Day to day parenting decision are deeply rooted in timeless truth. #Orthodoxy

Parenting Rooted in Orthodoxy

“Hey, Mum, a bunch of the kids are going to Moody’s for pie after rehearsal. Okay if I go?”

One prerogative of motherhood is to meet every question with more questions:

  • Who’s going?
  • Who’s driving?
  • Are you going anywhere afterward?
  • Can you remember to let me know if your location changes?

This has become a familiar routine by now, eased by the knowledge that (so far) this youngest son has chosen his friends wisely and well. They’re great kids, but I’ll keep on asking questions, not because I don’t trust this green-eyed boy, but because his life and my life are governed by eternal verities such as “Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals.”

The Permanent Ideals

Herein lies the challenge of parenting:  The decisions and the forks in the road are always sprung on you like a pop quiz in algebra on a Monday morning. There’s no time for reading up on the topic or for preparing an outline or even to think deeply before responding. Parenting rooted in orthodoxy must rest upon the bedrock of sound theology which supports the more quotidian verities that shape the day-to-day decisions. For example, we could argue all day about how old a child should be when he’s allowed to carry his own cell phone, but it ultimately boils down to the more timeless issue of just exactly whom do you want having unfettered access to your child?

G.K. Chesterton expressed it in this way:  “There must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden.” (165) What he refers to as a “permanent ideal” sets policy “whether we wish the king’s orders to be promptly executed or whether we only wish the king to be promptly executed” — or whether we are willing to be consistent in enforcing curfews for our teen sons. A parent’s roots need to be sunk deeply into timeless truth in order to do the hard work of justifying family rules and standards.

Teaching Our Children to Work

In Chapter 7 of Orthodoxy, G.K.Chesterton flits from topic to topic, but lands with both feet in a discussion of freedom of thought and the failure of humanity to “imitate its ideal.” (162) He argues for a settled mind, and a thought process based upon the lessons learned from past failures. This implies that, as parents,  we are wise to begin providing occasions for our children to learn the discipline of focused attention:

  • What kind of preparation leads a third grader to start over when a project isn’t going well?
  • How can we train a young piano student to work on one measure of a piece for twenty minutes if that’s what it takes for that piece of music to be recital-ready?

Chesterton takes the question further and deeper:

“How can we make a man always dissatisfied with his work, yet always satisfied with working?”  (163)

Good is Always Good. Sin is Always Sin.

Chronological snobbery prevails, and it urges us to look with scorn upon the customs and conclusions of previous generations. Even so, historical precedent is also used as a justification for all kinds of evil. Chesterton writes this off as lazy thinking, arguing that “man may have had concubines as long as cows have had horns:  still they are not a part of him if they are sinful. Men may have been under oppression ever since fish were under water; still they ought not to be, if oppression is sinful.”

It’s never too late to disengage from sinful patterns and to make a fresh start, but this kind of resolve is rooted in a commitment to truth that runs deeper than convenience. There is a time for apologies and starting over, for choosing to go forward based in timeless truth.

May we find grace to lean into the practical impact of our theological underpinnings even in the day-to-day decisions that govern the way our home functions and they way we shepherd our children’s hearts toward orthodoxy.

As usual, your insights on Chesterton’s writing are welcome in the comments below, and if you are also inspired to create your own blog post, be sure to share the link with us so we can continue the conversation over at your place.

Praying along with you for a deeply rooted orthodoxy that impacts the way our families live and work,

This post is part seven in a meandering journey through Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. If you’re just joining us, you can start here for the rationale behind this project. The journey through Orthodoxy has taken us into topics as diverse as parenting, the irony of free will, the humility of being right, and the miracle of God’s creative genius. In May, we examined Chesterton’s thoughts on patriotism just in time for Memorial Day, and in June we marveled at the “furious opposites” inherent in orthodoxy.


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36 thoughts on “Parenting Rooted in Orthodoxy”

  1. I remember going through this stage with my son’s, wanting to start venturing out alone, I was extremely lucky that we never experienced any problems, they were all trust worthy and came home at the agreed time #blogginggoidtime@_karendennis


  2. After reading your thoughts on a number of topics, I cannot imagine that your son will make very many bad choices (we all make a few!). That is exactly what parents should do – help our children to make good choices, even if we are not right there looking over their shoulders.

    I love the phrase “historical precedent is also used as a justification for all kinds of evil”. That is so true in the world today, and as you said, such lazy thinking.


    1. The paint is still wet on this parenting project, and that thought alone keeps me on my knees for my kids (and their parents!). And as they fly in ever widening circles away from this nest, I’m grateful for any signs I see in their lives of an independently chosen walk with God.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “The decisions and the forks in the road are always sprung on you like a pop quiz in algebra.” Yes! I tend to be a book person (if we’d had the Internet when I was raising my children, I am sure I would have followed numerous parenting blogs), but you don’t always have time to consult an “expert” in the middle of a situation. I relied on James 1:5 re praying for wisdom in regard to my children more than anything else, I think. I love this: “Parenting rooted in orthodoxy must rest upon the bedrock of sound theology .” I had no idea Chesterton would get into parenting in a book titled Orthodoxy, but we need orthodoxy there as much as every other facet of our lives – probably even more than other facets, since the lives of our children are influenced by it.


