TLP 217: Terrorist Parents
In the same way our children are natural terrorists, sometimes it’s far easier for us to give into that temptation. Today AMBrewster discusses when Christian parents become terrorists, talks about the fruit and root of the issue, and asks some questions to help us identify if we’re being terrorists.
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Listen to the following episodes on Apple Podcasts by clicking the titles.
“The 5th Way to Parent” (episode 26)
“A TLP Snippet 1: When Do I Get to Flip Tables?”
“When to Raise Your Voice: is yelling ever appropriate?” (episode 48)
“Is It Okay to Get Mad?” (episode 153)
“Parenting a Zombie, Part 1 | what does the Bible say about zombies?” (episode 200)
“The Merest Christianity” (episode 95)
“Fearless Parenting” (episode 40)
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Thank you for joining us today. This season has definitely had a split focus. We started talking a lot about how children think and learn and how they need to be taught to do these things in light of God’s reality. If you didn’t hear our Zombie series or catch our discussion about the Circle of Learning or learn how to teach your children to be grateful, you should totally check that out.
But then we switched our focus and zoomed in on destructive parenting styles. We talked about parenting like Lot, the Chief of Sinners in Your Home, and the type of parenting that leads to burnout. And today is also part of that discussion.
By the way, “the Chief of Sinners in Your Home” has been downloaded quite a bit. I think it really resonated with many of you; I know it hit a chord with me. If you haven’t heard it, you should definitely listen to it. It was episode 215, and you should share it with you parent-friends.
And then we're going to switch our focus again here in a few shows to talk about Advent and how God would have us lead our children this Christmas season.
I suppose we could broadly call this Season “Thinking Right;” either way, I’ve really enjoyed it and I look forward to ending out the year with you.
Now, I hate mentioning names on episodes like this, right? On an episode named “Terrorist Parents,” I just so happen to mention Matt and Sonja.
It’s just a coincidence people!
Seriously, Matt and Sonja are dear friends who have invested so much in TLP so that we all can continue to benefit from it. They are two of our monthly supporters, and — without our Patrons — Truth.Love.Parent. would not be able to do all that it does.
So, thank you Matt and Sonja, and I look forward to having them on a show one day. It’s so amazing to hear how God has used them in the lives of so many families and to hear how God has worked in their lives, and to hear how amazingly passionate they are about TLP.
Hopefully, we can do that soon.
But — for now — I just want to say a heart-felt “thank you” and encourage you to learn about how you can support TLP. We are a listener-supported ministry, and every little bit helps.
Okay, let’s talk about what it means to be a Terrorist Parent.
If you’ve been with us since the beginning, then you are likely very aware of a series I did called “Anti-Terrorism for Your Home,” and it started in episode 37.
It was inspired by a comment my cousin, Alysia made a long time ago. As I remember the story, she was in line to check out at a store and her son was throwing a fit. The lady in front of her turned around and said something to the effect that my cousin should capitulate to her child's demands. At that point, Alysia looked at the woman and said, “I don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
And in that moment I realized that’s exactly how all children function. Every child is different. Some do it more, some do it less. Some of their terror tactics are far worse than others, but every child at one point or another is going to try to use fear to manipulate someone to do something.
And you know why they do it? Because they’re human.
We’ve all done it.
Humanity functions this way for the following reasons:
1. We all want to do what we want to do.
There are so many biblical passages that speak to this. Please allow me to share two.
The phrase “right in his own eyes” shows up at least five times in Scripture and always refer to the same thing of which Solomon speaks in Proverbs 12:25, “The way of a fool is right in his own ways.”
And II Peter 2:12 says that when we live this way we're like “irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed.”
That idea of an irrational, instinctual animal is perfectly typifies the Failure Philosophy of “If it feels good, do it.” Without thinking, we waft from emotion to emotion without ever a consideration to the consequences.
This is why I did the “Is Your Child a Zombie?” series. This lifestyle is nearly identical to the braindead zombies tirelessly chomping on their own destruction.
And because our sole goal in life is to do what we want . . .
2. We don’t want anyone else telling us what to do.
This is foundationally focused at God, but can work its way out toward any and all authority.
