The Submissional Life // Matt Tebbe

living in submission, leading from below, loving as mission

Submissional Parenting: God’s Great Gift

I’ve always felt pressure as a dad. Phrases reverberate in my mind: “spiritual leader of the home,” “model of manhood for my son,” “…as Christ loved the church…”. Some of them are helpful, some harmful – others just stress me out. Part of the marriage preparation I learned at Life on the Vine (and that I’m now adapting for River Valley) is the truth that Christian marriage is spiritual formation. Indeed, so is Christian parenting. (In fact – did you know that all of life is spiritual formation? :))God is teaching me to embrace Deacon (almost 4) and Celeste (5 months) as instruments of sanctification in my life. They teach me about Christ, reveal my weaknesses, show me how to trust and take heart, give me opportunities to “not be afraid, just believe!” It’s an at-home Holy Spirit P90x workout. So – with Deacon – here are two things God has been teaching me lately:


1. I am really good at impulsively noticing and parenting bad behavior in Deacon. But God is showing me that he doesn’t parent my behavior – he Father’s my heart. He knows me, he searches me, he seeks me out in my hidden places, he speaks to me in my inmost being. He doesn’t want me to be a good-boy moralist, he wants me to be the Father’s Beloved. So, with Deacon, I’m learning to father his heart, not his behaviors. When I see behavior that needs to be corrected, I pray for insight and wisdom on what is going on inside of him so that I can help him sort out his feelings, thoughts, emotions…rather than just get him to do the right things via bribes, punishments and threats. There are still punishments – and promises of punishments – but instead of the key to behavior modification they are the results of his poor decisions (see #2 below). I don’t want to create a moralist…I want Deac (and Celeste) to grow up with awareness of what is happening to them in the midst of sin, weaknesses, difficult choices, and disappointments. And give them language to identify and describe it and meet God right there where they really are living. This is an insight I initially received from my friend Winn 4 years ago and I’ve been working it out with fear and trembling ever since.


2. My mom used to say, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you”. I always thought that was a load of hooey…until I had kids I had to discipline. Teaching Deacon that he has power to choose – even when his feelings, thoughts, emotions are telling him to do something. We talk about repentance (changing our minds about things) all the time. I try to talk him through it – help him process using words an almost 4 year old can grasp. But when poor choices are made there HAVE to be consequences. And it does hurt me – sometimes because I see how upset he is…but sometimes because his punishments cost me what I want. LIke when we have to leave a friends house early, or go sit in the car after a tantrum, or he loses privileges that I really enjoy. Not making the good decisions for him – or shielding him from the consequences of his bad decisions – is a discipline of self-emptying love. Right now we’re learning being patient (he’s getting really good at that) and delaying gratification (not so good, yet). I honor his power – his choices matter. He knows that every time he chooses he is taking responsibility in his life.


So – these are two ways I’m growing as a parent right now. How about you?

What is God teaching you about parenting? 

What is God revealing to you about himself through your kids?

What truth about yourself has God shown you as you parent?

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