    1. I have been a “book parent” as well, and I’ve often thought that if the internet had been around when my kids were all small, I’d have driven myself crazy going from “expert” to “expert” and trying to follow all the contradictory advice. The James 1:5 option is so much better.
      And just to be clear: Chesterton does not write specifically about parenting in Orthodoxy. He and his wife were childless, but I try to make application for whatever I glean from each chapter, and the points he made in Chapter 7 shouted loud and clear into my own parenting life.


  4. The book is with me on vacation 🙂 It has surely been making me think and reflect on many things. He may have been childless however, we can still apply wise words in practical and broader ways. Thank you for doing so as I most appreciated your thoughts this morning!


    1. So good to know that you are taking a break in these glorious summer days! Chesterton continues to challenge me, and I know, too, that there is SO much in each chapter that I don’t begin to do them justice — especially if I”m going to keep these posts at a reasonable length!


  5. “One prerogative of motherhood is to meet every question with more questions.” The truth of this made me chuckle. My goal is to keep guiding my kids into maturity in every area as it affects every aspects of their lives.


  6. Oh, boy that pop quiz line is spot on! We can do all the reading, all the preparation, all the thinking, but when the question comes we seldom see it coming. We don’t have a perfect answer prepped. We just do our best with what we know. Parenting is quite the adventure!


    1. It’s so humbling to me when I hear myself saying something to one of my kids and it rings “text book” and sounds hollow to my own ears. Cringe.
      I’m sure I’ll never stop learning and needing to trust in this business of family relationships.


  7. Whoooo… convicting read today, friend. Got some praying to do over these principles. Thank you for the challenge.


  8. Sounds like me…answer a question with more questions. Parenting is hard work if you’re a parent who cares about your children and wants the best for them ♥


  9. Such truth in the parenting arena. Ours are 53, 47, and 34. Sometimes the parenting was hard, but it was never ending. United front by both my hubby and I helped a lot. The parenting didn’t end with their school years. There were tears…mostly by me when I had to do the tough parenting thing, but in the end, it has been worth it. They ended up not angels, and have made mistakes along the way, but nothing like the heartaches that some parents face, and I thank God for that and them daily. Sounds like you’re giving great advice here and on a good parenting path. I often hear the phrase, “Parenting isn’t for sissies”, and there is much truth in that statement. Of course in today’s world some may not like the sissies word, but I’m quoting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. HI, michele. thought provoking, as usual. I can be guilty of lazy thinking. Also of guilty thinking: did I do enough? will they remember their orthodoxy? why did God trust me with children? That sort of thing. All truth is God’s truth. People today do seem to want to rub our faces in it.


    1. Ugh, yes the guilty “what if’s” plague me sometimes, too. I’m thankful for grace that rescues me–and that comes along behind me and fixes the messes I’ve made.


      1. I need to remember that phrase and truth: i’m constantly being rescued. thank you for your encouragement, as always, Michele.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Michele, such a great post. We’ve definitely been challenged by our boys on certain policies, and always, it comes down to where our hearts are. AT times, I need to yield because I chose to uphold a certain “policy” in fear. Other times, I need to stand firm because the boy’s heart is in a wrong place. I really loved this:

    “It’s never too late to disengage from sinful patterns and to make a fresh start, but this kind of resolve is rooted in a commitment to truth that runs deeper than convenience. There is a time for apologies and starting over, for choosing to go forward based in timeless truth.”

    Great words, friend!


  12. You are SO right about the fact that most parenting issues come up on the fly, when we’ve not really had the chance to prepare and think things through. So we do need to be rooted in Christ’s truth to know His wisdom in the moment. Such a good reminder here to teach children to work. I’m not sure how good I’ve been at that. 🙂


    1. There’s so much to keep in our heads as we parent, and so many issues we look back on and wish we could have a re-do. For me, it’s joy: I wish I had been clearer about how great I thought my kids were when they were little. I’m trying to do that now!


  13. I love your point about teaching our kids to work. One of the reasons I love doing STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) with kids is that they have to keep trying instead of giving up when something doesn’t work the first time. The hardest part as an educator/parent is not stepping in to solve the problem;) Thanks for sharing on Grace & Truth.


    1. You’ve spoken truth, Aimee! So often I want to rush in and rescue, when the wisest course of action is to let our children struggle for a bit. It teaches self control to parent and child!


  14. There comes that time when kids start to take the reins in their lives and you protect them when possible and hope all those things you’ve taught them will be remembered. I applaud all the parents who can do this without losing their sanity. #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

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