Parenting with a Form, Foundation, and Structure
May 1, 2021
This is an attempt to explain some of the hidden thoughts and conversations between a mother and father. The purpose for revealing this conversation is to help other current or future parents understand how they are going to parent, why they are doing it, and what their desired result is.
First an analogy, when building a house there are three major parts; the forms, the foundation, and the structure. This is analogous to parenting in its discipline, its theology, and its fruit. Or to put yet another way, the how, the why, and the what.
THE FORMS (The discipline and the how)
Everything that you see a parent do and everything that a child is required to do is like the forms laid down before a cement foundation is poured. Without these forms the cement would produce an unusable foundation. The difficulty of laying foundations is that the form stage looks nothing like a foundation nor a structure and therefore is a laborious endeavor that appears to have no fruitful result.
The first danger of the form stage is that all this work is done but still neglecting the most important step, pouring the foundation. This results in purposeless discipline. The second danger is seen when many parents attempt to pour a foundation without considering the forms. This results in a poor foundation which necessarily leads to a poor or even a dangerously weak structure. It needs to be noted that someday the forms go away.
THE FOUNDATION (The theology and the why)
A foundation does not pour correctly without a form. Likewise, theology does not grow in a vacuum. Almost every parent makes one major error, they see the forms of other parents but they do not consider the theology or the why behind those forms. This presents potential for both success and failure. If the Smith’s see the Johnson’s build a particular form the Smith’s may make a copy even though they do not plan to pour the same foundation as the Johnson’s. This will produce erratic results. If no foundation is poured then the forms are useless. However, if the wrong foundation is poured then the forms may be inadequate for the foundation (too much cement or too little cement). Theology too needs good forms or else the theology will not support the desired fruit.
Too often parents observe the forms of parenting without asking a very important question. Why? It is not enough to mimic the forms (discipline) of another parent; you must also ask why those forms are being used. This is not to say that mimicking form is bad. In fact, copying another parent’s forms is significantly better then doing nothing at all. At least you can still use those forms to pour a foundation. Nevertheless, without asking ‘why’ you may begin using a form for the wrong type of foundation which will not be suitable for the desired structure. However, you cannot simply copy a form (discipline) without it impacting the foundation (theology) and then the structure (the fruit). This means that a parent must not just ask why but must also ask what the desired result is.
The warning the needs to be made that although the forms are right, and an adequate foundation is poured, there is no way to determine the success of the foundation; whether or not the foundation will break or crumble. This does not mean it is pure guess work, it’s not. But pouring concrete, just like raising children comes with a great deal or trusting in the sovereignty of God for the success.
THE STRUCTURE (The fruit and the what)
This is the pinnacle of all building endeavors—the finished product. Few people walk into a beautiful home and ask, “what forms did you use?” Instead, the home is appropriately admired and then the first statement or thought is, “I want a place like this.” But this stage is impossible without a suitable foundation. And a suitable foundation is not possible without proper forms. The forms go away, the foundation is almost always hidden, but the structure is on display for all to see and appraise.
Every parent desires good fruit. But what is often neglected is asking, what the desired result is. It is not enough to admire a beautiful structure or pleasing results. Parents must sit down and ask, “what do I what the final result to be?” This is difficult to ask because parents are sinful creatures with a lack of self-discipline. This combination produces in inconsistent results.
NO MORE ANALOGIES
You may be a parent with a 13-year-old or a three-month-old. Either way it is not too late to make some critical adjustments. Although the fruit is more evident in older children it is never too late to make corrections. The first step is to look in God’s word and see where there is sin on the part of the parent, which must be followed with repentance. Then look through God’s word for wisdom on what the desired goal should be—godly offspring (Mal 2:15). Next look for godly counsel (pastor’s, other godly Christians, older parents). Finally, look for good structures. Parents of babies and toddlers are experts in building forms, but they are inexperienced in building structures. Instead of listing to loud mouthed mothers on social media, look for the parents of godly young men and women. Spend time with those parent that you admire. Do you like the fruit of their lives and the fruit of their children’s lives. Then ask them for godly wisdom. This requires asking three questions, ‘how did you do it?’ (forms), ‘why did you do it that way?’ (foundation), and ‘what mistakes am I making?’ Early in my marriage and even before we had kids my wife and I made a diligent effort to seek out the advice of those we admired – truth be told we also sought to learn from those who produced bad fruit so that we avoided their pitfalls. Couples like the Walkers and the Cannons had a significant influence on many of our decisions. Do not just look at what others are doing and copy or reject it. Seek to know the reasons and then choose your course of action.
Future, new, novice, and advanced parents alike, I implore you, do not just parent with the proper forms (discipline). Parent with the proper foundation (theology) too. Parent with an eye on the desired structure (fruit).
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)