Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.Obviously there's a lot to say about that. But this post isn't about husbands or wives or vessels of any kind. It's about that idea of living in an understanding way. We had a good sermon on this passage a while back, and our pastor observed that in some translations, that phrase is rendered "according to knowledge."
-1 Peter 3:7
The "understanding" that Peter has in mind is not a generic niceness: it's specific. It demands personal knowledge. It demands that you know the other person's background, beliefs, weaknesses and strengths. You can't be a good husband (or wife) if you are ignorant about who your spouse is. To overcome ignorance, to get out of our selfish surface-level acquaintance, we need to invest a lot of time, listen patiently, and remember what we have heard.
I think that this is quite applicable to parenting. We all like quick fixes: "If Child does X, Parent does or says Y, and all shall be well." However, people don't often operate well on quick fixes. If your child does X on a particular day because of a particular reason, you might want to do Y. But maybe not. Think about it first. Try to understand what is really going on. The solution might be Z or Q or T, or a combination thereof.
A visitor tossed into the middle of our household would probably draw incorrect conclusions about our kids, simply because she doesn't know them (and how would she be expected to?). She might think Ellie is being mean to Zoe when she's actually being careless. That still requires some correction, but of a different sort. She might assume that a crying Zoe should be fed or held, when the poor cranky thing actually needs a nap and won't settle down till plopped into her crib. She might not realize that Ellie has been told "no" ten times in the past hour, and that it's time for a "yes" and a hug of encouragement.
So don't act like a visitor with your own children. You aren't! You are their mom or dad. You have eyes to observe them, ears to hear them, a mind to process who they are and to inquire of God for wisdom. Don't parent them according to lifeless, inflexible rules; live with them, and parent them according to knowledge.