I certainly never expected that I would fall into the trap of false teaching. I was raised in a Christian home with loving parents who took me to church, taught me Christian values, and even sacrificed to send me to a Christian school where I learned the Bible and practiced spiritual disciplines daily. I made the decision to follow Christ for myself at age 15 and never really went through the rebellious teenager stage. I have memorized Scripture and would estimate that I know probably 75% of the events that take place in the Bible. I married a Christ-following man after college and have continued to seek after the Lord and attend Bible-believing churches in the years since we have been married. I would have told you that there was no way I could have fallen into deception as far as what the Bible taught! And I would have been very wrong. Let me briefly tell you our story of becoming parents.
I would have told you that there was no way I could have fallen into deception…
My husband and I felt God’s leading to start the process to become foster parents as fresh, young 26-year-olds who had never been in the role of “Mom and Dad” before. We had the willingness to parent kids from hard places, but very little experience.
As we embarked on the journey of being parents to our first little one, we realized that not only did we have an instant toddler, walking, talking, running…(away from us in parking lots), we did not have the bonds that most parents and toddlers have who were biologically stitched together. We were getting a trial-by-fire introduction to parenting, and as most parents do, we needed some wisdom from those who had gone before us.
Through our church and social media pages, we kept hearing about taking classes which help parents raise kids who have come from traumatic situations. We signed up and took a class over the course of six weeks. The classes we attended and books we read were full of good ideas. They equipped us with different strategies to engage children of all ages to exercise self-control and practice calmness and thoughtfulness. The idea was that, over time, greater depths of discipline could be achieved as the child learned to operate inside a foundation built on trust and love for their parents- something that newborn babies all the way up to teenagers may not have experienced in their birth families.
The classes helped us understand brain physiology and develop empathy and compassion for what trauma and abuse can do to a person and how to be more patient in training our children who are in foster care. The classes in and of themselves were helpful and gave us some tools to address the behaviors and needs of our children that we hadn’t considered before.
Since we found the class to be helpful, I began to surround myself with other trauma-focused women through church, friendships, social media, podcasts, etc. I loved my life as a foster mom and was eager to glean wisdom from these older, wiser ladies that had a lot to say about raising children from traumatic situations. This is where the problems began.
These older, “wiser” women, all of whom attended Bible-believing churches, many of whom were even pastors’ wives, never said anything to me about the Bible, other than to tell me that this way of parenting aligned to the Gospel. They never pointed me to the Scriptures or encouraged me to hold my children accountable for their sin. They never reminded me that only God could heal my children from their past abuse. They only pointed me to the “religion” of trauma-based parenting and its ideologies.
They never pointed me to the Scriptures…
Admittedly, I even pushed my husband into these ideologies as we tried to bring a unified approach to parenting in this way, as was the case for most of the couples that I had contact with over the years who were also in these circles. These ideologies were not explicitly taught but were intrinsic to the conversations, the memes, and the discussions on podcasts, social media pages, and during Mom’s Coffee Night. Here are four of the most common ideas that I observed creeping into the minds and hearts of the women involved:
- You aren’t modeling God’s love and grace if you are unyielding in your expectations for your child’s behavior.
- Kids misbehave because of the trauma they have experienced, and if they could make a better choice, they would. Therefore they don’t because they physiologically can’t.
- If you don’t subscribe to and practice nearly everything produced by these parenting programs, you are not helping your child heal from their trauma (and might be making it worse).
- You should identify your own “triggers” from childhood that might be causing you to take offense to your child’s wrong behaviors (you may never have known you had any triggers- getting counseling will “reveal” these to you.)
As you can see, these ideas are not without spiritual implications. What started out as the desire to teach and train my children in a way that is conducive to reshaping their past experiences, quickly morphed into an expected lifestyle. Those pushing these ideologies employ a worldview which blames the parents’ hidden character flaws for a child’s misbehavior, places the weight of mental and emotional healing on the parents’ discipline efforts, and absolves kids almost completely of their sin simply because of their circumstances in life.
