Parenting in Love

Parenting is not as simple as I thought it would be.  It’s not like kids come with instructions. To complicate things, each child is unique and has her/his own set of strengths and weaknesses. How does a parent raise up a child who is confident and humble at the same time? 

This writing does not originate from a perfect parent. Believe me, I learned tons through the messes of my parenting years.

This message springs from a little girl who wondered why no one had rescued her. The brutality of her father loomed as it squeezed every ounce of security from her world.

This article is written by a mother who begged God for wisdom as she raised her children. My deepest desire was to love them as God loved me. His love changed my life. His boundless grace healed the brokenness of abandonment.

We as parents are the first example of authority to our children. A child’s father or mother paints a picture of authority the child will carry throughout his/her lifetime. A parent’s challenge is to use their authority to love unconditionally, discipline for the child’s good, impart value, create security, and plant hope in a child’s heart.  

What happens when your child disobeys? Is your focus to meet your child’s needs? Are you embarrassed at his/her behavior, thinking more about your reputation than your role in your child’s life? Do you reign in your emotions to exhibit true humility (power under control)? A parent who is self-controlled will gain the respect of her/his child.

We as parents hold the power to diminish, devalue, humiliate, crush, destabilize and throw a child’s entire world into chaos. Yes, we have the power to control our kid’s outward actions. But if that is our main goal, we’ve already lost the battle. Parents, we have a choice; We may exploit our child or responsibly use our position to shepherd his/her heart.

Imagine this scenario. You are at a gathering with your friends. Your friend, Becky, is ready to leave. She turns to her six-year-old son and says, “It’s time to go Billy, pick up your toys.” Billy stretches to his 4 foot little self and yells, “No! I am not going!” He stomps his foot, “I’m playing!” “Billy, you get off your butt and put those toys away NOW!” Billy yells back, “You’re just stupid!” Becky grabs her little boy’s small arm and growls, “You listen to me young man, you pick up those toys or I will spank you, right here, right now!”

Tell me, do you think Becky is justified? When your child is defiant, how do you respond? Do you have a meltdown and act like an unbridled juvenile? Do you grab your child’s tiny arm, tower over him, and scream in his little face?

Consider these questions. Do you see how this mother reflects the same behavior as her child? What effect will bullying and humiliation have on her child? Do you think her child will respect her? Do you suppose this rant will bring good results? 

What behaviors will authoritarian parenting create in a kid?  I can think of a few; lack of respect for authority, resentment, distrust, anger, discouragement, depression, cruelty, revenge, even hatred. How does a child emotionally process downgrading treatment?

Let’s take this same scenario and play it out as a responsible, loving parent. Your six-year-old defies you in public. As his caretaker, your role is to parent him/her. As the adult, you keep your emotions in check and send up a prayer for self-control. You understand that allowing your child to defy you leads to nothing good. As the guardian over your child’s life, you lead your charge away from the eyes of the crowd. 

You have this conversation, “Son, when I told you to pick up your toys, you defied me and called me stupid.” Pause – “This is unacceptable. Defiance always gets a consequence.” Pause –  “As your mom, I cannot allow you to disrespect me.” During pauses you pray your emotions do not impede a teachable moment. “Son, look at Mommy.” As your child dares to look into your eyes he reads concern, disappointment, but mostly love. “What were you thinking when you challenged me?” The child may say, “I was mad,” or “I didn’t want to leave.” You respond, “Did defying me get you what you wanted?” Allow your child to process. “Did refusing to do what I asked help you in any way?” Pause again. “Son, this behavior will have stiff consequences.” You determine what is stiff to that child.” Open your arms as an invitation to hug. He/she will either hug or not. It doesn’t matter, the child knows you love him.

As a wise parent, you take a disturbing moment and use it to help the child think about his behavior and the consequences that follow. You contribute to shaping his character.

If you have a tendency to abuse authority as a parent, please go to God. Ask Him to help you see your child through His eyes. See your child as God’s creation ready to soak up your love, direction, and discipline bathed in love. If you cannot control your actions, if you rage before you think, seek help before it is too late to reverse the damaging results of unbridled anger.