Why would we tackle such a subjective word? “Good” is a word open to opinion and discussion. “Good” can be defined very differently from person to person and situation to situation. And when you apply the word “Good” to parenting, you now find yourself on very shaky ground. What is a “Good” parent? Who says whether you are a “Good” parent or not?
Good (adjective) – 1) to be desired or approved of. 2) having the qualities required for a particular role, 3) possessing or displaying moral virtue such as showing kindness, obedient to rules or conventions, and commanding respect. *
Being a “Good” parent would be easy if there was one standard that fit all kids and all families, or if there were a simple rule book that outlined the steps to producing a child who is well adjusted, confident, exhibits physical and emotional control, and above all has impeccable manners. Then one approach to parenting could be applied to all children and all families. But the more I look at this parenting thing, the less I am convinced that a child who behaves well according to our cultural definition of “Good” conduct, is the result of “Good” parenting. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if a child meets this cultural standard, it was more by the intervention of God than by some action taken by a parent.
Because parenting is much more complicated than just defining family rules and expectations, and the standard of success has no cut and dried measure, we must talk about parenting in terms of ranges and variances for each child. In the video “Your Child’s Bent” Senior Pastor Chuck Swindoll asks us to reconsider how we look at the parenting standard outlined in Proverbs 22:6.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
We think we know the “way” a child should go. You probably have a standard in mind of what that looks like. But the word “way” in this verse in translation has to do with characteristics. The verse says to train up a child in their way. Each child has their own characteristics, or their own way. Some are easy to get along with, others are more challenging. Some kids naturally follow instructions, other constantly challenge the rules. Some kids are quick to laugh with a sunny disposition, and others are more contemplative. Regardless, we all have our own characteristics. Pastor Chuck calls these our children’s bents. These are God-given, God-shaped characteristics.
The measure of a “Good” parent is our ability to adjust our style of parenting to match those characteristics. There is nothing wrong with a list of standard expectations and rules for all members of a family, but how that is taught, re-enforced, and encouraged can be different depending on the bents of each child. The more you study your child’s bents, the better parent you will be to that child. When you enjoy or are good at something and your child enjoys the same things, your approach to parenting that child will feel more natural. But when your child is wired completely differently from yourself (for example, they are creative with interests in music and art, and you are athletic and more interested in competition and the challenge of sports), it becomes a bigger challenge to connect with that child and harder for you to parent to their bents.
Watch this short video discussion between Pastor Chuck and Pastor Dave Carl, Your Child’s Bent, as we look more at parenting for your unique child.
For additional resources and information on this subject, we encourage you to listen to the series on Insight for Living broadcast of Biblical Parenting (https://insight.org/broadcasts/library) or listen to the IFL e-store series Biblical Parenting.
Christine Clark is the Ministry Leader for Family Ministries at Stonebriar Community Church. She has a passion for supporting parents and helping them gain confidence and tools to be spiritual leaders in their homes. She is blessed to be the mom of a high school sophomore and the wife of her college sweetheart for 25 years. She is also an avid sports fan who loves all things football, especially in the fall in Texas.
*Oxford Online Dictionary – definition of Good