And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice. – Ephesians 6:4 (TLB)
I wish I had seen this version of Paul’s counsel to parents early on when I was raising my children. Maybe I would have had better understanding of how to live it out.
The first time my 17-year-old son told me he was cutting was in the middle of one of our fights. My heart broke. It still breaks. (I did ask his permission to share this.)
Through family therapy sessions, I learned that our fights are not at the core of his cutting. But I did have to review some advice I had been given in a different setting from another minister. She said, “When you love fiercely and deeply and with lots of passion, the fights will be just as fierce! But you have to learn to fight fair.”
Fighting fair means making sure your love for the other person trumps being right. Fighting fair means making sure no harm is caused and no damage is done to the other person or to the relationship. Fighting fair means always seeing and treating the person you are fighting with as beloved. Fighting fair means being willing to say I am sorry—even as a parent.
Parenting has been the hardest job I have ever had. I am still growing into the role. I am yet in wonder of the awesome responsibility. I am forever deeply grateful for the honor and privilege.
Maybe this is not what Paul meant, but my children have taught me how to fight fair. My children have helped me to show up in the fights of the world with love. My children have pushed me to be a better neighbor and more authentic human.
Dear God, fiercely and lovingly remind us to parent with the love, patience, grace, and kindness with which you parent us.
Marilyn Pagán-Banks contributed this devotional to Hard and Holy: Devotions for Parenting, a collection of spiritual encouragement and practical solidarity and messy joy. Order Hard and Holy here..