I can still remember sitting in my therapist’s office two years ago and her telling me that I was an adult and therefore could make my own decisions. I was stunned. I knew I was twenty-one and legally an adult, but in my family, I was still a child. This started me on a path of self-discovery that led me to finding my place at Liberty and the path toward becoming a Counselor myself. Through my journey and researching this paper I have gained some valuable tools that I am glad to be able to share and implement in my own life as I am gaining my independence.
While I love my family dearly and am grateful to them for so many things, there are definite practices I will not apply to my children that were applied to me and some new practices I will implement. In God’s timing and with his help I am growing and learning and with these tools, hopefully the process will be a bit easier for my children. Good Biblical Practices The first place to look when searching for good parenting practices is the bible. It is our instruction book for life and I am a firm believer that good children are not the work of parents alone, but the work of God working in and through the situation.
Over and over in the Bible God expresses the importance of children, so it makes sense to use his book as a guideline to raise his creations. Proverbs 22:6 says to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. ” Parents are called to be active in their child’s life. They are called to train them so that they will learn the lessons they will need for life. Much in the way of a good coach, parents need to know when to push their child and when to let them rest, when to call for more and when to celebrate how far they have come.
The end result of parenting isn’t good children, it is godly adults. This should be one’s aim, to equip a child to become the adult they were created to be. By training them in God’s law, a parent is giving their child the best chance they can to be successful in their purpose. This takes dedication and discernment on the part of the parent, and a willingness to follow God’s direction for their child. Another important verse to consider is Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” There is a difference between demeaning one’s child and disciplining them.
In the grocery store last week I heard a parent tell a child they couldn’t have the snack they wanted because they were too fat. That would be an example of demeaning a child. Taking the opportunity to teach a child about healthy snacking habits and finding a new fruit or veggie to try is a different approach that has a better result. Opportunities to parent come in small moments as well a large ones. I know for me, my mother constantly referred to the way I dressed as being “boyish”. This led to me thinking that my mother thought of me as a boy, and gave me some stress growing up.
There are multiple ways to say everything. The best tactic is usually to come to someone instead of coming at them. If parents are able to come to their children and address behavior and concerns, there is a potential for a lesson to be learned. If parents come at their children there is a potential for fear and mistrust. Sometimes taking a moment can be very beneficial to the disciplinary process. Proverbs 29:15 is another verse to heed. It says “A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces his mother. ” There is a growing trend in the world today to be best friends with one’s child.
There are TV shows like Gilmore Girls or Two and a Half Men where parents are seen more as peers of their children, instead of an actual authority in their lives. From my years working with pre-k children I know that they thrive in a rule based environment. Those children who were not well behaved at home tended to not have a consistent rule set to follow. At school, parents would be amazed that their child was obeying rules happily without it being a fight every time. This was because we were consistent with the rules and consequences for breaking said ruled were always the same.
Children are not capable of being responsible for making all their own decisions. It is age appropriate to give them restrictions and rules until they are able to take on the responsibility for their own decisions. Biblically parents are called to be involved. They are called to encourage, train, teach and impart the wisdom of the Bible to their children. Parents are called to lead their children to Christ and his teachings, entrusting them to his care and his timing. This is not an easy task, but it is a worthwhile one. Good Psychological Practices Dr.
Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have written a book entitled Boundaries with Children. In it they describe how the purpose of this book is to give children appropriate boundaries and responsibilities at the right time. The book begins with Dr. Cloud at a friend’s house. He sees the friend’s wife cleaning her fourteen-year-old son’s room. Dr. Cloud makes the comment “I feel sorry for Cameron’s future wife. ” (Cloud & Townsend 1998) The mother was stunned, never thinking that she was crippling her child or making life harder for her son’s future mate by coddling him now.
Boundaries are important to parents and children. If one takes over completely and does everything for a child they are crippling them by not letting them learn and experience responsibility. If a child never learns responsibility, they are a burden in their parents in later years. For instance, my parents never let me feel the consequences of my actions, therefore when I got to college, failing a class didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. This meant I missed out on scholarship opportunities, was behind in school and was a bigger financial burden to my parents.
