One of the biggest tips for parents I can give has to do with attitude and approach…
and just because I’m writing about it doesn’t mean I’ve got this one all buttoned down. Nope… just the opposite. I’m working on this area daily.
I find myself vacillating back and forth between two types of parenting styles, two different approaches which flow directly out of the attitude I have at any given moment. so, depending on circumstances, my mood, my fatigue level, and many other things, my kids may get one or the other… and honestly, it’s not very easy on them for me to be that kind of a multiple-personality Dad.
Most of us parents want the same things for/from our kids: We want them to learn how to work with excellence, obey with a right heart attitude, be productive, have a good attitude, respect us and others, achieve things for the sake of the kingdom of God, etc. In short, we want to see the fruit of the Spirit being produced in their lives.
But this is where the two personalities or approaches come into play… I can try to accomplish that in one of two ways:aI can demand that my child do the very best job in those areas by:
- Sternly pointing out their failure when they don’t achieve it on the first attempt.
- Making much of the fact that I put a roof over their head and food on the table for them.
- Reminding them that I am the source of their allowance and priviledges.
- Talking loudly about the many hours of work I put in to provide all those things.
- Highlighting that I am their Dad… PERIOD.
- Seek to understand them first, through intentional conversations.
- Learn to nurture the gifts and personality that I discover.
- Become their main source of encouragement.
- Point out how God has wired them and highlight their unique purpose in God’s plan.
- Help them identify God’s vision and expectations and support them as they strive to to get over it.
- Walk beside them as they seek to understand their own sin and areas of weakness and teach them how to conquer it through Christ instead of feeling condemned by it.
- Work to identify their unique struggles and insecurities, and lead them into the scriptures to find the truth that will set them free.
- Teach them, spur them on, and introduce them to people and opportunities that will do the same.
The first approach is the way businesses and many families have been run for years. It’s the way many of you were raised. It’s the old school “because I said so” mindset that insists on obedience and compliance because it can. Understand, children are to respect and obey their parents… but that cold fact is not what fuels genuine obedience. Genuine obedience and respect flow out of relationship, not rules. Rules alone breed rebellion. Relationship with rules breeds respect.
Sometimes kids raised in this pattern do O.K. – especially when their personality is one that sees things in a “black and white” way. But for those who are more sensitive, emotional, or expressive, it doesn’t typically turn out well.
The second approach is what the Bible calls “non-provoking.” (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21) It’s a way of parenting that transmits wisdom and instruction through relationship, not authority. We’ve all heard the phrase, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” and it applies here in triplicate. Don’t assume your kids know your love for them… show them, tell them, explain it to them – from the time they are small. Open up your heart to them and encourage them to give you their hearts (Proverbs 23:26). Work alongside your kids as a fellow sinner… but one who’s been down the road ahead of them and can lovingly guide them in a better way.
Which kind of parent are you?
I have to admit that no parent is all one and never the other. As I said at the beginning, we tend to bounce back and forth between them for a number of reasons. But honestly, I’ve found that I tend toward the first. I don’t know what makes me think it’s the way to be toward my kids, because as I write down the characteristics of each, I see the second option is much, MUCH better. But, in my flesh, it’s the way my bent and personality lead me… and I am learning more and more to fight it with the Spirit’s help.
The choice is pretty clear…
None of us wants to be overbearing or discouraging to our children. But the sad truth is that we often are both. We have GOT to learn to give our children the kind of love and grace that Jesus so generously gives us. He is faithful and will help us as we endeavor to make these kinds of changes.