Ingram writes that God has a "dream" for my child which is more wonderful and exciting than anything I could possibly imagine. My competitive side immediately thought - "hmm.... I have a pretty good imagination - God's dream for my children must be pretty amazing!"
Then Ingram humbles me again as a parent and writes that I am a steward of God's plan for my child. What!?! I don't even know what that plan is. And if this plan is more wonderful and exciting than I can possibly imagine, it must be a pretty tall order. I am often so overwhelmed at the task of parenthood. Can I do what I should? Can I not do what I should not?
Ingram says there are four keys for us to "cooperate" with God for my children:
1. Understand Their Primary Needs
Ingram writes that children's two primary emotional needs are significance and security. That whatever age a child is he is constantly asking me (in a myriad of ways) if I love him. Children are also (in many ways) constantly asking what the boundaries are. To parent effectively I need to constantly teach my children that I love them and what the limits are.
2. Recognize Their Primary Responsibility
Ingram writes that while my children are living under my roof, their primary duty is to learn to obey. He further notes that "healthy obedience" is submitting not exclusively out of fear, but out of love and trust. Just as I am to obey God, my children are to obey me.
Ingram writes that the only command children are given in the Bible is to "obey your parents" (Eph 6:1). To emphasize the importance of obedience, Ingram refers to John 14:21, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me."
3. Obedience is a Process
Children will test their limits and need reminders that I am serious about my word. Just this afternoon my incredibly sweet, loving daughter Catherine (who is 2) pushed one of her friends while her mother and I were watching. Catherine has had a difficult time with sharing ever since her baby sister was born. Prior to Sabrina's arrival, Catherine didn't have to share her toys. Now that she has a sister and our friends have children, Catherine has to share. When her friend had a toy Catherine wanted, Catherine's response was to push her down. I know this is a normal reaction, but we cannot tolerate any violence perpetrated by our children. So, Catherine got an immediate time out (no counting 1, 2, 3 for certain offenses!). This is the third time in about 4 months that I have had to punish Catherine for pushing another child. Of course she gets a lecture from me too each time. I wonder why she continues to push this limit, but Ingram says it is natural for her to test me.
So how do I teach obedience? Ingram indicates that children have different stages of learning, depending on their age and ability. He reduces it to two principles: readiness and responsibility.
Readiness - teach children what they are mentally and emotionally capable of learning.
Responsibility - never do for your children what they can do for themselves.