The “Elijah Principle” of Parenting

One of the things I love so much about our church is the way they include everyone in outreach.  Our son went on his first mission trip to Mexico for a week with another church in town when he was twelve.  On that trip, my husband and he joined a team building a home for a family.  The street tacos weren’t the only things giving him a hunger to return to serve south of the border.  Since then he has been two other times with the men in our current church.  He participated in building projects and giving the staff members support at a home for disabled children.  This past trip he was even invited to lead worship on his guitar.

Mexico 2

The morning they were scheduled to return to California, the team leader woke everyone around 3:00am.  Oh, you heard me.  Mission accomplished – heading home!  At fourteen years old, my son requires a good amount of sleep.  He always has been like one of those people on the Snickers commercials when he doesn’t sleep.  A bedraggled monster emerges where my previously wise, funny, pleasant boy had been.  He got home by noon, happy, tired and dirty from the trip.  Dropping his bags all around the front door, he showered and went to his room.  He was a bit short-tempered that day, but nothing too out of sorts.  He chose not to take the advice given by my husband to get to bed earlier than usual after a long weekend with not enough sleep.  Monday morning he awoke with attitude.  He fussed over a few things and then declared he wasn’t going to school.  I got into my “Oh, no you didn’t” mom mode and determined he wouldn’t get to stay home if he acted this way.  I hold to the belief that you shouldn’t let children {of any age} get their way by throwing a fit.  Giving in only teaches them that tantrums move mountains.

I had to run my computer to the repair shop that day, so I left him and his difficult attitude at home to {hopefully} chill out, figuring I’d take him to school late when I got back.  On the way home I called a wise and discerning friend.  I told her all my son was going through and how he was acting.  Yes, I’m a parenting author and weekly I write about rearing children.  Just a reality check: we all need our circle of support.  Sometimes we have our eyes too close to the subject to be able to get perspective.  After I dumped the whole shebang on my friend she said, “I am thinking one thing.  I’m thinking of Elijah.”  She didn’t have to say another word.  I saw it clearly.

Magnifying Glass 2

This past year our pastor had given a sermon on Elijah based in 1 Kings 18 & 19, discussing God’s pattern for responding to depression.  When my friend said, “Elijah,” the whole concept came rushing back to me.  Elijah had been on Mount Carmel witnessing against 450 prophets of Baal.  He challenged them to a duel of sorts.  He said for them to prepare an altar while he prepared his own.  They called out to their idol and nothing happened {because, well, dead statues can’t light fires} and then he had his altar soaked to up the ante.  He called out to the Lord and God sent fire that consumed not only the offering, but the wood and stones as well.  The people fell on their faces, admitted God was Who He Is and turned their prophets over to Elijah to be slain.  Elijah had a ministry high.  Not only this, but the Lord sent rain after a three year drought in response to the turning of the people’s hearts following this miracle.

At this point Jezebel promises to kill Elijah and lets him know she’d rather die than spare his life.  He runs from that place and is highly discouraged.  Remember what it takes to minister.  Ministry requires a pouring out.  For every outpouring, there needs to be a refilling.  You may be asking yourself at this time, “What on God’s green earth does this have to do with parenting.”  Hang in there, I’m about to tie it all together.

Pouring Out 2

One of the basic principles of parenting requires meeting our children’s needs before anything else.  We all have basic physical and God-given emotional needs.  I wrote a lot about how meeting these needs decreases misbehavior in a previous series of posts called “What a Child Really Needs.”  My son had a need.  His deep physical need for rest after ministry coupled with sleep deprivation glared at me and I failed to see it for what it was.  I drove home from that phone call to my friend and said to my son, ” You are exhausted.  You need rest, healthy food and more rest.  I’m going to call in for you and you can spend the day catching up on sleep.  You’ll go back to school tomorrow.  Oh, and by the way, next time, try a little kinder approach when you think you need time off.”  He proceeded to take a three hour nap – at age 14.  Yep. 

God did this for Elijah.  The first thing Elijah did when he ran from Jezebel was sleep.  Well, first he asked God to take his life, then he slept.  Sleep deprivation and pouring ourselves out to serve others {like my son did in Mexico} can cause us to lose our bearings.  We think all is doom and we can’t pull it together.  We want to die – or more simply, for God to take our lives.  Short of that, we’ll fall asleep under a juniper tree.  When Elijah woke, there was an angel there telling him to eat.  God provided hot bread cake and water.  Comfort food.  Elijah ate and then … he slept again.  Then the angel woke him to eat again.  {Are you seeing a theme here?}  Then God took him on a little 40 day journey {with no other food} and after that Elijah said, “I have been zealous for you, but I am alone.”  God then tended Elijah’s emotional needs by providing kings who would avenge the Lord {that was no longer a burden Elijah had to be responsible for carrying out}.  God provided Elisha who would take over the ministry.  He also promised the support and fellowship of 7000 believers in God who had never bowed their knees to Baal.  God provided for Elijah’s physical needs and then He met his emotional and social needs.

Parent holding Child 2 

As parents we are often tied to our way.  We have a certain approach to use that we think will do the trick, nip the problem, teach the lesson.  We have to remember to be flexible.  More than that, we always must acknowledge the deeper needs in our children’s bodies and hearts. 

The Elijah Principle is simple: 

  • Meet the physical needs first.  If your child is sleepy, get them rest.  If your child acts out because of hunger, feed him. {Simple, but so easily overlooked when we are stressed and they are pushing our buttons}.
  • After your child is fed and rested, you can tend to other underlying emotional needs: love, a sense of worth, confidence and constructive activity. 
  • Finally you can assess whether changes in environment are needed.  Does your child need a different bedtime?  Perhaps he needs to change up the amount of time he is spending with people who aren’t a good influence on him.  Maybe there is something burdening him that needs to be lightened.  The time for figuring out what environmental changes need to be made comes after you have helped your child get their basic physical and emotional needs met. 

Have you been staunch in an area of parenting where you would do better to give a little?  Have you tried to discipline when your child’s real, deeper need went unmet?  I hope the “Elijah Principle” helps you as you parent.  I love to hear from you!  Leave a comment here or join the conversation on the Hearts Homeward Facebook Page.

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