Does your child know you’re on her side? That every time you ground them, take away their iPad, and ask them to clean their room, you truly do have their best in mind? Or have they begun to see you as the enemy?
When our daughter was young, I felt like I was in constant correction mode and many times our home felt more like a battle ground than the sanctuary I so wanted to create. But even in the gunk and frustration, my daughter knew I was on her team. She knew I did everything with her longterm good in mind. Well, almost everything, but I’ll get to that.
This team-mentality parenting, the kind that says, “I’m for you,” didn’t just happen. It was the result of intentional and consistent communication, a continual evaluation of my parenting choices, an ever-present awareness of my failings, and a commitment to let God use even my biggest blunders for my daughter’s benefit.
With every parenting decision, I made sure to communicate the why.
Some may argue this point, saying it’s important our children learn to obey for obedient’s sake. While this is true, even that has a why. Or should I say, in obeying, your child has a why. Perhaps it’s to please you, or maybe it’s because they fear punishment. Or maybe it’s because they know obeying you honors God. But regardless the reason, if we don’t connect the dots for them, they’ll come up with their own reasons, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust a five, six, ten, twelve-year old’s reasoning skills.
I wanted to make sure my daughter knew, because my goal wasn’t behavior modification, which is often short-lived, but rather, heart change.
Here’s what it looked like:
When we were in a conflict and she lost her temper, I’d set a clear boundary: “That behavior is unacceptable. Please go to your room until we can discuss this calmly.” Then, once she had time to calm down, I’d discuss with her how that behavior might look in a marriage, at work, or with her friends. I helped her see how her behavior, if left unchecked, would ultimately hurt her. Then I always ended our conversation with, “I want more for you. I want you to grow up to be a well-adapted, successful adult.”
And every time–every. Single. Time.–her anger diffused. Because she knew I was for her, and that turned me from her enemy to her greatest ally.
I continually evaluated my parenting decisions.
This of course implies that my parenting choices truly are for her benefit–and not my comfort or preference. When I viewed our home life through that lens, I discovered many battles I felt tempted to fight needed to be let go.
What she wore on Sunday morning was one of them. I loved dressing her up, and for some strange reason, carrying a well-attired child into Sunday school with her hair done nice made me feel like a better mom. Or at least, made me think I looked like a better mom … even if it took an insane amount of tears, cajoling, foot-stomping, and screaming to create that image.
What, or perhaps who, would it hurt if I allowed her to pick out her own clothes? Would wearing a pink and green polka dot skirt with her yellow rubber boots and red Elmo shirt derail her life?
I decided no, and as a result, I had the most originally dressed preschooler in church. Our Sunday mornings were also relatively stress free.
I recognized my failings and weaknesses and apologized for them.
Most of us operate on a heap of baggage that influences our perceptions and behavior. Add in our normal selfishness, impatience, and sinfulness, and we can pretty much guarantee making major mistakes.
I did. I do, A LOT. The issue is not will we fail our children but rather how will we respond once we do?
I determined to respond with humility. I refused to sugar coat my sin, justify my behavior, or make excuses. Instead, I called it what it was, apologized for hurting her, and let her know that I God was actively working on changing that part of me. In so doing, I showed her what it looked like to live in grace.
Let’s talk about this! Does your child know-know-know you’re for her? Does he tend to see you as his enemy or greatest ally? How have you created a team-mentality in your home? What are some things you can do, today, to further that? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!