From Shepherding To Prison Rules: The Three Stages Of Christian Parenting

I’ve stated publicly that every author of parenting books should be slapped.

Repeatedly.

With a blunt object, such as a frozen cod or old Dream Theater CD.

Why?

Because they all make Christian parenting seem so simple. As if “Step 1 + Thing 2 = Godly, Obedient Children”. Like godly parenting comes down to a holy formula that, if followed correctly, will produce venerable saints on par with Mother Theresa and St. Francis of Assisi.

As every parent of real, human children knows, parenting is muuuuccchhh more complicated. In fact, every day, Christian parents progress through the THREE stages of parenting.

SHEPHERDING A CHILD’S HEART

This stage, which lasts anywhere between 4 minutes and 4 hours, is the Promised Land of Christian parenting. I am cheerful, gentle, and heavenly-minded. My children are wonderfully compliant, and get along with each other like hipsters and insisting you’re not a hipster.

If an issue does arise, I patiently guide my children through the caverns of their hearts, helping them explore motives and repent appropriately. Discipline is administered out of a purely benevolent heart.

My house is a little utopia. Like Eden, except we’re all wearing clothes.

NETFLIXING A CHILD’S HEART*

This stage is birthed from the collapse of STAGE 1. The utopia has shattered and now we are living in a post Berlin Wall fallout.

Peaceful relations start to break down between the parents and children, and the parents begin to get slightly desperate. Panic begins to set as the parents forsee the complete war that is on the horizon. A storm is brewing. Winter is coming.

A buffer is needed. A mediator. Something to temporarily distract the children from the general angst that is beginning to foment in their hearts.

That something is Netflix.

While not quite as biblical as shepherding the hearts of my children, Netflixing the heart of my children is a legitimate option when things begin to go south. If I can’t tame the sinful hearts of my children, perhaps Fluttershy from My Little Pony can (yes, I am a grown man who can name the ponies in My Little Pony).

This stage is the tipping point. At any given moment, peace and order could be restored.

Or all hell could break loose.

PRISON RULING A CHILD’S HEART

At a certain point, usually at bedtime, all bets are off. Anarchy has descended upon the house, and my children are behaving like the girl in The Exorcist. There is no shepherding. There is no Netflixing.

It’s time for prison rules.

You will stay in your bed at all times. You will not talk. You will not joke. You will not make farting noises. You will not smuggle contraband toys under your covers. Anything you say, do, or think, can and will be used against you.

If you break my rules, you will feel my wrath.

After bedtime, I am not to be toyed with.

I am a dictator, and this is my regime.

THE CIRCLE OF PARENTING

Eventually my children will return to stage 1, restarting The Circle of Parenting (patent pending).

Then it all starts again.

Now that I think about it, The Circle of Parenting would be a great book title.

* I owe this title to Ted Kluck

Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer, & Mixed Martial Arts Salsa Dancing Champion. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like.