The history of mankind is a testament to this truth, but Psalm 2 and Romans 1 explain it perfectly.
Psalm 2 says, "The nations rage and the peoples plot in vain . . . The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’”
And Romans 1:18-22 explains why we humans rage against God. It says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”
So, what’s the natural outcome going to be if someone doesn’t want to be told what to do because they want to do their own thing?
Well, 3. We try to remove ourselves from any and all authorities.
This is why children hide and men love darkness rather than light. This is why people run away.
But sometimes when we’ve been caught and when we can no longer run, we start acting like a cornered animal.
4. We fight.
My mom told me this story. Long ago when I was between 5 and 7 years old, my mom saw me in the backyard on a snowy day chasing a field mouse. There were no bushes or rocks or anything, it was all smooth, flat snow, and I was gaining on the mouse.
Eventually, the mouse, realizing its desperate situation, turned around, stood up on its back feet, and started hopping toward me as menacingly as possible.
My mom said that I turned on my heels and ran toward the house. She — of course — laughed her head off that I was running from the field mouse I had just been chasing.
But isn’t that what happens with us and our kids? They get backed into the proverbial corner and they turn on us.
Often times it makes no sense. The child is only two, and yet they scream and flail with all the gusto of someone who could actually stand a chance.
And often we let them win.
James 4:1-3 tells us that we fight because we don’t get what we want.
But, you know what? This discussion isn’t supposed to be about our kids.
Yeah, this episode is entitled Terrorist Parents . . . because that’s a thing we do.
If it’s crazy for our two year old to think they can fight against us, then it’s doesn’t take too many smarts to surmise that we are actually bigger than our kids, therefore we can be far more intimidating.
More often than not, we legitimately have the girth, authority, volume, strength, and intimidation factor to pull off the threats.
This is why it often comes so much more easily to us, because — let’s be honest — we struggle with the same human foibles and temptations with which our kids struggle. And — as we noticed two episodes ago — one of the reasons we are the chief of sinners in our home is that we’re actually far more practiced at our sin than our kids are.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Dictator Parent, a Joker Parent, a Doormat Parent, or a Judge Parent, we are all tempted to want to control our kids when they’re getting in the way of our plans or when they’ve scared us so much that we feel we need to do anything we can to control them.
By the way, if you don’t know what a Dictator, Joker, Doormat, or Judge Parent is, please check out episode 26, “The 5th Way to Parent” as a follow up to this study.
Like I said, we’re just like our kids.
We want what we want.
We don’t want our kids telling us no.
And — though sometimes we may be tempted just to escape our children via naps, concessions, and kicking them out when they turn 18 — more often than not . . . we fight.
Now, is there a Christ-honoring anger than may righteously utilize raised voices? Yes. Definitely. We deal with those subjects in great detail in a number of episodes. I’ll link them all for you in the description of today’s episode and in the free show notes at TruthLoveParent.com. If you’re using an iOS device, just click on the link and the episode will open in Apple Podcasts. Otherwise, you can easily search the episode as well.
Anyway, I fear that even though there is a Christ-honoring anger, we rarely experience it.
So, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve all succumb to the temptation to be terrorist parents who use our size and authority to manipulate our children into forced submission.
So, here’s the meat of our discussion today:
I realized lately that I’ve used a couple different metaphors to describe the same condition.
When speaking of our children, I’ve compared them to terrorists and zombies. Both are legitimate, biblical comparisons. In fact, I plan to do an episode in the future about Zombie Terrorists . . . or Terrorist Zombies, whichever one resonates best with you.
But, I think each of these terms describes an important facet of the problem.
You see, “Terrorist” describes their method. They use fear to get what they want.
But “Zombie” describes their reality. Why are they willing to fight so hard to get what they want? The Bible says they lack sense and are metaphorically eating their own flesh. If you’d like a better understanding of this concept, check out the Parenting a Zombie series starting in episode 200.
But what is the foundation of this zombie-reality?
Well, I believe the word “God” describes the delusion at the very root of the problem.
You see, like we discussed in The Merest Christianity, we do what we do because we want what we want, and we want what we want because we believe what we believe.