It is a dangerous cycle, a child is not allowed to experience consequences, so parents feel the weight of them for longer than is appropriate. It is selfish for parents and children to cripple each other this way. The questions they suggest parents ask themselves is “Is what you are doing being done on purpose? Or are you doing it from reasons that you do not think about, such as your personality, childhood, need of the moment or fears? ” (Cloud & Townsend 1998) Parenting is an action, not a reaction. When a parent reacts from a place of fear or personal history they can lose sight of the individual that is their child.
From my personal experience, the only time my dad ever spanked me without giving me a timeout first was when I ran into the road after a toy after he had told me to stay right beside him as he talked to a friend in our yard. He later apologized for the abruptness of my punishment, and we had a discussion on safety and obedience. The lesson taught me more than the punishment because it was purposeful and thought out, not a reaction. Some of parenting is instinctual, but much is deliberate and thought out. Some of the most important lessons take time, and taking that time shows a child you love them.
Another tool that can be very impactful is learning your child’s love language. In Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, different ways to love people are highlighted. The five ways are “Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Receiving Gifts” (Chapman 1992). Learning how a child can best feel love can be very important to the parenting process. For example, I feel love through Quality Time and my sister feels it through Physical Touch. If my dad gave me a hug, but didn’t spend time with me, I felt overlooked, if he spent time with my sister but never hugged her she felt underappreciated.
This meant that even if he had the best of intentions, if he wasn’t reaching out to us in the right way, we didn’t feel the most loved and secure we could have felt. Finally, one summer we did the 5 Love Languages study and found out how to best love and communicate to each other. If parents can take the time to honestly hear how their children most feel loved and appreciated, they can more adequately communicate their message to their children in the most useful and easily understood manner. Each child is different, therefore needs to be related to in different ways.
Just because one child feels appreciated a certain way doesn’t mean that method will work for all one’s children. Taking the time to know how to best communicate can be extremely beneficial to the communicative process. A father’s role in a child’s life is undisputedly important, but a mother’s role can be extremely beneficial or detrimental as well. Cloud and Townsend have written a book entitled The Mom Factor. This book was extremely beneficial to my growth process and could be to any child. According to them “Mothering is the most significant, demanding, and underpaid profession around. (Cloud & Townsend 1996) A mother’s bond with a child is established while the child is still in the womb. My sister recently stared at her seven month old and remarked that it was baffling that he had been inside her for longer than he had been out. The bond with a mother can provide nurturing if done the correct way, but can also be very detrimental if not handled appropriately. The “Phantom Mom” doesn’t connect emotionally, the “China Doll Mom” cannot handle the extremes of her child’s emotions, the Controlling Mom” does just that – controls, the “Trophy Mom” thinks of her child as a trophy for her achievements, the “Still-In-Charge Mom” doesn’t allow her authority to be questioned at any time, and the “American Express Mom” tries to use past gifts and freedoms given to buy their child’s continued obedience. (Cloud & Townsend 1996) All of these ways of mothering can be seen as loving the child to the mothers who practice them. Some mothers are a combination of bad mothering habits, while others find ways to communicate with their children in better, healthier ways.
There is no such thing as a perfect mother, but being willing to change or alter habits that can be destructive can be extremely useful. Being the best parent one can be for the betterment of the child is more beneficial than being “right” or following strategies that aren’t working for the child. A child learns and grows in leaps and bounds every year, so it makes sense that a parent needs to grow and evolve as well. Approaching parenting with an attitude of humility and being willing to learn can make the parenting process much more beneficial for all parties involved.
The book The Family by Jack and Judith Balswick is a more whole perspective on how to raise children. The main thought of the book is that relationships grow. They need to change to meet the changing needs of those involved. As they say “if a relationship does not spiral to deeper levels of commitment, grace, empowering, and intimacy, it will stagnate. ” (Balswick & Balswick, 2007) If a relationship stagnates, then it is unable to move forward to meet the needs of those involved. Then it becomes reliant on “contract rather than covenant, law rather than grace, possessive power rather than powering, and distance rather than intimacy. (Balswick &Balswick, 2007) These aspects do not lead to a healthy relationship for any involved. Contract is a clinical term, law is authoritarian, possessive obsessive and distance leads to loss. These terms are what can dictate a relationship if it is unwilling to grow or evolve with time. Children develop at a rapid rate. They go from completely dependent beings to people who can read, write, think, walk, run, dance, skip and will continue to grow for the rest of their lives. Parents need to be able to grow alongside their children and find new ways to relate to them in different ages and stages.
