Balanced Life Series: Parenting and Kids
Posted by andreasw on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm
It’s the season of graduations and as parents, we feel immensely proud of our children on those occasions, and rightfully so.
But if we’re honest – this is only the celebration of a single milestone, and one step on the path. Much of that achievement is based on what we paid others to do: as teachers, tutors, and coaches.
The work of a parent is much more subjective than what kids are taught in school. Our parenting provides the emotion, meaning and effort with which kids will apply the knowledge they attained.
We provide the foundational example of how to go through life, how to deal with problems, how to pursue opportunities, and how to be thankful, persistent, spiritual, religious and happy. We teach them how to live, laugh and learn.
In a very real sense, we’re our kids’ chief strategists and coaches. I don’t teach writing, but when my son comes to me and tells me that he doesn’t like writing, I become his coach. I (try to) motivate him. I put incentives in place. And if all else fails, I support his untrained will with mine and help him get through the rough spots of learning. Our strategy of coaching him through the writing process has been part of a deliberate process of parenting that we’ve cultivated. So when he eventually graduates – My wife and I will feel like Olympic coaches. We played a part in his success.
When do we take time to celebrate those achievements? And how do we plan for these important interactions in the first place?
To use the school analogy, let’s take some time to plan our “parenting school year”: What is your strategy, what curriculum do you choose, what classes will you teach, what events will you celebrate, what tests will you have, and what tutoring will you offer?
Here are some of our plans and strategies:
-Schedule time with each child individually.
-Have a review with your spouse about each child and discuss if he or she is developing according to your expectations. Where are they at in their young life? What do they need most right now? How can either/both of you help this child get to the next level?
-Tell the child and others that you are pleased with them publicly. God, as the father of Jesus only spoke about Christ publicly twice, and both times he said that he was well pleased with him. (Mt 3:17, Lk 9:35, Mk 9:7)
-Plan time to intentionally listen to them. Ask open-ended questions and then listen. (How do you feel about xyz? What makes you feel that way? What are your concerns in this situation? Can you help me understand your thinking on xyz? Etc.) Don’t fill the awkward silence with your voice. Let it be silent and let him or her talk. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t give advice; just show enthusiasm, compassion, and understanding for their story. Follow them in the conversation rather than controlling it yourself. Allow the child to feel that he or she has been heard.
-Get involved online. Have a Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest account. Be present in any forum they are a part of and insist they “friend” you. You don’t have to say much… but follow these accounts and watch what’s going on. It might be bothersome at first, but having someone (quietly) watch out for you is reassuring and essential, no matter what the child says.
-Pray with your children. Ask them to share their intentions with you. Ask them to say what they’re thankful for, whom they’d like to pray for. Share your own intentions and prayers with them. Include them in your petitions. Consider going first in praying to model it for them. Have them light a candle at the start of the prayer time. Choose a special place in the house and designate / decorate it as your prayer area.
-Consciously try to be a parent rather than a pal. Your children can have lots of pals, but if you’re not taking your role as their parent seriously, no one else will ever be their parent. Lovingly tell them the truth. You will always love them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them the truth about their behavior. Don’t worry about rolling eyes or resistance. That’s all in the job description of a parent; just know it and keep doing the job. You’ll do them the greatest favor possible in the long-term by being a parent rather than a pal. Until children develop their own conscience, you are the substitute and teacher. If you don’t engage on this issue, it’ll be very difficult for them to develop their conscience on their own.
Summer is a wonderful time to consider, brainstorm, discuss, and develop our parenting plan for each child. Let’s take advantage of these happy days of relaxation, vacation and family fun to think about how we can better parent each of our children in the year ahead.