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Friday, June 19, 2015

Parenting Advice - Who to Listen To

Recently I've been thinking through our journey as parents - thus far.  We're still early in the game - our oldest is only 14.  And as I reflect on these 14 years, I realize we have made many mistakes, one of which I want to share with you all so you don't make them too.  The mistake is this:  Modelling our parenting after those whose kids were not yet grown and who we admired for their exterior superiorness in behaviour and respect.

You see, we looked around us and picked out people with model children - those kids who smiled sweetly, were well-mannered, polite and obedient.  Emphasis on obedient.  These others were ahead a few years than we were, so of course their model - to produce such greatly performing kids - must be the way to go.

Please don't do this.

People look at us now and might be in our same shoes 14 years ago - our kids can look so wonderful to those who don't live here with us!  (Of course, they are wonderful, don't get me wrong - but they have soul issues just like the rest of humankind).

I was just thinking about this and thought, 'Well, who should I have looked to for modeling and as a shaping influence on me as a parent?'  Answer, 'Not those who are only a few years ahead.  Maybe those who are 20 or even 30 years ahead.'

My ideas about responding to others' influence has changed.  It used to be that the grandparent generation were just unfamiliar with our goals or the changes in society that demand new methods, models or ideas.  It used to be.  That's because I didn't see that they had walked the road much farther ahead and seen the outcomes of all the parenting styles out there.

It's not true that just because someone is much older that they have acquired more wisdom - we'd like to think it is, but I have met plenty a foolish elderly person who failed to acquire the necessary wisdom for life.  However, that said, it really MAY be true, and is likely true that they HAVE acquired plenty of helpful wisdom for us in our parenting journey.

If you're looking for answers to some of your parenting queries - how to get your children to be more obedient; how to get your babies to sleep better; how to teach them God's Word; how to pass on your faith; how to school them; how to socialize them... etc. etc. - maybe step back and look at the older generation around you.  Instinctively, I went to those who had kids 5-10 years older than mine.  I don't think this was the best thing.  Certainly these parents had wisdom and there was a wealth of learning I could gain from them.  But if I had dug deeper with those 20 years ahead, if I had listened to them and given more weight to their input, I think our parenting would have been better.

I look at the effect of some of our early ideals and I don't like what I see.

For example, the desire to have obedient children is a good one.  But if not done kindly, it can result in a depressed child who has never felt his/her thoughts/feelings/ideas about things matter in the family.  This is a terrible way to raise a child.  Yes, we want our child to obey.  But do we want them to be robotic?  Do we want them to be forced into a mould that says they have no voice?  This borders on abusive - abusing their spirit and not respecting them as God's image-bearer.  Remember, our children bear God's image in their souls/spirits also!  We would all recognize that physical abuse is wrong because we are not respecting the child's dignity.

What about emotional abuse?  This is difficult to identify as parents sometimes because we think they are ours to control.  Well, yes, to some degree, my child simply must obey.  I get that.  But on another level, God holds me responsible as their parent to BE THE ADULT.  This means manipulation and ignoring their heart cries, their complaints even (yikes!), shutting them down because 'I said so' is also wrong.  These things are not helpful in parenting, though they may yield great results in the short term.

People can look at children and think they are so obedient, delightful, respectful and superior.  And they can want to imitate that kind of parenting to produce these results.  But just wait 10 or 20 years til that perfectly obedient child must grow up inside, and learn what he/she thinks about things.  Just wait and see if they are comfortable in their own skin.  Wait and see if they are emotionally stable and healthy.  Then you can copy those parents' methods.  I'm sure it can be done - there are super, great, healthy families who parent very well and have methods that produce both obedience and joy in their kids.  Those are the families to imitate.  But you don't know how that went until the kids are into their 20's.

Start listening to what the older generation around you tell you about parenting.

They just might know a thing or two.

Believe me.


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