All these factors so far lead to loving a child appropriately. This is leads to another tool in the book Loving Your Child Too Much by Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy. There is a great chart in the book detailing when loving a child is healthy, overprotecting, overcontrolling or overindulging. All of these practices can be detrimental to a child. For example, parents who love in a healthy manner “see their children as gifts”, those who overprotect “see children as fragile”, and those who overcontrol “see children as little versions of themselves”, and those who overindulge “see children as possessions. (Clinton & Sibcy 2006). A child is not s china doll, a mini-me, or a purse, they are a gift that God created and put in the care of parents. Loving a child appropriately is a selfless act, not one motivated by one’s own successes or failures. A child is not a do-over for a parent’s life, but an individual with a God given purpose. A parent’s job is to help guide that child to their purpose and toward the God who created them. How one sees their child has a great impact on how one relates to and parents them.
Seeing your child as God intends is vital to proper parenting. Letting Go So far, the focus has been how to parent a child, but when is it time to let go? When is it time to let children feel consequences, make decisions or gain some independence? The book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend suggests that letting go should happen in stages, with the first stages or independence starting at age eleven. Children at this age are able to make some intelligent decisions for themselves and take responsibility for their actions. Cloud & Townsend 1992) There is a time when children need to learn responsibility and take some control of their lives in order to become full-fledged competent adults. There is a time however when it is not appropriate to give your child that responsibility.
The book 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan calls this The Little Adult Assumption. As an example the book uses explaining why teasing can hurt feelings to your child logically and expecting them to respond with “’Gee I never thought of it like that before’ then he stops bothering his sibling for the rest of his life”. Phelan 2010) This is not an accurate response to discipline. One cannot expect a child to respond as an adult would anymore than one should expect an adult to respond as a child would. When adults still respond in a childlike manner it can point to the fact that they were never given the opportunity or responsibility to grow up. When children respond as an adult would, it points to having to grow up too quickly. The best advice I have found in this area is to prayerfully discern when to begin letting your child go and be willing to research the topic.
Many factors can influence when one should begin letting a child go, but starting slowly and letting a child have responsibility for small things along the way can help them grasp the larger concepts later in life. For example, my aunt and uncle used to have my cousins save up money for anything they wanted to buy. If they wanted new shoes, a new video game or anything that was not strictly a need, they were given small amounts of money at a time either through allowance or doing extra chores around the house. Then they could save the money and get what they wanted or use it to buy small whims along the way.
Now, my cousins are nineteen and seventeen and they have a better grasp on budget than many of the adults I encounter. Because they were taught the lesson as children, they are becoming competent with money as adults. They weren’t asked to balance the books at age four, but they also weren’t unaware of the cost of their lives and conveniences in their teens. Starting small at age appropriate times breeds responsible habits in adults that can benefit them greatly in the years to come. Conclusions There are many ways a parent can help a child along in their growth process.
By being willing to know how a child needs to be loved, able to grow with their child, prayerfully discerning in the process and willing to appropriately let go when it is beneficial to their development a parent can help a child achieve their God given purpose. Parents should to be humble enough to learn with their child, flexible enough to grow as they do and selfless enough to love them as God intended. There is not such thing as a perfect parent and everyone makes mistakes, but these tools can help a parent love in the most appropriate manner and let go when the time comes.
Clinton, T. , & Sibcy, G. 2006). Loving your child too much: Staying close to your kids without overprotecting, overindulging, or overcontrolling. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers. Cloud, H. & Townsend, J. (2001). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Chapman, Gary (1992). The 5 Love Languages. Chicago: Northfield Publishing Cloud, H & Townsend J. (1996) The Mom Factor. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Balswick, Jack & Balswick, Judith (1989) The Family. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Cloud, H & Townsend J. (1992) Boundaries. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Phelan, Thomas (2010) 1-2-3 Magic. Glen Ellyn, IL: ParentMagic Inc.