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  • Writer's pictureHannah Brown

Healthy Parenting After IFB

Hi there! So glad you could join me! Let’s chat for a minute… 

My name is Hannah and I’m a 28 year old mom of Irish twin boys (in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, that just means they’re less than a year apart in age), ages 2 and 1. I have spent nearly all my life in hyper conservative circles and my friend, Shannon, asked me to share with you about how that has affected my parenting and some advice I would give to others who find themselves in a similar position. So here goes. 

Let’s talk about the hyper conservative aspect before I get started. 

I’ve realized that there have always been hyper conservative circles: think Pharisees in Jesus’ day. There have always been people who take what God created and pervert and twist it into something they can use to control others. It’s a pride thing. Wanting to be the one in control, the one to call the shots. Hyper conservatism is based on outward conformity to man’s preferences and feeds on pride. 

The Gospel is simple. Adding anything to the simplicity that is in Christ will inevitably result in disaster of some kind. 

My parents were missionaries. My Dad was a pastor. We had to look and act perfect. Flawless. We were examples to the kids around us. To everyone. But life behind closed doors was far from perfect… as is often the case in situations like this. 

No one can keep up with that kind of pressure because we were never designed to. God knows our frame that we are but dust and the Gospel is not about perfection it’s about forgiveness and grace. 

We lived on a farm. Monday thru Saturday we could ride our bikes to carry water to the animals (oh yeah, we were good at balancing one 5 gal bucket full of water on each handlebar). But on Sundays, we couldn’t ride our bikes, but we still had to water the animals. We couldn’t practice piano on Sundays because that was work. I wasn’t allowed to crochet or knit but we could do any kind of paper craft that we wanted. Confusion. 

Scripture was used as a weapon. Any verse was game to be taken out of context and used to coerce us into acting a certain way. “Children obey your parents” was used to say that we were not allowed to ask “why” about anything. I was threatened with the ravens of the valley plucking out my eyes because I refused to give my Dad a hug. Coercion. 

Abuse was commonplace. Verbal and emotional was most common, but there were instances of physical abuse as well, outside of discipline (which was almost always abusive). We were shrouded in secrecy and fear. I don’t remember a time as a child when I was not afraid. Several of my sisters were forbidden to speak to anyone outside of the family about anything that took place behind closed doors. If you have to forbid your children to speak to others about how you act at home, there is a problem. 

Hopefully this gives you a small glimpse about my background and helps you understand, to a certain extent, where I’m coming from.

If you come from a similar background let me just say, you are not alone. God doesn’t abandon you just because you are confused or have questions. He is God. He can handle your emotions and your questions. 

Hannah's Irish Twin Boys!

Let me share a couple thoughts with you about parenting after being raised in a background like this. 

1. Do not abandon the Truth. 

It would be so easy to walk away from God when you’ve been taught that He is an angry, unkind, hateful being who is unconcerned with your life or problems and has no room for your emotions or fears. 

Jesus loves you. Just as He stood against the Pharisees in His day for being all about outward conformity without focusing on the heart being right with God, so today I believe He would do the same with the modern day groups who adhere to the same ideology. Let me encourage you not to walk away from the Truth. Don’t abandon God’s Word. Read the Bible and ask God to speak to you. Ask Him to remove the biases you read with because of how you were taught and let the Bible speak for itself. Don’t walk away from the God who loves you. 

2. Forgiveness 

I’ve got to admit folks, this is a hard one for me and one I’m currently still working through, but I’ve come to realize that if I stay angry at my parents for what they did (or didn’t do), I will unintentionally take that anger out on my own children. It’s easy right? My Dad yelled at me so, learned habit says it’s ok for me to yell at my kids… but I don’t want to repeat that cycle. If you come from a hyper conservative background, there’s a really good chance you experienced abuse as well (Shannon recently wrote an article about the belief systems held in these circles that naturally lead to abuse); it’s hard, but we’ve got to make peace with our past. My Dad was abusive (verbally, emotionally, physically), so naturally I’ve had to work thru the proper response to him, but I’ve also struggled with the proper response to my Mom as it seemed she did nothing to protect us from what was happening and at times even seemed oblivious to it (or made it worse). 

Bitterness and forgiveness are opposites. Bitterness is simply the harboring of hate or anger towards someone for something that they’ve said or done. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re saying what the abuser did was right, nor does it say you are ignoring the fact that the abuse took place and that there are natural repercussions of it. Forgiveness is simply letting go of your anger towards that person so that you can be free to live. Forgiveness is freeing. Bitterness is binding. I’ve learned that everyone is always going to have their own opinion about how you handle a situation, especially fellow family members, but the important thing is not what they think, but rather that you’ve released your anger towards that individual and that your future interactions with that person reflect what is Biblical. 

