Becoming a Less Stubborn Parent

As a parent of young children, Saturdays are one of the most relaxing and daunting days of the week. It’s relaxing because there is no need to set an alarm, get the kids off to school, or get to work on time. The parent’s equivalent to kids’ Saturday morning cartoons is drinking coffee in their pajamas while feeling no need to take a shower. Yet, after the coffee mug is empty and the cartoons are over, the daunting part of the day begins. What am I going to do with these kids all day?

One Saturday, my wife and I decided to take the kids on a trip to the beach. It’s about a forty minute drive from our house. So, we packed some snacks, towels, sun screen, and wet suits (Northern California beaches are freezing cold!) and headed out the door. Our 7-year-old daughter was already outside and talking to our neighbor’s son. After finishing her conversation, she got in the car and announced, “The neighbors are going to come to the beach with us!” For two introverted parents, a spontaneous trip to the beach with neighbors brought up all kinds of anxiety. We didn’t plan for this. We weren't expecting this. Maybe they won’t come, we hoped!

Needless to say, we pull out of our driveway as fast as we could and hoped that our daughter was wrong. We drove the forty minutes to the beach and thought, there is no way they will even know what beach we are going to. Yet to our dismay, as we were scouting out a parking spot, there were the neighbors. Don’t get me wrong, we have some of the best neighbors we could ask for. They are kind, generous, and a joy to be around, but remember, spontaneous social gatherings is not the introvert’s strength. To make a long story short, we ended up having a wonderful time at the beach. Yes, hanging out with the neighbors at the beach was delightful. We laughed together as we watched the kids play in waves and get covered with sand and we got to know each other better, all because my daughter has the innate flexibility to invite her neighbors to the beach.

As we drove home with sand on our feet and in our car, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not I’m too rigid as a parent. Does my refusal to be spontaneous with others prevent me from experiencing the fullness of what God is offering me? If so, what does the Bible say about rigidity and how can I move towards flexibility in relationships?

The Skillful side of Rigidity: Steadfastness

The Bible speaks of rigidity in two specific ways. The first is rigidity in relation to steadfastness or unshakeable commitment. In our relationship with Jesus Christ, our faith in God, and our trust that he is Lord of all, Christians are called to be rigid. We are not meant to be flexible on these things in our lives. As Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The apostle teaches the early church that there are some things we hold on to. We must be conformed to the patterns of Christ and not that of the sinful world. This kind of rigidity gives us courage in the face of heartache, suffering, and opposition. We hold fast to Jesus when the world around us tells us to jump ship because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The Unskillful side of Rigidity: Stubbornness

The other way that the Bible speaks of rigidity is in relation to stubbornness. Stubborn behavior is an unwillingness to change one’s mind regardless of the consequences. The stubborn person is not open to new ideas. He sticks with what he knows and refuses to change even when it would benefit him to do so. The author of the book of Proverbs calls this person a fool, “The way of the fool seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” The foolish person is not willing to learn from others and change their ways, but the wise person is open to receiving advice from people around them. We see this character trait famously in the Pharaoh who ruled over the God’s people. Moses went to him time and again to explain that unless he let the God’s people go, then Pharaoh would suffer. Yet, as we read in Exodus 13:15, “Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go.” The consequences of his stubbornness were catastrophic.

Leaning into Steadfast Love:

You may not be the next Pharaoh in your neighborhood, but you might be like me and need encouragement to be open to new ideas. As I learned at the beach with my neighbors, my ideas are not always best. In fact, if I'm going to lean into steadfast love for my daughter, then I have the opportunity to learn from her as I parent her. A childlike faith is all we need to enter the kingdom of God. So, instead of being rigid about what I want and who I want to spend time with, I’m trying to be as open to relational spontaneity as my daughter is. I’m trusting that God has something in store for me through this practice, that I can’t find on my own. Even when I feel stretched, I can trust him because his steadfast love for me will never change.

About the author — Rev. Travis Jamieson

Travis Jamieson pastors a church in the heart of Silicon Valley. He has been married to Annie for ten years, and together, they are raising two beautiful red-headed children. In his spare time, you’ll often find Travis surfing at a local beach or riding his Vespa around town taking in the beautiful scenery of the Bay Area.

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