I recently came across some alarming statistics. Even if they are only 5% correct, it bothers me beyond words to look at them. So, here are a few of my thoughts on parenting.
Every time I hear (or say) the words “my children,” I always remember that children are separate, unique individuals who have their distinct lives. Perhaps it’s the human instinct or some chemistry equation that is responsible for many parents thinking that they “own” their children and some harsh parents “disowning” their children as an act of extreme punishment. Ownership does not apply to children. Why is this so important? This distinction is important because we sometimes ignore, abuse, disregard, and discard the things we own. If we do not like the new set of knives we just purchased, we can take them back to the store and ask for a refund (ultimately we can donate them or throw them away). If the new car does not perform according to specifications, we have warranty repair and the lemon laws. If we’re not happy with the new house we just bought, we can move somewhere else.
We do not own our children. God has entrusted us with their care and proper upbringing. Imagine you take your child to school and later in the day find out that the teacher was disrespectful, unprofessional, or in a milder case not doing a good job teaching. Every good parent would be upset with some becoming outraged. All parents would demand a solution. It is no different when it comes to someone else (God in this case) entrusting us with his children to care for, to do our best to teach, help and respect. They learn what to do by watching what we do. They learn how to feel by studying our feelings. They learn to listen by the way we listen to them. They learn how to be by the way we are. I am saying these things not only from observation of my little ones, but because of my own upbringing. Looking back, I am reminded that I have become a collection of all my experiences, observations, feelings, and thoughts. They too will be. Therefore, it is our responsibility as parents to help them with their journey through experiences, feelings, thoughts, and observations.
This may sound like common sense; however, I have noticed smart, educated, well-raised parents sometimes make critical mistakes. For example, if we hesitate when faced with a decision, even if we believe children do not know or do not understand, they sense our uncertainty and hesitation and learn to hesitate (the “normal” response in their mind) when faced with similar decisions. When faced with a complex decision, one that should make us hesitate and consider all the factors, we cannot rush to judgment because they too will learn to rush to judgment in these cases. If we are unable to love fully, how will they learn how to love? If we are not thankful for what we have, how will they learn to be thankful for what they have? If we break down or explode under stress, they learn that to be the valid response under stress.
Let me make a couple more points. If the two parents respond differently, children receive mixed messages and have to keep testing and retesting to get to the bottom line. If the parents respond incorrectly to the tests and retests, children learn to take advantage of these situations. They are people also, and at that very smart little people. If parents are unable to resolve conflicts among themselves and with others, how can children learn how to resolve conflicts? More importantly, if we are unable to resolve internal conflicts, they too will have difficulty with their own internal conflicts. Remembering that I am in the role of the “school teacher” who has been entrusted the upbringing, well-being and balanced education of God’s little children has helped me deal with my personal shortcomings when dealing with the abundance of stimuli in my life. We cannot change the challenges that are dealt to us, but we as parents must respond in the way we would want our kids to respond when they’re faced with similar challenges.