You may be familiar with this quote that is typically attributed to Augustine: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” This principle is often used in discussions and debates involving church doctrine. However, I recently found myself applying it to another area of my life – parenting. For instance, before reacting to my 4-year-old son leaving the back door wide open on a 100 degree day while he is running out back to play, I ask myself if this is an essential or a non-essential situation. Obviously, it is a non-essential and therefore doesn’t require an aggressive response. I need to give my young son liberty to act childishly.
But, how should I react if my 12-year-old decides to verbally dishonor my wife (his mother)? In analyzing this situation, I find that it rises to the level of an essential. It is essential to God and to me that my son honors his mother. This is a character issue and a heart matter which requires a serious response. We must restore unity. I have to ensure that he is brought back to a place of proper thinking and action in order to train up my child in the way he should go.
Finally, in all areas of parenting, I must display charity. Every action and response to both essential issues and non-essential issues must come from a place of love.