By some definitions a blog is an opinion piece. As you will notice many of my blogging colleagues use factual research to support their opinions. Me, not so much. You are about to read a piece on parenting and I urge you to keep in mind this is my opinion. I have nothing factual to back it up. Nonetheless, I have had experience working with thousands of families as a school counselor so I’ve seen many different types of parenting styles. In my experience, the parenting style that most closely aligns with what I’ve deemed God’s to be, works best. In an effort of full disclosure, like many people of faith, I’ve taken the liberty of selecting only the points that validate my position on God and ignored the ones that do not, or are too the contrary.
As parents we glow when our children tell us they love us; we get all warm and fuzzy inside when they adore/admire us. We beam with joy and pride when they are successful in their chosen endeavors and reveal themselves to be quality human beings. I suspect God gets a pretty good feeling when we do those same things for Him as well.
If we take this concept one step further, and actually really believe that God is our creator/parent, than we quickly realize that while God may love us, God certainly does not embrace a coddling or helicoptering parenting method. Instead God, being THE original eternal optimist, gives us the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. God has all the confidence in the world that we are smart, capable, and able to adapt to anything thrown our way.
Parenting comes from the word parere and it means to”bring forth, give birth to, produce,” To me parenting means to prepare children to go into the world while they are under the safety of your roof.
Here are ways you can do this:
1. Help Children Develop their Character: I think one’s character is actually a BIG deal to God. There are way too many facets of character to address in this blog so I’ll just pick one: Thou shalt not bear false witness. (Okay, so it also happens to be a commandment.) To not bear false witness means a person should not lie. It is my opinion that lies are the most damaging of all things because they distort the truth. When a person is lied to they believe in a false reality and act according the their beliefs. We lie to ourselves, each other, clients, bosses, children, etc. “Thou shalt no bear false witness” does not mean you have to go out and confess your secrets to the world as much as it means not trying to protect your children by lying to them, denying reality, or distorting the truth. Kids are going to be adults one day and trying to protect them does not teach them how to handle life yet teaching them how to handle life is our most important job.
Tip 1: Tell it the truth to yourself and to them. Help your children face the truth by sharing your own positive and negative experiences of navigating life. Tell them what you did well and what you did not do well. They are looking to you to provide a road map on how to navigate this world.
For example: I’ve said to my children – “Well I had a learning experience today. I had to tell a class something and when I did, no one understood what I was trying to say. That was my fault. When a group of people do not understand what you are trying to say, it is your responsibility to make it more clear, Today I had to figure out a different way to tell them the material and I did. After two tries everyone got it.”
2. Help Children Find Their Call: I’m a big fan of a “call”; The word vocare is the root word for vocation and it literally means ‘to call.” It is also the root word of vocal. For a call to go through someone has to receive it. Fredrick Buechner is one of my favorite theologians and he describes vocation this way:
The vocation for you is the one in which your deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet. When you are doing what you are happiest doing, it must also be something that not only makes you happy but that the world needs to have done. In other words, if what makes you happy is going out and living it up and spending all your money on wine, women, and song, the world doesn’t need that. But on the other hand, if you give your life to good works — you go and work in a leper colony and it doesn’t make you happy — the chances are you’re not doing it very well. Those for whom you were doing it will recognize that this is not an act of love. It’s a good work and they are the object of it. Just the other day somebody my age in some sort of a crisis said, “I don’t feel I’m being what I ought to be.” And I said, “What makes you happiest? That’s the clue.” I struck him dumb. He said, “I never thought that. What makes me happy?” I think he was thinking, what makes me useful? What makes me religious? No, no, no. What makes you, in the deepest sense of the word, happy? That’s what you should be doing, if the other part is also met — if it is something the world needs.
To find our own area of happiness means we have to know ourselves. Getting to know yourself is done through experimentation; trial and error, success and failure. And that is okay. Sometimes pain is a great motivator be it physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological or other. When we are doing the wrong job or relationship the pain is constant and the reason it motivates is because we want to get away from it. Joy is also a great motivator and we want to move towards it.
Tip 2: Share your feelings. Talk to your kids about what makes you happy so they know what happiness looks and feels like. Say things like “I’m happy when we all get to sit down together for dinner.” “I’m happy when I go to new places because I always learn something different.” “I’m happy when I go to work because I like working with teenagers.” Whatever it is, tell them about it. And then ask them “What makes you happiest?” “How do you feel about this?” Putting words around feelings takes practice and this is a great way to help your children get to know and listen to themselves.
To help them find their own career interests here is a fun website: http://www.cmi-lmi.com/kingdomality.html
3. Help Your Child Realize They Have and are Making Choices. Free will means you get to pick out your very own clothes, actions, and attitude. God has presented us with this gift of free will as well as this lovely planet as a place to practice and each other to practice on. If we choose to be bored, dismissive, or productive and appreciative, it is up to us. When working with children it is important to remind them that they have free will and thus control over their situation. Choices empower and many times children forget that their attitude is a choice.
Child: “Mom, I’m bored.” (as though I’m supposed to do something about it.)
Mom: “Why are you choosing to be bored? You have the ability to do something about that. You are both smart and creative.”
Child: “I would not be bored if I had an iPad.” (as though I am supposed to provide it.)
Mom: “I bet you are right. What business are you going to start to earn money to buy one? I’ll be your first customer; I’ll pay you .50 to fold the laundry”
Child: “Mom!” (as though I’ve said something completely outrageous)
when it reverses
Mom: “Honey we are running late. Step it up.” (sternly to get them moving)
Child: “Mom, can you please pick a different attitude?”
Sometimes kids will present us with choices we never considered. I know of more than a few families who have moved because the kids wanted a new environment. They wanted to move because they knew they could not thrive where they were. Sometimes kids want to go away to boarding school or go early to college before we are ready to let them go. Sometimes they want to move to a third world country, be artists instead of doctors, and eat all of their Halloween candy in one sitting. People’s top regrets in life often come from not listening to themselves. http://www.empowernetwork.com/Caroline/blog/nurse-reveals-the-top-5-regrets-people-make-on-their-deathbed/
As parents we must make choices too and choosing to encourage our children to listen to their own inner voice is an important one. Of course we have our own reality too and helping them find a responsible way to get what they need is part of preparing them for the world.
Tip 3: Present choices. Give choices to your child when they are young so they learn to use their power when they are older. Give them” a few options to choose from that you are okay with. ex. “Do you want to go to bed and read for 30 minutes or stay up an extra 30 minutes and not read?
“It is cold outside. Are you going to wear a jacket or be cold? If you choose to be cold, then you cannot complain about it because it was your choice.”
Let them experience both the positive and not-so-positive consequences of their actions in a safe environment.
God clearly has this parenting thing down since He has fearfully and wonderfully made nearly 7 billion of us. Ironically, it is my experience that He uses the same parenting method on all of us too.