“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…”
I am a father of three children. They’re not too old, and they’re not too young. They’re little kids that are full of boundless energy, resilient joy, and broad imaginations. They let us know how they feel when they feel it, and they are constantly learning the so-called art of navigating this terrifyingly wonderful world. These children of ours are precious in every sense of the word. They are unique, yet they are similar. They have remarkable memories and impressionable spirits. They’re quick to forgive, while at the same time sponge-like copy-cats. We often see ourselves in them, and at times the sides of us we wish would not be repeated. These are our children. They’re a beautiful mix of wonderful, challenging, and magnanimous. What a glorious and humbling endeavor–that of the parent.
Yet, a parent is often left to their own intuition, patience, experience, and learning to navigate the choppy and tempestuous seas of parenting. What happens oftentimes is that many parents are left wondering and wandering…
If you’re like me, this can be the case. And so, below are five C’s to aid in the Art of Parenting:
Parenting is daunting and being a parent isn’t something you can just turn off or walk away from–you never stop being no matter what. From the moment of the first cry of that little child there is a sense of excitement, wonder, exhilaration; yet at the same time helplessness, fear, and anxiety. Some people feel these emotions more than others, and some have more support than others to help navigate these new and boundless waters. I’ll never forget the first moment of panic as we were trying to leave the hospital after the birth of our first child. There I was–with zero training–changing the diaper and putting on new clothes when she began to awkwardly stretch her head back and violently (or so I thought) arch her back in the air. There I was–fumbling through little snaps on a onesie–helplessly watching my daughter contort and start to turn blue in the face. I panicked, handed her to my wife–who was as shocked and clueless as me–and ran out the door looking for someone (anyone) to help. To our advantage, as I rounded the corner of our hospital room, there was a nurse gingerly walking down the hallway with a salad in her hand. I hollered out, “We need your help right now…our daughter can’t breathe…she’s turning blue.” That sweet nurse threw down her salad and came-a-run’n! She swiftly scooped up our Ruth into her arms, rolled her over, and began to resolvedly pat her on the center of her back. She then proceeded to masterfully apply the use of the bulb-syringe until all the tiny airways of this little 2-day old were free from any obstructions. And then…she handed over our sweet little daughter to us, and calmly informed us that she was simply choking on her amniotic fluid, which happens to be a common occurrence with newborns. You should have seen our faces–at least mine. We were dumb-struck, fear-laden, and stunned. “How could we leave this place,” we thought. And then, the nurse gingerly walked out and left us there with this tiny human–completely responsible for her wellbeing. We were overwhelmed to say the least.
Maybe your story didn’t have this type of event, but I know it has had some facet of it. As some point as a parent you have found yourself in a place of utter panic or fear or shock as you looked helplessly at your child. Maybe it’s trying to get them to eat their vegetables, wear a certain article of clothing, keep them from disrespecting or disobeying your spouse, and on and on. Every parent finds themselves at some point at a loss and fearful, and that’s exactly why parenting takes COURAGE. Perhaps you’ve heard the definition of courage–it’s not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.
And so, courage is the first component in The Art of Parenting. Lean in, press on, and face each new day as a parent with courage.
How many times have you had an avoidable misunderstanding that led to conflict with someone? Odds are, it was avoidable because it was caused by a lack of clarity in communication. I’ve heard it said that 80% of conflict arises from just that–miscommunication. If that’s remotely accurate, then how much benefit could we add to our relationships simply by ensuring that we are clear in our communication? And that’s exactly why CLARITY is the second aspect in the Art of Parenting.
No child should ever be disciplined or reprimanded–even in part–from a lack of clear expectations. It’s one of the most confusing and frustrating things for a child to receive punishment for something they didn’t know they should or should not do. I’ll never forget the looks on my children’s faces when I have done this. It’s a look of innocent and genuine confusion. It’s a sad face that says, “What did I do?” It breaks my heart to even think I’ve done this, but I have. And most of the time it has been reprimanding when I’ve been in a hurry. At some level, we’ve all been there, and we’ve all experienced this. We don’t like to receive rebuke for something we didn’t know we should or should not do, and neither do our children.
