Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teaching your child to drive...

From 2001 to 2010 I lived in Guatemala. We lived way out in the boonies but we did hitch the wagon and head on into town several times a year. :) "Town" was Guatemala City and it was in 8 hour drive, so, when we did go to town we stayed about a week.

I love driving. Buddy the Elf said, "Smiling's my favorite." Well, driving is one of my favorites. But, whenever we left town and went into Guatemala City, the obvious choice of "who drives" is going to be the one who learned to drive in that wild n' crazy 3rd world country city, the one who knew his way around like the back of his hand because he'd been driving in there for 20 + years; my husband. Not me.

All together over those 9 years of living in Guatemala, we apparently spent over 110 days in Guatemala City (according to the computer record at Tikal Futura, the hotel we always went to). Whenever we went to the city we were there "for errands etc." so we spent little time in the hotel and spent all day driving all over the city.

I spent 110+ days over the course of 9 years riding all around Guatemala City. But, ya know what? If you dropped me in the middle of the city right now, gave me a car, and said, "Go to the hotel," I'd be stuck. I'd be lost. I have no idea how to get around the city.

Well, now we live in Florida. And, we've been here for several months. Having just moved here we've been running errands almost every day, and how great is it to have a GPS? How awesome is that to just get in your car and tell this thing on your dashboard where ya wanna go and it just tells you. You don't have to have any idea where you are or what you're doing it tells you! And, you make a mistake and it just says, "recalculating" and you're on the right path again! And, no matter where you are, you just hit the "go home" button and it tells you how to get home. How handy! Right?

Well, it occurred to me the other day that...I have no map inside my head with regard to "where we are". I had no idea which way was North/East/South/West...no idea which roads run parallel to which or "where" the different places we go "are" in relation to our house. No idea.

Hmmm...

Seems that when all the thinking is done for you that somehow...you don't think. You don't really learn.

So many Christian parents believe that the way to raise "godly children" is to "drive them around life"...to tell them what to do...where to go...how to get there...always. To control them in all of their choices so that they make good choices. One particular child-raising book (On Becoming Babywise) calls itself an "Infant Management System" and instructs parents to make every decision for the baby. Mom and dad are to decide when baby eats, when baby stops eating, what baby eats, how baby eats, when baby goes to sleep, when baby wakes; nothing is left up to the free will of the child. But, isn't that a lot like the baby being simply a "passenger" of life?

A child who is being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, with no option to choose to do anything else (or else they are punished) is not making any choices. A child in an environment like that is making only one choice: obey Mom and Dad or get punished.

So, how are they to develop a "road map" for their life in their heads which has them at this starting point feeling, "I'm hungry" and needing to get to the destination of "no longer hungry" and know how to make all the right turns? How are they to learn how to discern anything in life apart from what they are told to do? If at the very beginning of life when their choices were the simplest, "I'm hungry; eat. I'm no longer hungry; stop." were not choices they were allowed to learn to make? How are they to move on to more complex needs/desires and have any idea where to even start to be able to "plot a course" through life to fulfill those things?

A child living in a household where they are taught to "mind" their parents without question are just like me in the passenger's seat in Guatemala City. Yes, they are getting from "point A to point B" but they have no idea "how."

When we believe a person to be "rebellious" it is because we see them making wrong choices or "taking wrong turns" every step of the way, right? Often we see parents frustrated because their children seem to have no point or "destination" in life that they're moving toward. We wonder why it's stereotypical of Pastor's kids and Missionary's kids to "rebel" when they leave home...

It really is no mystery why children raised in authoritarian households grow up the way they do.

When the Bible talks about raising children up in the way they should go, it doesn't mean to be your child's dictator. Being a Christian is all about making right choices. Raising your children up in the way they should go, therefore, is to raise them up helping them learn how to make right choices. And, the only way to learn to make good choices is to choose.

The popular book, "On Becoming Babywise" has a "Christian" counterpart which claims to be "Growing Kids God's Way." But, it is nothing at all close to God's way. It is more like a manual to teach you how to teach your child to drive...by teaching the child to sit in the passenger's seat and wait for someone to drive them where they want to go.

In life we're peppered with choices all day long every day. Children raised to "obey" the person who has made all those choices for them all along learn only one thing in life and that is to identify the person "above" them and do what they tell them to. They do not learn how to "plot a course", they do not "have a map in their head" of what life is all about, and so they don't know how to "make the right turns" to get where they're going in life without someone telling them what to do, like a GPS, every step of the way. A grown-up who was raised this way ends up susceptible to cults and oppressive churches and leaders. This is not "God's way."

I decided this week to turn off my GPS and I printed out a map so that I can learn how to "think" about where I am, where I want to go, and how to get there...all on my own. I want to know where I am and when I've "gone too far" and need to make a U-turn. I want to know how to be where I'm supposed to be and how not to get lost...even when there's no one around to tell me what to do...That...is what I wanna do more and more with my own kids because that...is God's way...

My 3-yr old is seen here trying out "making choices" at the grocery store. She sure was sweet while she was choosing things! Most of the things she picked were things we buy sometimes...other things we would take back and simply put back on the shelf after we'd moved on... :)

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