Christian parents ought to discipline their children, and yet this discipline is not done to ensure success, or even obedience. Rather, discipline ought to point to the character of God as one who wants to teach us how to live a good life.
By Christian standards, the “playful American” model of parenting also offers some benefits. Encouraging creativity can serve as a reflection of God’s character as creator. Allowing children freedom ”” even the simple freedom to make a fort instead of going to soccer practice ”” can mirror God’s desire for us to know freedom, especially when this freedom comes in the context of a loving and supportive environment. Similarly, encouraging children to play together mirrors the relational aspect of God’s being.
Both of these parenting styles have something to offer to the degree that they reflect who we are as human beings ”” creatures who need instruction in the context of love and acceptance, individuals who need discipline in order to achieve our telos, our God-given purpose, and individuals who need grace when we just don’t meet the expectations placed upon us by others. But both Eastern and Western parenting styles fail if they uphold “success” as their goal. The gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us, parents and children alike, that our worth comes not from getting straight As, not from general happiness, not from imagination or creativity ”” but simply from the value bestowed upon us as children of God.