Raising a child is one of the most difficult and challenging things I have ever attempted to do. Yes, there can be much pleasure and joy to be experienced with children. However, it is very hard work.
We don’t all come to this work with the same tools. Some parents grew up in wonderful, healthy homes. Others grew up in homes that just didn’t function very well. Some of us had some wonderful models. Others of us didn’t.
Nor do we all approach this with the identical make-up. Some of us are healthy individuals. We are making a real effort to deal with the reality of our lives in a responsible, godly way. Others of us are a mess. Our inadequacies, our dysfunctional ways of relating to people, and our expectations of life and ourselves really get in the way.
Ideally, all of us will use the best tools we have and depend upon the grace of God, one day at a time.
I’ve been a parent for 22 years. I’ve learned a lot. Some of what I’ve learned has been through failure and some through success. I’ve learned a lot from watching great parents. Men and women have shared with me hundreds of stories regarding their children. I’ve learned from these. There are no perfect parents. That is a myth.
I do think that we should aspire to become wise parents. These are parents who learn to use the wisdom of God in their daily interaction with their children. So—here are ten characteristics of wise parents. (This is Part One.)
Wise Parents Teach Their Children to Accept Responsibility. They don’t spend a lot of time blaiming other people. I know. It is easy to get into the habit. It’s the coach’s fault. It’s the teacher’s fault. It’s the youth minister’s fault. (Note: Any one of these three people in these examples may have not "done it right." They are human and some will fail). The larger issue is am I teaching my child to accept responsibility or am I teaching her to blame others when things go wrong.
Wise Parents Allow Their Children to Experience Pain. You’ve seen this parent. This parent will not allow his child to experience pain that is the natural consequence of the child’s behavior. You break a window, you pay for it. You get a ticket for speeding, you pay for it. You have a fine at the video store, you pay for it. "But I don’t have any money." Then help this child find a way to earn it.
A lot of parents will agree with what was just said. Yet the truth is that so often we parents are tempted to take the easy way out (or at least I am). You know what I mean. You just pay for the broken window yourself. You fuss at your son or daughter a little and then you pay for the ticket.
Wise Parents Look Down the Road. In other words, I think about the picture. What is the future going to be like if things continue the way they are now? As a friend of mine said, "You either pay now or you pay later." Parenting is hard work. If you take short cuts when children are young, you will ultimately pay for it. For instance, if your child fusses and whines as a small child, you may be able to stop it by heading to McDonald’s or Baskin Robbins. Finally, when she gets ice cream, she stops fussing (for a while) and we go on. Yes, it provides you with some instant quiet.
Think about what this child is learning. "If I want something or if I am disagreeable, mom and dad will buy me something to make me feel better." I’ve known parents who dealt with their 16-year-old in much the same way. Wise parents do the right thing instead of the easy thing.
Wise Parents Love Their Children For Who They Are. You may have a child who needs special attention. You may have a child who has special needs. Your child may have physical or emotional issues which need to be addressed. Perhaps your child has a learning disorder. Perhaps he has great difficulty reading, doing math, or just keeping up.
Sometimes parents will get caught up in what their friends say regarding their children. A child with issues such as some of those I just mentioned may go to school with a number of high achievers. One parent is talking about their gifted and talented son. The other parent is talking about their daughter who was chosen for this or that. Don’t get caught up in feeling inferior or different. Your child needs to be loved just as who she is–without unnecessary compassion.
(more to come)