We act like terrorists because we have zombie desires rooted in a God-complex.
And that’s how it will work itself out every time.
If I deny God’s call for my parenting. If I refuse to be the Ambassador Parent He called and created me to be, then I believe I have a better plan than He does. In that moment, I’m trying to be God by determining what is right for my life.
That type of delusional, instinctual living is the earmark of a fool who will suffer through hell and back just to get what he wants. And — more often than not — that type of self-destructive tenacity will utilize terrorism to get what it wants.
My friends, what I’m saying today is a very real temptation your children face, but our focus should not be on them today.
Today we need to turn our eyes on the Chief of Sinners in our homes . . . we need to search our own hearts.
So, how can you tell if you’re being a Terrorist Parent? Here are some evidences and advice:
1. Ask your spouse.
Of course, be prepared to realize that you’ve probably been a terrorist to them as well, and they may well be very hesitant to answer that questions honestly.
Along the same vein, you can also ask your kids, but — again — unless your children are older and are no longer afraid of you, they will likely have a hard time answering this question.
2. Do you try to control what your children do more than you try to lead them in who they should be?
Do our children need to obey? Yes. But will forcing them to do the right things cause them to be the right people? Never.
That’s every failed social experiment ever.
It’s true we need to hold our children to High Biblical Expectations, but part of that is sharing with them the Truth in Love that will point their hearts to Christ.
Terrorist Parents care too much about outward conformity and often miss the sanctification God is trying to work in their spirits.
3. Do you take your children’s sins personally?
It’s hard not to hurt when someone sins against you, but if your hurt grows primarily from your own wounds, then you’re missing the real point. Your children are sinning against God. Sinning against you will not lead to destruction, but sinning against God always will.
Try to keep the mindset of Joseph. He understood that all sin is against God — whether it was the temptation to commit adultery with his boss’s wife or it was the very real sin his brothers had committed against him.
And — despite the fact that his brothers wanted to kill him — Joseph lovingly forgave them and reminded them that God as in control.
However, the Terrorist Parent is going to feel personally maligned and afflicted because they’ve made it all about themselves.
4. Do you respond out of fear?
Fear is the root of many a sinful behavior — especially sinful anger.
Fearful Parenting is a huge temptation to try to control our kids.
Please listen to episode 40 to learn more about “Fearless Parenting.”
A Terrorist Parent is willing to go to extremes often because they’re afraid they have no other recourse.
5. Do you use terror tactics?
This list includes inappropriate yelling, physical threats or actual physical violence, but it also includes silent-treatment, and manipulative tears or other emotional responses. Of course, this list of terror tactics also includes constant threats of consequences, nagging, frequent commands with no explanations, and requiring our children to do things that are outside of their ability.
We could take a whole series to discuss each of these common parenting behaviors, but I can tell you now that if they’re present in your parenting then you’re being a Terrorist.
6. Do you constantly feel beaten down, depressed, anxious, or angry?
Though the presence of these feelings may not automatically mean you’re being a Terrorist Parent, they certainly will cause a huge temptation to it.
All of these questions may help reveal times when you’ve parented for you in your power instead of for God in His power.
Please check out our episode notes linked below to see all the Scripture we used and remind yourself of the questions we need to ask ourselves.
Remember, Terrorist Parents do what they do because they’re foolish zombies who are trying to act like God.
It’s not a pretty picture of the problem, but it’s biblically accurate, and it’s unacceptable for the Ambassador Parents.
Listen, if you think this may be you — even if only sometimes — and you’d like some help determining if it’s an issue or working through it, our counselors would love to connect with you.
You can easily reach them at Couselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
And please share this episode. We all need this type of accountability and admonishment in our lives.
And don’t miss our next episode about “The Value of Christmas Family Traditions.” I’m going to suggest that we need solid traditions in our home if we’re going to glorify God, and since it’s the Christmas season, and since we all have different things we like to do, I thought this was a great time to discuss it.
Listen, my friends, I love you dearly. I write episodes like this for three reasons:
And it should be a blessing, even when it’s hard to hear because "faithful are the wounds of a friend."
So, I hope you’ll join us next time.
See you then.
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