North Star Parenting

Have you ever tried to work a box puzzle without the box top to guide you? Have you tried to go somewhere you haven’t been before without a GPS,  map or good directions to help you? Frustrating isn’t it?

Many things we do in life require some amount of direction to ensure a chance at success. Parenting your child is no different. Assuming we will be good parents simply because we have brought a child into the world is foolishness. That assumption alone indicates we don’t have much of a clue about where we are going and what we need to do.

For centuries the North Star served as a constant nighttime guide to give direction to mariners at sea. They navigated the dangerous waters and steered their vessels according to the dependable heavenly bodies. To do otherwise would be the height of arrogance and foolishness, putting their whole mission in jeopardy.

Is there a North Star for parents to follow in rearing our children? Yes, there is. This concept is the focal point of the meaning of life. To understand it and live by it brings blessings to you and your child. To ignore it dooms you to a journey without a trustworthy guide to do one of the most important things a human being is ever called on to do, parenting a child.

Do you want to know where to find the true North Star for parenting? Begin by reading the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:34-40.

Parenting Character

Successful parenting starts with you, the parent. Your character, who you are deep inside determines what you will value most and how you will live. Character also determines the kind of parent you will be.

So, who are you? What values are at the core of your being? Are you kind and gentle? Selfish, arrogant or prideful? Are you a know-it-all or are you open to learning new ways of thinking and doing things? Most importantly, does your character resemble God’s view of who he is capable of making you?

God knows each of us just as we are. He knows our secrets, strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully, He also knows our potential and wants us to continually grow toward being that person. Like a loving parent, He hopes for and dreams of the fulfillment of our greatest potential.

What is God’s view of the potential you? He sees you as becoming more and more changed into the character of Jesus, his son. Paul captures this great vision of us in Romans 8:29 ” For those God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son ….”(NIV).

In the larger passage from which this statement comes, God promises to work in every circumstance in our life to promote this growth of Christ-like character in us. He is able to use all the difficulties, pain and disappointments to shape our character. Our character, formed around faith in Christ, is his greatest concern for us.

Where do you start with this change of character which will gradually transform you and the way you parent? You begin with the surrender of your life to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you haven’t already made this decision, I encourage you to begin this wonderful journey of forgiveness and grace right now.

Where Does Successful Parenting Begin?

  • Where does successful parenting begin? Does it begin at the birth of a child? Having a child makes you a parent but it doesn’t make you a successful one. Does it begin with reading books on child development or parenting strategies or techniques? While this can prove helpful, good parenting must begin somewhere else.

  • Then, where does successful parenting begin? It begins with the person you see in the mirror. That’s right. Good parenting begins with the person you are. Who you are, your character, is the most important issue in parenting. No matter what you “know” about parenting, no matter how prepared you think you are to be a good parent, the real and most important issue is who you are as a person.

  • Character is the ultimate issue of life. It is not what we accumulate or how successful we are by society’s standards that are most important. All those we leave behind when we die. But character is another matter. That is who we are and is all we will take with us.

  • If you have been entrusted to rear children you should pause to consider the meaning of your existence and seek to mold your character to that purpose. In practical terms this means to commit our life to God and his lordship in our life. Living out this commitment means to accept Christ as your savoir and grow in his likeness and to genuinely treat others as you want to be treated. This will bring your life into conformity with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:34-40.Once you have committed your life to live out life’s true purpose, then and only then can you guide your child toward that purpose. Think about it. Do it for yourself and your child.

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Own Your Stuff

One of the greatest challenges of human relationships is to keep our personal stuff from creating unnecessary issues. In other words, we need to learn to own our stuff. For example, if you are person who always needs to be in charge, you can make others uncomfortable with your need to control or have things your way.

Refusing to recognize and deal with our “stuff”  may cause others to have little to do with us. However, our children cannot easily avoid us and may choose unhealthy behaviors to deal with our stuff.

Children often adapt unhealthy reactions to a parent’s angry tirades, abuse, anxiety or any number of other issues. One example of this is the child who becomes a “pleaser.”  This child doesn’t dare do or say anything that might create discomfort for someone even if he/she has been highly offended by their actions.

How does a child come to be this way? Most likely they learned early to stuff her feelings out of fear of setting off a parent’s explosive temper. Their “pleaser” ways may protect them from the parent’s anger but can have a big downside. They may come to believe they can’t have strong negative feelings. So, feelings are stuffed or the person can become passive aggressive.  Certainly, they can’t take the risk of expressing her feelings directly and openly. Continuing on this path of stuffing their anger may lead to avoiding all kinds of conflicts and develop very shallow relationships in life.

What do you think could happen an angry parent had becomes able to own their stuff? It would meant they could learn to apologize and the child wouldn’t have had to internalize the parent’s stuff. It would mean the child could grow up with a more balanced emotional life. 

