Justin Bangert, MS, LMFT
Some Parenting Rules are Not Meant to be Broken
Updated: Mar 30, 2019
As Christians we are called to turn to scripture to learn how God parents us, and in return begin to model our parenting style after His. However, living in this world, there doesn’t seem to be an operator’s manual for some of the unique circumstances that can crop up throughout our career as humanly parents. So here are a few basic ground rules for us parents to abide by…...
1. Don’t lie to your children! It sounds so obvious, yet how often do we mislead our children with bent truths about potential consequences (a.k.a. “you’ll be grounded for a month!” or “you’ll never date until your married”). When we purposefully or unintendedly false advertise to our children of consequences, and we don’t follow through, we end up losing credibility and composure of our parent-child relationship. We begin to think we are more in control than we actually are, and we as parents cross the “frustration is boiling over point” way too often. Instead of false advertising, it is important to be rooted in reality when we discuss issues or consequences with our children. As parents we need to approach stressful issues with a reality check on what the most appropriate short-term and long-term learning opportunity there is, and that it is something in which we are willing and capable of following through on. When our children can see us as “positively predictable” they will have a deeply rooted security in our love and will learn to trust our parenting, knowing that we will likely operate from a position that is honest and loving yet fair. 2. Don’t steal from your children! So often we as parents jump in too quickly when we see our children in a dilemma. We try to prevent discomfort or hurt feelings or perhaps just try to avoid hearing the ear-piercing cries and temper tantrums that naturally come when our children learn the lessons of reality and consequences. Unfortunately, if we jump in too quickly (or never jump in at all) we steal a potential learning opportunity from them and fail to meet them where they are in their thinking or emotions from their point of view (not just ours as the all-knowing and all-powerful adults that we are….see rule number 1!). It is important that we actively seek out opportunities to allow our children to feel the emotional and relationship realities that come from poor choices (I’m not saying you leave your children in harm’s way!), but in a way that we can help guide them through it where they can learn to do the thinking and thus experience the benefits of wisdom from character growth….not just repeated offenses without change in choices. If we commit to allowing them to at least share in the responsibility of learning and growing, we give them the gift of a much healthier future where they will be better prepared to deal with a variety of real world dilemmas that we all face, i.e. work employment, relationship conflicts, legal system, Godly realities, etc.
3. Don’t bully your children by always telling them what to do! I’m certain a few eyebrows raised on that one, but you did read that correctly! When we get into a habit of always giving commands and demands to our children, we essentially become older, taller, bigger versions of bullies in their lives. “Go to your room!” “Put that down!” “It’s time for bed….now!!!!!” These are all examples of telling your children what to do. Clearly as parents we need to guide, teach and lead our children into becoming young adults. However, when we use our authority as a megaphone to shout out orders, we forget to allow our children to do the thinking, thus to do the learning. We also fail to show them that our love for them is truly unconditional, no matter what, not just if they kept their room clean today! A proven strategy that works is instead of telling them what to do and how exactly to do it, give them the parameters in which you will allow, inform them of what they can expect from you if they do or do not oblige, and keep your focus on what you can do about it instead. For instance, “son, those who help clean the table are eligible for television time later tonight, please let me know what you decide” will get a much better outcome then, “son, you better clean that table now or else!” A child will experience the second version much the same as if you are a bigger, older bully that gets to boss them around, whereas the first approach which uses enforceable statements, will honor the child’s individual choices yet allows them to appropriately reap the benefits or consequences of their choice. To read more about enforceable statements and helping guide your child through dilemmas, I strongly recommend the various parenting articles from www.loveandlogic.com. 4. Be willing to follow your own rules! It goes without saying that our children pay attention to not just what we say, but what we do. The mirroring effect lasts much longer than the kindergarten age where they pretend play, rather it extends into pre and post adolescence as well. Admit it, it is very difficult to expect your child to “STOP YELLING!!” when your voice is equally elevated! As we begin to implement key parenting parameters, based on Godly principles, it is essential that we commit to following our own rules. As scripture says, “we love because we are loved” (John 15:12) so too are we to parent as we are being parented. Even if we didn’t have the most effective humanly parents as we would have preferred, we are all invited to “be trained in righteousness” (2 Timothy3:16) and learn from our true Father in heaven. Not only do we have a more upright and loving stance when we follow God’s parenting plan, we also have a front-row seat to plant an experience of Godly love straight to our children’s hearts.