Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thing 1

I used to be the perfect parent.  

That is, until I actually became one.  Even then, it  took a few years before I realized that all those maxims and methods I had studied so diligently, weren't fool-proof and didn't come with money-back guarantees!   

Because I now know that good parenting cannot be easily condensed into a few simple bullet points or rules, it is with great hesitation that I offer a little "parenting advice" at the request of a young mom at church.  "Three things," she says..."just tell me three things."  So here I go:

Thing 1: Know Your Child
"Your child is unique," is more than an old cliche.  He IS an individual unlike any other individual in the history of the world.  His make-up has been designed by our Creator in keeping with His purposes for this particular child, in particular circumstances, with particular gifts, in this particular historical space and time.  There is no one else like him or with an identical created purpose.

Of course, you can assume basic truths about your child that are common to humanity.  You can also gain insight into him based on gender, family tendencies, personality type, love language, birth order, learning style, etc., but always keep in mind that each of these illuminate a rather small part of your child's soul, and only in a general sense.  All of these aspects unite in a unique way in your child and it is your joy as a parent to slowly uncover this person by listening and observing as objectively as possible.  If you assume too much, you risk spinning your wheels and creating distance rather than the intimacy that comes through true knowledge of your child.  

For example, a disciplinary method that produces remorse and repentance in one child, may produce withdrawal and anger in another.  That difference should not automatically be attributed to submission vs. rebellion.  While that MAY be the case, it could be the approach itself which alienated the second child because of his particular bent.  Or perhaps the first child's need to avoid conflict inclines him to quickly eliminate the conflict by feigning remorse.  Knowing your child can help you discern the difference.

Consider the variety of ways in which Christ Himself addressed the sins of his disciples.  When Peter denied Him, Christ's look was enough to both rebuke and restore him.  When Thomas didn't believe, Jesus accommodated his need for concrete evidence.  When  the disciples wanted seats of prominence, he posed a challenge in the form of a question to expose their motives.  Sometimes he told a story or a parable in order to pierce the heart.  His approach was varied and seemed to be tailored to the individual to whom He was ministering - either their personality or the condition of their heart.

As you formulate expectations, requirements, consequences, dreams, or hopes for your child; as you relate to, communicate with, listen to, or observe your child, make every effort to keep in mind his creation as a one-of-a-kind human in the Image of God, and LEARN how to deal with that child in a way that creates a relationship rather than a particular outcome.  Learn to love this individual and leave the outcome to the Spirit of God...it's up to Him anyway, you know.

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