Raising kids is like...
There are numerous conclusions to that sentence. Popular parenting books attack it in so many ways. One author said (and I'm paraphrasing) "raising kids is like working with wet cement. You only get so much time and then it is dry and hard." Before I had kids I bought into that type of an idea. I was going to "mold" my kids and shape them. I understood Deuteronomy 6:7-9 as something I had to do to my kids.
However, as I read, study, and interact with my own kids I am realizing that the Biblical paradigm is always based in relationship.
Now this presents a choice. What are we going to base our relationship with our kids on? Law or Grace?
Unfortunately, many "experts" advise that the parent-child relationship should be based on law. Interestingly enough, I have found this to be true in my Reformed heritage because of the insistence that before the fall, Adam was in a Covenant of Works (something I have not come to reject).
If you are perceptive you can spot these "experts" by listening to their rhetoric.
Much, if not all of the emphasis is put on the parents so called duty to make their children learn obedience. Phrases like "first time obedience" and "bringing honor to the family" (through some arbitrary outward obedience standard) are very popular with this crowd. They hammer the "children obey your parents" proof texts and present them as a God ordained license to the parent to take whatever measures necessary to bring the child's will inline with the parents' convenience.
In short, the relationship is based on law. Obey and you're in. Disobey and you're out.
But there is an alternative: grace based parent-child relationships.
Following the Biblical example that is always grace first, then law, parents can build amazingly strong relationships with their children where true heart obedience can develop and mature as our children grow up in the Kingdom. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 can be something that we actually do with our kids!
Imagine your relationship with your child as a house.
The cement foundation, the immovable rock that all else sits on, is grace. This is especially important as our kids are very young. They must always understand that parents love them like Pinocchio, no strings attached. This follows the example of God. He always extended copious amounts of grace before even speaking law.
If our kids see the foundation as law, that immovable slab will crush them.
Now law does come into play, don't get me wrong. However, if our relationship is not based on grace, they will never be able to respond to law in a proper and healthy way.
Law makes up the walls in our imaginary house. They sit upon the foundation, not the other way around. They define boundaries. They distinguish different rooms in the house. They have holes in them, called windows. Sometimes if the weather outside is beautiful those windows are open, letting in a fresh breeze. When there is a blizzard, those windows are shut keeping it warm and cozy inside. There are also doors in the law. They open and close. It takes wisdom to know when to leave a door open or when to lock it. Sometimes it is appropriate to knock, but sometimes it is ok to barge in. Sometimes you destroy a wall to make one room bigger or expand the house!
The point is, the law is not the immovable foundation, but a helpful tool to be used with wisdom. We should understand that even if our kids are banging their head against a wall they are still standing on the foundation. Even more importantly, we should make sure they know that.
Finally, I would say that the roof is Love. Love covers everything. No matter when and where our kids are in the house they are under the shelter and protection of our Love.
If we think about it this is exactly the example that God gave to us in the Biblical narrative.
Law was a tutor to point God's people to Christ and bring them to full maturity as the Body of Christ. It was never the basis for God's relationship with His people.
Grace was the foundation, and God's love prompted Him to cover His people with the spotless robes of Christ.
We would do well to imitate this example as we raise our children in the Kingdom.