What stuff do you need to own? What, if any, unresolved anger or insecurity do you need to address so your kid won’t have to deal with it? If you don’t own it, it is quite likely your child, and perhaps others, will have to deal with it.

How Does Your Child Handle Success or Failure?

How does your child handle success or failure?  Is there any connection to how you handle success or failure?

Your child’s view of his performance in school, sports, music, relationships and various other pursuits affects the way he sees himself. Obviously, if your child is able to have some level of accomplishment in these areas he gains confidence and, therefore, tends to feel good about himself. Over time the ability to accomplish may lead to venturing out into more challenging pursuits. All children like to accomplish and the feelings of pride and confidence that come with it.

You can greatly aid your child in this area by involving him or her in helping around the house. Your child wants to feel big and able to do important things. Start early to teach them to be a “helper.” Teach them to fold clothes, work in the yard, load the dishwasher and do various other tasks. Second, choose tasks they are capable of doing and congratulate them when they accomplish their work.

As you involve your child in helpful activities around the house you are doing several important things in addition to helping your child’s sense of himself. You are preparing him to learn to work. You are also demonstrating that families can and need to share in the work of the family. And, you are also preparing your child for the time he will become independent of you.

Defeat is difficult for all of us to accept. However,an occasional defeat can be a good thing if handled correctly. But, I’m not concerned here with the occasional loss of a game or getting a grade in school that is less than desirable. What should concern us as parents is a pattern of defeat which discourages our child to the point they feel hopeless. Your child can play on a team that loses every game but not have a defeated attitude about life. Why? Because other aspects of his life where he feels successful and secure can counterbalance occasional losses.

But, how do we create a balance which helps our child gain confidence without becoming prideful? Emphasize the the need to be grateful and recognize God as the source of our gifts and accomplishments. This will guard against inordinate pride and the sense that our worth is based on what we can do.

The Power of “I’m Sorry”

 Do you ever say “I’m sorry” to your child?

Let’s face it, we aren’t going to be perfect parents. That means we make mistakes; do and say things we shouldn’t say and do to our kids. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be the best parent we can be because our child needs and deserves our best effort. 

One important fact to keep in mind is that parenting is “on-the-job-training.” If you learn from your mistakes you should get better at it with more experience. Interesting, isn’t it? Your child is learning how to grow up while you are learning how to be a good parent.

But what do we do when we “lose it” with our child? How do we begin to correct things with our child when we overreact or fail to act when we should do so? There is a one-word answer for this question: APOLOGIZE. That’s right, admit you didn’t handle the situation well and tell your child you are sorry for the way you acted toward him.

But you protest, “What if my child was doing something wrong?” I agree that your child’s wrong behavior needs to be corrected. But, maybe yours does also. Being the parent doesn’t mean you are immune from correction. So, when you mishandle a situation with your child, correct yourself and apologize for your bad behavior. Take your own medicine and attempt to not repeat the behavior for which you had to apologize.

Does apologizing diminish your authority with your child? Not at all. Apologizing establishes a sense of fairness in which your child comes to understand you want the best for him. Learning to say “I’m sorry” also means you will hold your self accountable for your actions. This helps develop a sense of trust that you will act in his best interest.

Perhaps, most importantly, your ability to “own your stuff” by apologizing will allow your child not to have to internalize your problems. This means he can develop emotional patterns that are healthy and not be controlled by behaviors that are reactions to things you need to resolve.

Where Do Children Come From?

A young boy asked his dad, “Where did I come from?” With beads of perspiration breaking out on his forehead the dad attempted to explain the process to him. Taking a deep breath when finished, the dad looked into the saucer-sized eyes of his child and asked, “Do you understand?” “No,” said the child, “Johnny said he came from Arkansas and I just wanted to know which state I came from. Can you tell me that?”

If you have children you can understand the plight of this father. And, you also understand where children come from. But, do we really understand where our children come from? Where do children come from? At first this question may seem a bit ridiculous. However, a close examination of some attitudes which underlie possible answers to the question will demonstrate its relevance.

Some people simply see children as the result of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman. The sperm and ovum unite, pregnancy begins and about nine months later a child is born. These facts are true but is that all there is to it? For some people that is all there is to it. They see no First Cause or Creator and do not recognize God as having anything to do with their miracle.

While there are those of this persuasion who take full responsibility for their sexual actions and embrace their child there is a deep flaw in this limited way of thinking. First, it rules out the privilege of consciously working with God to direct the life of the child. Second, some who believe that conception has no real spiritual meaning also tragically believe that the child can be aborted. Since they made it, they can dispose of it. This attitude, unfortunately, leads to approximately one million  children’s lives being aborted each year. Since the supreme court ruled on Roe vs.Wade in 1973 approximately 55,000,000 abortions have taken place in our country. 

