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.
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.
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.
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.
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?