I believe anyone who has ever been a parent would agree that it would have been nice to have been sent home with an “instruction manual” when they left the hospital with their newborns. I know I would have LOVED to have had some guidance. But unfortunately, no such document exist. It is a learn-as-you-go experience. One can only hope that we learn from our mistakes; seek guidance and wisdom from those that have gone before us; and be selfless when if comes to our children.
One thing that becomes more and more evident to me with each passing day is that our children are a direct reflection of us as parents. Of course there are exceptions to that rule but all things being equal, our children become the best and worse of us as parents.
This became evident for me over the past fifteen years in which I have worked closely with teens through ministry, in specific working one on one with them as a mentor and counselor. It was through their eyes; their explanations and experiences, that I came to realize we as parents typically fit into four categories in terms of “how” we parent our children. It was VERY eye opening for me and actually had me looking at myself as a dad as to how I viewed my children, my responsibility to them and my attitude towards parenting. I have summed these categories in the following four areas from most damaging to most impactful to our children which may leave you asking yourself, “Am I crossing my T’s as a parent?” I must note that most of these views have been shared with me from the teens themselves.
TORTURE: Quite a strong word to start out with and I am sure many of you are saying I have NEVER tortured my child. Well the definition of torture from the Webster dictionary is “anguish of body or mind”. I have seen it first hand working with these teens, as well as being involved in 12 step meetings and seeing adults struggling with addictions, that the word torture is definitely appropriate in many cases. Whether it be by direct physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse or just plain ignoring of the child, these actions cause extreme pain, distress and anxiety to the child to the point where they spend their entire adult life trying to recover and heal from the experience. Typically, if traced back, those parents caught in this horrible approach to handling their children were, in fact, victims themselves to some sort of torture as a child. The vicious cycle seems to spread from generation to generation until someone says, ENOUGH! This damage stops with me! It’s sad because some children never recover; some never make it to adulthood because they take their own lives. We have a responsibility to the child if we see this type of behavior to address the parent immediately; we may be their only hope!
TOLERANCE: “Food, Shelter and Clothing; that is my responsibility to my child”. I have actually heard parents make this claim and for them that is where the responsibility stops. For all other matters of life for the child; being affirmed, hugged, helped with homework, taken to ball practice, prayer time, being loved; it all falls back on them to acquire on their own many never knowing of or experiencing them. They grow up feeling rejected, abandoned and totally closed of to intimacy and relationship with others. Why? That know nothing of it! They never had the opportunity to be the recipient of these experiences crucial in the healthy development of a child. Their parents merely tolerated their existence and as a result their contributions to the world become much of the same; a tolerance! A tolerance of immorality, of seclusion, of separation, divorce, abortion and many of the other moral and social decays we see infecting the American family and all families around the world. There was some real importance to the commercial that use to run on television (unfortunately I don’t see it anymore) and it sang this in a song; “Have you hugged your child today, have your sent them on their way, with love, love, love, love!
TICKLING: What a fun word; tickle! Some kids love it more than others but typically it makes for a moment of laughs and happiness. The point I wish to make with this term is that I have seen many parents approach parenting as being merely a friend; they want to be FRIENDS with their children. I know I fell into this for some time. I was more concerned about my children “liking” me as opposed to respecting me that many times I didn’t make the tough love decisions many children need during their development. I did many things as a parent to assure “acceptance” by my oldest child not realizing that this was a behavior stemming from my own inadequacies of rejection and acceptance. What my child needed was a dad; a parent; not a friend. I am not saying we can not have a friendly relationship with our children but when that time comes for discipline followed by re-enforcement, the parent must overshadow the friend.
TEACHING: Without a doubt one of the most important actions we as parents take in the lives of our children is to teach. We should spend our every waking hour teaching our kids about the things no one else can teach them. Things such as love and respect for human life; selflessness; dignity and respect for one’s self. Set an example of how a married couple should act towards their spouse. Pray together. Eat meals together. Play games together. Do charity and ministry work together. Do their homework with them. Affirm them! Let your sons know they have what it takes; they are the apple of your eye. Let your daughters know that “you see them”; that they are worth it! Teach your kids in everything you do; and when need be, use words. Our actions on how we live, our morals and beliefs, our attitudes, OURSELVES will be transferred like data on a computer. Make sure what you are downloading is the kind of life examples that will create young adults we can count on in the future. If they fail as adults, then there is a good chance it was because we failed as parents! Never stop teaching; not until the day you take your last breath! Our kids need us!
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Make sure when it comes to your children, that you cross your T’s! Never stop teaching. Our future depends on it!