Where do you think children come from?

How Cute Is Your Kid?

Appearance is a big deal in our superficial society. To be cute or handsome is “good” and to not be”blessed” with good looks is not so good. The word “cute” ranks in the top 20% of words in use today. We have been so indoctrinated by this value system that we tend to see people differently based on their physical attractiveness. Do you believe your kid’s true worth should be measured by how he or she registers on the “attractive” scale?  I certainly hope not.

A parent with this type of narcissistic obsession can cause real problems for their child. If you put too much importance on outward beauty, your child may come to believe his worth is based on how cute he is. This is a dangerous way to value your self. Why? Think about it. Accidents, illness and aging can rob you of what has made you important.

God certainly does not value us based on our looks. He loves all people the same, regardless of external factors. What he does value highly in people is character; traits such as honesty, faithfulness, integrity, concern for others, etc..

How we look physically is basically determined at conception.  We had no choice in the color or texture of our hair, skin tones, basic body structure or gender. While we can alter our appearance through colors, cosmetics and surgeries the fact remains that to base one’s value solely on looks is a shortsighted and dangerous path.

If your child doesn’t learn to accept the way he looks as a result of genetics he will likely see himself as superior or inferior to others based on comparisons. Beauty or handsomeness is a superficial thing and over time a dependence on this quality to get you by in life will not bring good results.

If you are the parent of a particularly beautiful or handsome child I think you face a rather difficult challenge. You hear comments of how handsome your child is and this can become a source of pride for you. Be careful not to become distracted from what is really important in the long term for your child; his character. Your child can’t do much to alter his/her basic appearance but can choose the kind of person they want to be.

Do you want to learn more about how to help your child develop a solid self-esteem? See the chapter titled “Beloved” in my book at https://smashwords.com/books/view/138381. (ctrl & right click+open)

Is Your Child Special ?

 Does your child know he is special ?

When our son, Nathan, was small his mom would often ask him this question,”If all the little boys in the world lined up and I got to pick out anyone I wanted,do you know who I would choose?” I can still hear his giggling, happy “me” in response to her question. This was just one of many ways my wife and I sought to communicate a highly important message to our children. That message was: You are very important to us.

Is there anything you could give your child that is more valuable or potentially life-changing than a sense of being special? There is no substitute or rival to his sense of being really important to you. This is an unparalleled gift, one he cannot buy or earn or should feel compelled to do so. This is a gift from a parent’s heart, a gift of grace. This gift of acceptance is the cornerstone of emotional and spiritual health. Only when this piece of life’s puzzle is in place do the other pieces begin to fall into place also.

When parents fail to give their child a sense of acceptance; of being loved for who they are, the child is left to search for that important, missing piece in other places. As you can imagine, people attempt to try to find meaning to their life in many different ways. The bottom line is that we all need to feel loved, to be accepted for who we are.

This sense of being special we seek to instill in our child is not something we can do by doing any certain thing. Feeling loved is a by-product, a result of paying attention to three aspects of your child’s life. In other words, there are three areas which are very important to your child’s sense of himself. Your child’s view of his physical self, his sense of accomplishment or defeat and the views of significant others toward him combine to help him feel good about himself or not so good. Go to my book, Parenting With a Purposehttp://www.smashwords.com/books/view/138381  for more detail on these areas..

Is Your Child An Accident ?

Do you think of your child as an “accident”? Be careful because our attitude or opinion about where our child came from is very important. Why is this so? One reason is because our attitudes tend to “seep out” sooner or later and our child picks up on this at an emotional level.

Our children sense how we really think and feel about them. As a parent, it’s difficult to hide our true estimate of our child. Our words, tone of voice, the “looks” we give them, the way we touch them and many other things we do send important messages to them.

I have sometimes heard a parent thoughtlessly say their child was an “accident.” Well, maybe you “accidently” became pregnant. However, I would caution you not to let statements like that ever form on your lips.

No child should be exposed to the idea that they were an “accident.” Did you “accidently” have sexual intercourse? Own the issue. Take responsibility and do not leave the impression your child wasn’t wanted. A child can be unplanned but should never be unwanted.

A child does not ask to be born. He has no decision in the process which caused the conception which gives him life. He deserves parents who will take responsibility for their decisions and will lovingly accept and care for him. If you are not at that point, I suggest you grow up. Your child needs a grown-up for a parent.

Does God view a child as an accident? Of course not. The biblical view is that a child is a gift from God. Couples who are tuned in to this idea understand that their ability to conceive is a gift from God.

It is encouraging to see childless couples go through expensive medical procedures or adopt in order to bring a child into their family. Such procedures often take years, with lots of money and heartache involved. Children who come into such families are usually blessed by parents who want them and know where they really come from.

Are your words and actions consistent with the biblical view your child is a gift from God?