become a better parent here is what God recommends:
Repent - so that your children see that you are forgiven.
Forgive - so that they know the wonder of this grace.
Show mercy, and support your children in their efforts to behave – so that they see how the Spirit supports you.
Love unconditionally – so that your children experience God’s love every day.
Read God’s word – so that your faith is strengthened.
Pray – and know that God fills the gap.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16: 33, RSV)