Therefore, being clear as parent on your expectations for your children is worth every effort of imagination and investment you are willing to give. Be clear on what you want and what you don’t want, because those expectations are the guard rails you put up for your children in the journey of life that you must maintain. As a side note, really seek wisdom on what should be your expectations for them, because it will directly impact the next aspect in the Art of Parenting.
Another frustrating and confusing action of a parent to a child is a lack of consistency. One minute you’re happy and you’re full of praise, and then the next minute you’re mad and angrily barking at your children. One minute you’re reprimanding a disobedient action of your child, and then the next moment you’re letting is slide. One moment you care about your expectations for them, and then next moment you’re just trying to pacify the moment. We get it. We’ve all been there.
However, consistently inconsistent people will always struggle in life, and for sure in parenting. You’ll quickly lose the respect of your children, which will lead to more disobedience and disdain (both for you to them and them to you). There really is no other way to put it. Now, it’s important to point out that we all fail (which we deal with in our last aspect below), but that doesn’t mean that inconsistency has to be a pattern. No, no, we need to strive for consistency in carrying out the reprimand for the disobedience of our clearly communicated expectations. I’ll put it like this, if we keep letting our children jump the guard rails (clear expectations), then we’ve never put guard rails up in the first place (we’re simply not clear).
Thus, we must be consistent at all costs. It doesn’t matter if you have to leave a fun activity, leave an enjoyable dinner, or show up late to a friend’s birthday party. This is a practical foundation you want to be building upon. Be consistent with your expectations, which will force you to really be convicted about your expectations. Otherwise, with too many expectations, you will drive yourself and your kids crazy. Choose your expectations well, and then be consistent.
When your children jump over the guard rails (your clear expectations), and you’re consistent to bring them back over through discipline or reprimand, you must strive to do so with a calm spirit and controlled disposition. It’s one thing to bend a child’s will, and another to crush their spirit. As a parent, we’re to bend our children’s wills (their own predilections to choose what’s best for them), because it is part of preparing them to be an adult and a parent themselves. But, we should never strive to crush their spirits. We all know how we can crush their spirits, but suffice it to say that reprimanding or disciplining in anger, frustration, or exasperation is a sure fire way to do so–and will usually end in regret and shame.
Your being calm as you carry out rebuke for a child breaking a clear expectation will endear your children to you. This is a paradox, but it is true. They will love and respect you more when they see you calmly and lovingly parenting them and preparing them for life as an adult and parent.
Therefore, strive to be calm and controlled as you are consistent to carry out your clear expectations.
If we stopped at being calm, then we might all feel some shade of discouragement. Why? Because every parent has struggled in some form or fashion to have courage, to be clear, to be consistent, and to remain calm. We blow it. We have regrets, and we wish we could start over.
And so, one of the greatest gifts you could ever give to your children is confession. Let them know and see and hear and feel and taste and touch that you are not perfect, but that you rely on a perfect Father who sent His Son to live the life you couldn’t live, to die the death you wouldn’t die, and to conquer death and promise eternal life with Him through His resurrection. Let your children hear you say, “I’m sorry for __________. Will you please forgive me?” Let them hear you ask for forgiveness for not being clear, for not being consistent, and for not being calm. Let them also see you go to the Father in prayer asking for forgiveness from Him as well.
As a parent you are not going to be perfect, and your children know this. And so, don’t try to be. Even if your kids are older, it’s never too late to come back and confess for years of neglect or inconsistency. If your children have passed on from this life and you have no way of making right the years of neglect, then confess to the Father and entrust your past deeds to Him. He is the One who makes all things new! Never forget that–Jesus came to make ALL things new!
Therefore, don’t let your children leave your house without you modeling to them and preparing them for a life of confession. What you’re doing when you confess to God is you are agreeing with God that what you have done is inconsistent with His perfect character (i.e. you’ve sinned), and you are looking to Him for forgiveness (i.e. restoring fellowship). What you are doing when you confess to your children when you have wronged them is that you are acknowledging that you have failed in displaying to them the perfect character of a perfect Father God, and you are asking for their forgiveness to restore your relationship with them and to point them to the One Father God who will never fail them or wrong them. It’s a beautiful gift–confession that is.
May God give every parent the tenacity to be courageous, clear, consistent, calm, and confessional as they attempt to live and apply the Art of Parenting.
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