When we lived in Kentucky, Pam and I led a number of marriage enrichment and family retreats for the state convention and Lifeway.
The title of the parenting series was Parenting by Grace. I don’t remember much of the content. I do remember the title. It takes a lot of grace to be a parent. We constantly misstep and make mistakes that bring difficulty to our children as well as to us.
We make these mistakes partly because we really struggle with the tension between wanting our children to grow up and be ready to live life apart from us and not wanting to let them go. I suspect this may be an evident battle right about now as some reading this blog are preparing to see your first (or second or third) child leave the nest for college… their first big “away” adventure.
And we struggle to see them grow and to see them go. Yet we want them to be independent of us. But we get anxious (and sometimes overprotective) when that moment of separation comes to us. And in that anxiety we make mistakes because we tend to overprotect and baby our children, even when they are 18!
Drs. John and Linda Friel suggest in their list of “the seven worst mistakes parents make” (only 7 you ask??) that the first is to baby your child. On the surface that doesn’t seem such a terrible mistake unless we see the potential problems:
(1) creating an unhealthy attachment to the child on the part of the parents or
(2) failing to have reasonable expectations of the performance of responsibilities around the home or
(3) to allow children to avoid or escape the consequences of their behavior.
We are not being bad or mean parents when we tell our children to grow up. That’s our job as parents as we facilitate the childhood years; helping them to grow. And that means helping them understand that they are no longer babies that can contribute nothing. Our children need to have the expectation of chores given to them. Most household chores can be easily taught to children and their performance of the chore need not be tied to a reward they will get when completed. Part of “growing up” is learning how to find satisfaction in the accomplishment of work. That will be a lesson they will value for a lifetime.
And that’s a lesson a baby can never learn. Help your child accept responsibility for his or her actions. We spend far too much time as parents removing consequences from our child’s actions and not letting them feel the full brunt of the things they have done wrong. If homework is late, let them explain to the teacher why the assignment wasn’t done. If clothes or toys aren’t properly placed where Mom or Dad tells them, make the clothes or toys disappear for a week. Make the consequences something that you don’t have to enforce all the time. It really doesn’t have to hurt you more than it hurts them!
In other words, our job as parents is to help guide our children toward the path of release and maturity. The home is the laboratory where this is learned or NOT learned. The world will be a better place if we learn how to help our children grow up and stop hindering them by “babying” them.
Your world will be too.
FOR MEMORIZATION: The rod (what you do) and reproof (what you say) give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15
FOR REFLECTION: How many times does allowing a child to get his own way indicate your giving in when you shouldn’t? Taking down the strong will of a child is one of the hardest battles a parent will fight, but it is a battle that must be won by you… or both parent and child lose.