I was folding laundry yesterday, and instead of watching one of my four television shows (shocking! I begrudgingly limit my media intake), I set my thoughts on the main components of parenthood. AH! Having “something to say” about parenting – condensing the whole wide world of ideals on what it means to be a good parent – is, at the end of the day, humbling.
I firmly believe that raising a child is the most important job in the world. Every facet of a flourishing society hinges upon it. Children are “the future” – as they say. And we can’t expect them to just magically turn into adults full of good character.
Many of us have thought a great deal about our parenting-style, our specific set of goals, our carefully considered method of how to do it right. How do we act, talk, discipline, and operate in general as a mom (or a dad)? What do we want our home-life to look like?
We want our children to feel loved and we want peace in our homes. No parent intends otherwise. If we then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts… why are our homes filled with anger, frustration, and pain? Why do our children experience that?
Our parenting style is a result of the way we were parented. We either become our parents, or we strive to oppose them. The road toward becoming more or less like our parents is sometimes out of our control, and more often than not, brings us to a place we did not expect.
Becoming our parents can be a wonderful thing… if we had good parents. But that’s not usually the case, at least to our standards – wanting to do “even better” for our children.
We who become like our parents may experience the hopelessness of damaging family patterns, genetic or otherwise – the consequence of sin visited upon generations third, fourth, fifth – will there be any salvation from it? To those of us who say – “Well, I’m treating you a whole heck of a lot better than my Dad treated me” – though that may be true, it is a bad infection. God help us.
The alternative is like the car in a ditch, spinning tires angrily, only for them to catch and send the car into another, different ditch. So it is with parenting. We go a little overboard sometimes.
My mom was so furious with her mother for forcing her and her three siblings to eat strange vegetables growing up that she never purchased or cooked unusual food for me and my two siblings…ever. Now I get made fun of for my lack of culture.
And, oh! Here’s one we can all relate to. Pretty much every woman I know has experienced some tension with her mother over wedding planning. Either the mother controls each and every thing, or she has her husband write a check and leaves her daughter feeling overwhelmed, abandoned, and unloved on a very special day in her life. This happens because of our reactionary tendencies, and our inability to balance them.
But there is balance to be had. Life is not so many options floating around in the atmosphere of “that may work for you, but not for me”. There are real, helpful, true ethics for family life. Whatever upbringing we come out of, there is a ‘right’ way to treat your kid.
We know this because God treats us in these ways, and God is the perfect parent.
So, let’s begin with five ethics that I think sum up what it means to parent your kid well: love, discipline, intimacy, play, & independence. We’ll start with #1 next week…or whenever I have a break from chasing my little monster around long enough to write for a bit.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone [offspring included]…” Hebrews 12:11-14a