[Continued from Part 1.]
👦🏻 You are not your child's friend. Since you are responsible to make choices for his welfare, you have to be the bad guy sometimes. My heart has longed for my children to "love me" but I have had to make decisions that were in their best interest which sometimes made them upset with me. My job is not to win their love but to do what is best for them. Place your happiness in God's hands, not your children's.
👦🏻 The goal of rearing children is their independence...from you. Independence FROM YOU. This is one that gets forgotten because we enjoy that close relationship we have with our children and it is hard to give it up. I guess the really scary part is to put the choice for a close relationship in their hands and fearing that they do not want to be as involved with you as you want to be with them. I see parents becoming dependent on the children's affection and company and not wanting them to leave. I also see parents not teaching independence, making the child unable to function without them. A baby is fully dependent on his parent for everything: food, warmth, even holding up his head. From birth on, we are teachers, training that child to do things on his own. We have approximately eighteen years to get them to full independence. We clap and rejoice when they learn to walk on their own, but are we as happy when they are eighteen and the training is done and they do not need our help? I use the phrase "Be your own mother" with my students. You should not need a mother (in the sense of needing a manager and caretaker) as much today as you did yesterday. You should be able to tell yourself what to do.
Getting that gradual timing right takes a lot of wisdom. Even with the little taste I've had of my oldest child going to college and interning far away in the summers, I can tell you that it is satisfying to the parent and the child for the child to have the wherewithal to be on his own. Going away to Christian college has proven to be a good transitional environment between living at home and living independently, for my husband, for me and for our son.
Sending our children into the world without having trained them with our point of view on how to handle things may leave them vulnerable. We decided to allow our children to get a Facebook account on their fifteenth birthdays so that we had a few years to train them in how to use it. We had many limitations on it at first but gradually weaned them off of those to see if they made right decisions. When they did not, we backed up a step. This is training. I would hate to think of the trouble a young adult could get in on the internet by facing those issues on his own. At least we were there to guide him through it and he knew our reasoning behind what we taught him.
👦🏻 Be real. My children watch me mess up regularly. It's embarrassing but would be more embarrassing and damaging if I did not own up to it. There's no need to pretend I'm someone else to my children. They see me every day, good days and bad days, or I should say when I do right and when I do wrong. Your children will learn to face reality and take responsibility for themselves if they see you do it. I also want them exposed at the appropriate ages to problems they will eventually face. Seeing their parents deal with problems will give them the tools to deal with those problems when it is their turn. My prayer has always been for God to use my successes AND my failures to benefit my children. I just have to trust that He will turn my mistakes into lessons for them.
👦🏻 Keep talking. Talk about everything and anything. Your listening to her talk about her doll when she is four will pave the way for her to talk about boys when she is fourteen. Our goal has always been that our children feel free to talk to us about anything. To make that happen, you cannot blow up when they drop bombs on you. Expect them. They will know about and wonder about things way before you wanted them to. No question was off limits--always in private but anything was fair game. When those bombs come, you should whisper "Thank You, God, that they are coming to ME with this." If there's a problem, they are seeking your wisdom. If they are curious, give them just as much age-appropriate information as they need to satisfy that curiosity.
I've heard it said that your parents are your lifelong friends--womb to tomb, birth to earth. Well, parents are friends to children in that they do good things for them but hopefully you really can be mutual friends as adults. You spend all of their childhood setting a foundation for this potential future friendship. Keep the airways open and give the advice when asked. Then let the child make his decision about what to do and let him enjoy the reward or pay the consequences himself. This is a good formula for being the parent of an adult.
👦🏻 Respect your children. I have always acknowledged the fact that my baby was just an adult in his early phase. I look at adults as former children. I see a boy as a future grandfather. We are all our own people. We just intersect each other's lives at different ages and life deserves respect.
I have always said "Would you please" when I have TOLD my child what to do. "Thank you", "I'm sorry", "Please", even "Yes, Sir" and "Yes, Ma'am" were phrases I used consistently in speaking to my children. Your children will not respect you if you do not respect them, and there is a difference in respecting your position and respecting YOU. I wonder if the same people who openly mock political leaders are the same ones who are shaking their heads about "these disrespectful kids these days". You teach respect by showing respect.
I am horrified to see children humiliated in public by "adults". You know, the ones who read a student the riot act in front of the class, the one that posts a picture of his child wearing a sign about what he did wrong, or the very loud mom in the store showing us all how to keep children in their places. That gets you nowhere with a child except to prove to him that you are not respectable. Humiliation is not a tactic we used with our children, which made it obvious to them whenever some other adult tried it on them. If they committed an offense, we handled it privately. (Remember, keep private things private.). And, yes, even if they committed the offense publicly, we handled it privately. Any apologies were made face to face that were necessary, but embarrassment does not pave the way for a child (or anyone else) to soften his heart. Committing a public offense is childish. Handling it with wisdom is adultish.
Also, respect the child's dignity. Bathtub and potty training pictures are vault-type pictures. When you are in the baby days and your life is about bodily functions and issues, you are accustomed to discussing that daily. Some of the rest of us are not. Those details are your child's most confidential information. Be trustworthy with it. Guard his dignity, even as a baby.
👦🏻 All children are different. Even children who have the same two parents learn at different rates and in different ways. They have different interests. Do not compare one child to another. My children are all gifted in obviously different areas and have their own niches, but even so, I could get an instant tearful reaction if I ever mentioned how one child got it right and this child got it wrong. You just don't go there. It really isn't fair. They are different people. Do not hold one up to the yardstick of another, but speak in terms of doing right or wrong. And do not forget that they all will not end up living identical lives when they are adults. They are not who they are because of who you are. They are individuals with a common starting point.
Being a parent can feel like a terrifying responsibility but God never asks us to do something that He does not equip us to do. Make "Lord, I need Your wisdom" your daily prayer. There will be times that you have no idea what to do. Stay close to God and He will guide you through this most important task of your life, and you will be the object of His help in rearing the children He has given to you.