Nobody is perfect, so don’t beat yourself up when you don’t handle something exactly right. God is good and ready to forgive you. 

3. Triggers

After my oldest son, Charlie, was born, I encountered myself feeling angry when he would cry… and I was so confused. My baby was wet, tired, hungry etc… why was it making me upset to hear him cry? It was a trigger. It took a little bit of digging into my memory and emotions to figure out what was going on, but I finally realized that when I was a child, a crying, younger sibling was not a good thing because it made my Dad angry… to the point of abuse. Witnessing that as a kid, not only made me feel helpless because there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it, but it also made me feel angry to know that my Dad was hurting someone who was helpless. Those emotions had been buried and never dealt with, so naturally they resurfaced when I encountered a sound that triggered my subconscious mind. 

You’ve got to deal with your triggers. It didn’t go away or get better overnight, but once I realized why I was feeling that way it allowed me to begin working on my own emotions, so that I could be the parent I wanted to be for my son.

I’m not a therapist or a counselor, but journaling is my number one recommendation for dealing with any trauma. Write down how you feel, why you feel this way, what event happened that caused you to feel this way. Journal about how that event affects your parenting/relationships and why you don’t like it. Write about what you want your parenting to look like. Then understand that abuse is the past, that happened to you or you witnessed it, but that is not your present and with the Holy Spirit within you, you have the power you need to change the cycle. You don’t have to repeat something just because your parents did it, but if you don’t actively work to deal with your emotions and trauma then you will end up repeating it.

4. Choice 

This has got to be one of my favorite topics (just ask one of my sisters). Do you realize how liberating it is to understand that you have a choice about everything you do? You are not a slave to your past, present, or future. You are not doomed to repeat your family cycle. You are not bound to any stereotype or expectation. As a believer you are free in Christ and as Romans 6 teaches you have the ability to choose. Romans 8 declares there is no condemnation for you who walk after the Spirit. 

You. Get. To. Choose. 

You get to choose what you’re going to believe too. Believe what you were taught simply because that’s how you were raised? Or search for and believe the truth? Choose to repeat or change. Choose to be a victim or a conqueror. Choose bitterness or forgiveness. You are free to make your own choices, but you are not free from the consequences of those choices. No one chooses for you. Undoubtedly, any choice you make will open the door to a thousand more choices, but you have to start somewhere. Are you going to coast through parenting and just do what you were taught by example from your own childhood? Are you going to work to make things different for your children? 

Let me tell you, if you choose not to put in the work, just repeat what you saw and take your emotions out on others, you’ll end up like my Dad who told my Mom that he “didn’t have a dad growing up, so my kids don’t deserve one either”. 

Your kids need you to be better than that. 

5. Discipline 

Please don’t discipline a certain way just because that’s what your parents did.

If you come from a hyper conservative circle, then discipline is quite possibly a painful topic for you because it is often used as an excuse for abuse; it was in my childhood. The heavy handed approach that demands immediate, unquestioning obedience did nothing but damage for me as a kid. You should not punish childish behavior in children. They are children, not 30 year old business men who are about to present the best idea of their career. Let them be kids. 

My husband and I have been told that we parent more like grandparents… Yes!! I’d rather be guilty of parenting more like a grandparent than to be guilty of abuse because I refuse to let my children be children. Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson is a wonderful resource if you’re willing to consider a different approach to parenting. 

Remember that you as a parent have a huge influence on how your children will grow up to view God. You’re not always going to do everything right. No one does. But be quick to apologize. Be quick to forgive. 

What is right is seldom easy. This is certainly true when it comes to changing your family cycle and going against what you were raised to believe. 

Learning to allow God to speak to me through the Holy Spirit has been challenging. I couldn’t make decisions, even as a teen, without it being the wrong decision. I learned from early on that I couldn’t trust my gut. I couldn’t make the right decision. I wasn’t capable of functioning without someone else’s approval. Obviously I carried this mentality into adulthood and have had to ask God for help with this. I’ve had to learn that God wants to speak to me… that He thinks I’m worth speaking to. As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit just as any other believer does and He will speak to me as much as I will listen. The Liberating Life of Jesus by John Van Geldren is another great resource here. 

Learn to listen. My God is good, patient, and kind and He wants a personal relationship with you. He wants to help you be a godly parent. He is concerned with how you raise your children for that will influence how your children see Him.

Hannah and her husband, Baxter

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