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7 Principles for Becoming a Contented Parent

I recently had the privilege of hearing Erik Raymond, author of Chasing Contentment, speak on that very subject. He is an excellent, low-key, metaphor-filled speaker. As he was addressing us, I found myself applying his words to my life at home. Maybe they can help you too.

Here are some personal reflections on thinking about contentment and discontentment in my home.

1. My home is ground zero where I see my discontented heart.
Whether grumbling to myself about my spouse, my children, my finances, my home, or a myriad of other things, it is easy to be discontented about my family life. Perhaps I have high hopes that are not being fulfilled. Perhaps I am comparing my spouse or children to others. Maybe there are little irritations that I have to learn to live with.

Whatever the case, home reveals my heart. Furthermore, my children are watching my attitude. If I am grumbling about my spouse they will notice it. If I am nitpicking them or her, they will observe. Rather than excusing my complaining and shifting the blame to others, let me realize that grumbling comes from my heart, not from my circumstances.

2. My home life is ground zero where I learn to have a contented heart.
If home reveals my heart, home can also be a small place I can grow. Confession and micro-repentances can help me to receive these irritations from the Lord. These can help me put on thankfulness and encouragement for those closest to me. They can cause me to find my ultimate contentment in Christ not my family. Contentment is a learned attribute. Paul said he had learned to be content in any situation.

3. My contentment at home is about my heart.
My contentment at home does not depend on my circumstances. In Erik’s words, “Circumstances don’t speak to contentment; contentment must speak to the circumstances. As Elisabeth Elliott has said in Keep a Quiet Heart, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

4. My contentment is grounded in my view of God’s character and God’s providence.
Contentment finds its strength, source, and model in God. Before Genesis 1, God the Father, Son, and Spirit dwelt in happy contentment. I, too, can dwell in happy contentment no matter what.

In addition, do I trust there is a good God and a wise God behind the circumstances in my life today? As John Flavel said, “Providence, like Hebrew letters, should be read backwards.” Do I believe my circumstances are tailormade to make me like Christ, and Christ is the tailor?

5. Teaching our children to be contented should be a goal of every parent.
We are surrounded by harried families rushing from activity to activity. Business use discontentment so that we will buy the next upgrade. Social media projects happy images that causes discontentment to resonate within our heart. As parents, our job is not to keep our children from ever being bored or discontented. Our job is to cast a vision for learned contentment in the circumstance.

6. Lack of contentment in my children is probably not a problem with my parenting.
Discontentment and fussy children are usually not a problem with us as parents but with the character of our children. A friend who is a pediatrician recently observed that some moms can’t seem to stand their children being unhappy at all. They rush to fix any unhappiness. While certainly I want to give my children opportunities and see them flourish, I am going to balance that with the need to train them to live in a fallen world where they will need to learn internal contentment in Christ.

7. Contentment is not equal to complacency, lukewarmness, or laziness.
We don’t want to err on the other side. There is a godly ambition and hard work that should empower us well. This godly discontentment that should cause us, to paraphrase Thomas Godwin, “Sue God for his promises in prayer.” Paul told his audience that if they could gain their freedom, they should (1 Cor 7:21).

There is certainly more that can be said about training for contentment whether your children are three or thirteen. But these are some principles to lay the foundation for our family.

Families with a gospel contentment will display the glory of Christ to a frantic world.

You can find Erik’s book here.

Some further notes from Erik’s talks.
Contentment is inward, not outward.

If contentment comes from the inside out, it is untouchable.
Circumstances don’t speak to contentment; contentment must speak to the circumstances.
At the heart of contentment is what is inside us, not what is outside of us.

Contentment is quiet not complaining.

What is in the well comes out in the bucket. What is coming out of my mouth?
Moses said that the Israelites were not complaining about him but about God.

Contentment is a work of grace, not human effort.

My contentment must come from Christ’s sufficiency, not self-sufficiency.
Am I weak enough to need grace?

Contentment rests in God’s providence.

Everything he gives us is from his hand.

Contentment is based on the Trinitarian contentment of God.
Before Genesis 1, God was was perfectly content in his communion of the three persons. Creation was out of contentment, not out of lack or discontentment. We find out contentment in God and he is our model.

Why is contentment so elusive?
Adam and Eve are our model. She never had a discontented thought until the devil attacked. He attacked the clarity of what God said, the truthfulness, and the motive. He packaged death in a shiny wrapper.

Divine Contentment is
1. A silent spirit not complaining.
2. A cheerful spirit.
3. A thankful spirit.
4. Not bound by circumstances.
5. Not avoiding trouble that comes.