An article I read today has stirred me to write this blog and to pose this question: Do all parents endeavor to raise their children to be perfect little robots... Resulting in an adult that fulfills all their hopes and dreams?
The immediate response I'm sure is of course not. But how does parenting look if we don't want to do this? We can assume how it would look if was to be this way. Strict discipline & routine, isolation from society, lack of free will & choice, a display of harsh disappointment when a child doesn't meet the unreachable standards set by his or her parents. In fact some of us may have experienced this kind of parenting as a child.
So then, how do we raise our children? There seems to be so much information out there telling us what not to do. Don't do this or you child will end up doing a,b or c... Don't do that or your child will end up doing x,y or z.
The first thing we need to do is take a deep breath, relax and realise that our children will make mistakes and bad choices... It's inevitable. We're all human and it's how we learn. It's what your child will learn from that mistake that will inevitably determine how life pans out for them. And on top of that it's how you respond to that which will determine the relationship you will have with your child.
Sorry to disappoint, but I don't have all the answers, but I do have a few points that I'll like to share with you.
1. Let your child be a child. Let them make a mess, break apart toys to create new ones, climb that tree in the park just a little bit higher. So what if you end up needing to climb up after them to help them down in front of all the other mothers in the park... you never know, you just might enjoy the view from the top? And your child will think you're pretty fun!
2. I love the saying (although not scientifically correct!)' shoot for the moon and at least if you fail you'll land among the stars'. Set high standards for your children. But realise that your child isn't a bad child if they make mistakes along the way. And you're not a bad parent either. Care less about what others might think of you and your child, and more about taking the time to help your child learn a valuable lesson from their behaviour.
3. Decide what qualities & characteristic you value and want to instill in your children. For me it's for them to reflect Christ Jesus'... his compassion, grace, justice, love, kindness, mercy & forgiveness. How do we instill qualities such as these? Quite simply (yet it can be hard) we need to show them ourselves. In the bible verse 1 Corinthains 11:1 Paul says "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ". We might not feel as brave as Paul as to say that, I know I'm far from the perfection of Christ. But by his grace I will try my best to be an example of him for my children to follow.
I think the world of my children, in fact they are my world. They are amazing children, but they also play tip/tiggy in the supermarket isles, fight over their toys from time to time, stand on the seats at church, choose mismatched clothes to wear and my eldest two have decided they want to grow their hair long at this present time! But that's all ok, and we have timely reminders of what really matters... Just the other day I was an outdoor restaurant with my children. It had a playground and jumping castle set up for all the children and my boys were happily entertained as we waited for our meals and chatted after. As I went to leave a lady came up to me and told me that she's never met such lovely boys, and it wasn't because they sat like little robots at the table with us the whole time and didn't play with the other children... As usual, they did quite the opposite. She told me it was because when any other child would fall and hurt themselves they were the first to see if they were ok and help them to their feet (compassion) and they we're the ones who organised a line for the jumping castle slide to make sure that all the children had a turn and the little ones didn't miss out (justice).
It's moments like that which remind me the purpose of my parenting. Not at all to create perfect little robots (although my youngest would quite happily be R2D2 for a day!!) but to help my children grow and develop into all that God has called them to be, and in all the uniqueness that it contains.