Kids Can Be So Childish, Can't They?
Loving Your Kids with Intentionality
"Don't make me pull this car over!" (Really, Mom, Dad, does that kid in the back seat actually have the power to MAKE you pull your car over?)
"How many times have I told you...?" (So, how would you respond if they actually answered that question? "Well, Mother, Father, according to my latest calculations, 7,432 times, plus or minus 185.")
"Do you think I'm made of money?" Or how about, "Wait until your father gets home" (which the kid knows is code for, "You win. I'm totally exhausted and cannot think of a reasonable consequence this side of murder.").
Parents tend to treat our children with less respect than we want them to treat us, forgetting that what we model through our behaviors has a great deal more impact than our words. Our kids feel respected when we make eye contact and listen to them with intentionality; when we take a genuine interest in what they say and do, and we respond to them with encouragement and thought-provoking wonder. Rather than commanding, if we are kind and polite, asking our kids to please do something, they feel empowered and respected, and they are less likely to resent and rebel. Along with that truth, of course, is the fact that they need to learn and practice obedience. And when they're headed into imminent danger, a harsh command could save a life, just as it would with us.
We are told in scripture to love one another. Our children need to know that they are deeply loved and valued by God and by their parents. Discipline is one form of love, when done calmly, with patience, not anger. Affection is another. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell address ways to love our kids in their book, The Five Love Languages of Children, through physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service.
In Ephesians 6:1-9, Paul teaches that all of us in the Body of Christ are to submit ourselves to one another. What?! Parents submitting to children sounds like allowing them to do whatever they want! It's allowing kids to run the family!! No way! Right. That's not what it means. It means that the intention of all parenting is to come under and raise up children to become Christ-like. Obviously parents are in authority over kids. It's our job to teach them over a span of 18-21 years to become less and less dependent upon us, and more dependent upon the Lord; to become mature, godly adults, grounded in God's Word, and given confident wings to fly as God designed them. Come under them and lift them up.
We are also told to "speak truth to one another..." (Never, ever lie to your kids!) "...in love." (Eph. 4:15) (Speak as if Jesus is standing by your child, observing you, and cheering you on. After all, He is right here, always present.)
We're told in Ephesians 6:4 to steer clear of provoking wrath to bubble up in our children, but instead to "bring up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Christianity isn't a Sunday religion; it's an ongoing, 24-7 relationship and lifestyle. We are all to be in the non-stop process of transformation by focusing on the presence of God and taking our thoughts captive to Him (Rom. 12:2) renewing our minds (altering our beliefs, feelings and attitudes to align with His.) As we do this in our own lives, we model it for our children. And we take every opportunity to talk with them about God and His ways, to point out the wonders of His creation, and to affirm His loving presence in their lives.
Empathy is another key to every good relationship, including the parenting ones. It's easier to avoid provoking your child to wrath if you first consider their feelings and how they might interpret what you're about to say to them.
Another way to respect children and train them to become competent decision-makers is to give them as many choices as possible when circumstances permit, letting them know which consequences (both positive and negative) will accompany their choices. For example, "Would you like to wear your blue jeans or your tan pants?" or "Are you going to choose to obey and have a good time, or to disobey and have a time out?" Choices obviously must be age and circumstance-appropriate. Never offer a choice you're not truly willing to follow through with, such as "Would you like to buckle your seatbelt, or die in a crash?" This would not be a good thing to offer. But "Would you like to eat your desert, or would you like me to eat it for you?" would be great!
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to be students of our children, to learn the intricacies of God's unique design for them, and then to encourage and nurture that design so that they will grow up to function really well in the way God intended all along.
Frame these truths as encouragement and instruction from the Divine Owner's Manual for parents. Remember that God is full of grace and mercy, and His love for you isn't dependent upon your obedience to Him as your father or your performance as a parent. He is the only perfect parent who ever existed, and His first two kids completely blew it! Indeed, we all have!
As the mother of four adult daughters and the grandmother of sixteen, I'm so grateful that God loves me unconditionally. He understands, accepts me as I am, and forgives me when I blow it!
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Clinical Christian Counselor
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