Parenting in Jesus' Footsteps

Examples of Jesus' teaching, in stories and examples

The Golden Rule:  "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."  Matthew 7:12
By applying the Golden Rule to the parent/child relationship, it becomes clear that it means to try to understand and respect the child's feelings, "putting yourself in her shoes."  Children are new to the world, and have special needs for protection and care.  We adults typically forget what it's like to be small and weak, and dependent on others for what we need.  The world can seem hostile and strange to a young one.  How good to have the tender love and care of someone capable, understanding and empathetic!  Following the Golden Rule means we can treat our child the way we would wish to be treated, if we were children again.

The Beatitudes contain much material we can apply to the parent/child relationship.  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  Matthew 5:4
When babies and children cry, they are expressing their sadness and pain.  They are mourning a loss, perhaps separation from mother, or a lack of food or comfortable clothing.  Perhaps life seems especially unfair to them, or they are ill.  There can be causes that are very difficult to discover, such as an allergy.  But whatever the cause, the crying is as serious as it sounds, and we comfort them as best we can.  This is a privilege and a wonderful opportunity to show our love, and strengthen the parent/child relationship.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."  Matthew 5:5
Being meek is the opposite of being a strict authority figure, demanding obedience.  Parents can show meekness by respecting their children's feelings, by treating them as people, as gifts from God. 
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy."  Matthew 5:7
Being merciful to children is a beautiful act of love.  Children are going to make mistakes, they invariably will do things that will be irritating.  They are human, just like you!  We can show them mercy by being kind and understanding.  We can guide, teach, and protect, and refrain from harsh words and hitting.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."  Matthew 5:9
Peace in the home, peace between siblings, we all long for such peace.  Becoming skillful in creating a peaceful home is definitely worth striving for!  Showing compassion when there is hurt, trying to understand differences, doing everything possible to accommodate needs of family members will help lead to peace.  With babies, keeping them physically close goes a long way toward creating peace; responding quickly to their needs is important as well.  This keeps crying down to a minimum.  With toddlers, child-proofing as much as possible goes a long way toward keeping a home peaceful..  Avoid stressful situations, plan ahead, use distraction and humor.  And of course, lots of hugs, smiles and attention help too!

And here is the story of the Prodigal Son:  Then Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons.  The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.'  So he divided his property between them.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute loving.  When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.  He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!  I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called you son; treat me like one of your hired hands." '  So he set off and went to his father.  But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'  But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'  And they began to celebrate."  Luke 15:11-24
This story beautifully illustrates a father loving his son, forgiving him, welcoming him, being overjoyed that his son is alive.  What a perfect example of enduring love, affection, and forgiveness between parent and child!  No harsh words of reproof here, no punishment for the wayward son; rather, a big party was given. We can celebrate the good in children, choosing to accept them with joy and open arms because they are human, and make mistakes like all people do.

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to answer a man's question of who one's "neighbor" is :  "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them.  Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.'  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?"  He said, "The one who showed him mercy."  Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."  Luke 10:30-37
When we see that a child is in pain, we can be a "neighbor" or Good Samaritan to him.  We can minister to that child, caring for his needs until they are well taken care of, rather than ignoring his cries and walking away.  This can include children other than one's own, such as intervening when a child is being hurt or neglected.  Caring for a defenseless child is one way to be a good neighbor. 

Jesus thought very highly of children, as shown by this example:  At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."  Matthew 18:1-5
Children, with their openness, vitality and curiosity about the world around them, are regarded by Jesus as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!  Adults would do well to try to recapture the wonder and innocence of their own childhoods.  And, we can try to appreciate the beautiful, unique qualities of children that Jesus found to be so important, and welcome children into our lives.   In doing so, we are welcoming Jesus Himself.

And again we have Jesus showing His high regard for children:  The little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."  And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.  Matthew 19:13-15
Jesus was clearly very comfortable with being close to children.  Letting them come to Him, welcoming them, touching them, are good models for the parent/child relationship.  How important it is, for parents, to let our children come to us, to bring a baby to mother's breast, to hold a sick child, to give affection and comfort.  Keeping little ones close shows them how much we care about them, and how much we genuinely like their company.  Babies who are kept close are happier and cry less; and all children benefit from the attention and affection of being close to their parents. 

Jesus highly esteemed children.  "It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."
Meditations on scripture by Susan Lawrence
All Bible quotes from the New Revised Standard Version 

Sermon on the Mount