Though my husband and I didn’t immerse ourselves fully in the practices that these “leaders” were pushing, as we continued to foster and eventually adopt, we regularly felt defeated in our attempts to parent the way we heard others in these circles were parenting. I tried to keep a mental checklist of what to do and what not to do based on the social media posts and heartfelt stories that I saw from those I thought were doing it “the right way.” I berated my husband when he didn’t handle something “right”, and beat myself up and felt like a terrible mother when I reverted back to the “less loving and gracious” way of parenting (which I did regularly).
Our kids didn’t seem to really care about any of the non-punitive consequences that we attempted to enforce, and actually responded better to the way we were told not to parent, though we felt guilty for reverting back into some of these tendencies. We weren’t seeing the results we wanted to and ultimately we felt powerless as parents.
Over the next couple of years, we started seeing that what we had considered to be resources, encouragement, and even discipleship were actually just lies. We unsubscribed from the social media, the podcasts, the church classes, etc. and ultimately unsubscribed our family from the ideologies making us weak, ineffective parents producing weak, excuse-filled children.
We have now been foster and adoptive parents for several years and have had over a dozen children in and out of our home, adopting several of them. Our children are very happy, healthy, and successful at home and school and love the Lord. My husband and I argue less about
the right way to handle something, we are more confident as parents, and we are able to delight in our kids instead of wondering if we’re worsening their trauma.
I am forever thankful to the faithfulness of God to eventually help us see that we had strayed from what He says is the right way to view misbehavior and the discipline of our children. Now, it is my mission to make sure that other moms, whether they are foster and adoptive moms or not, see parenting programs for what they can be: God-given resources to equip us to be godly parents, and what they are never to be: the indoctrination of a different worldview, seeing children as inherently sinless or as a product of their circumstances who want to do the right thing but can’t.
I am forever thankful to the faithfulness of God…
Let me be clear, the reason that I fell into this pattern of wrong thinking was not because I didn’t know that the Bible said anything raising children. It is because I subconsciously did not consider Scripture to be the only valuable resource out there and I mistakenly placed my trust in the advice of women who marketed themselves as Gospel-centered trauma experts. Turns out their approach was very light on the Gospel.
When I started to really believe that Scripture was solely sufficient for all issues in life, I understood that what I had been following were very covert lies. And I began to see everything outside of Scripture as either deception or a resource that is only useful if you are using it within the bounds of what God says in Scripture.
Ladies, if you haven’t recently read 2 Timothy 3, stop right now and go read it. In it, Paul has a lot to say about how people will think and behave in the last days. It warns women to not fall prey to people who “have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power.” It tells us to stay away from those who “creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Paul says that people who do this “will not get very far, for their foolishness will be plain to all.”
Second Timothy 3 also calls Christ-followers to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It reminds us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
When we are vulnerable to believe anything that we see from leaders that claim to be Christians, without examining what they’re saying against the whole Word of God, we are these weak women. We want what is best for our children, but we are sinful because we are not trusting God with their healing or to guide us to appropriate discipline through the study of His Word and the knowledge He allows us to have through others who have gone before us.
Instead of taking useful strategies, thanking God, and applying them to what He has already told us to do, we are led astray by the leaders who have created entire movements based on a few good principles, turning instead to their social media pages, to their classes and teachings. We feel that we can never know enough about how to help our children because we do not believe that God’s system of discipline and instruction is sufficient. And as a result, our children are also carried away by excuses, in searching for what will make them whole. We have spent our lives looking for the solution to their trauma and as a result we have trained ourselves and our kids that God is not it.
In fact, God is the one who teaches us through His infallible Word that He is the solution for every circumstance that belies us. His Word is helpful for teaching and correcting our kids, for training our entire family in the way of righteousness, and to equip us for every good work, including raising our kids.
Our children can be complete by knowing God, knowing His Word and coming to salvation through Him. Any resources God brings to us from other humans, is simply that. A resource. Not a way of life. Not a worldview. Not a religion.
We have all we need in Christ.
Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Contact me, or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!