In my long career as a child psychologist, I've picked up a lot of ideas about parenting and, through this blog, I hope to be able to offer you some of these ideas for your consideration. I want to begin with a "big picture" idea.
I was once invited to speak at a PTO and was discussing with the person who invited me what they wanted me to accomplish with the talk. She said they wanted me to come and give them the parenting techniques they need to be good parents. I asked her how long I had to speak. She told me I would be speaking after the treasurer's report, and before the report on the new playground construction, and wondered if 20 minutes would be okay?
There are so many parenting tips and techniques and specific skills parents can learn—far too many to learn in 20 years, much less 20 minutes. How to put kids in time-out. How to communicate more clearly. How to respond to this behavior or that tantrum. You can go to your local bookstore and find about a metric ton of books filled with techniques. But what most of these books don't include are ideas about what our parenting mission is. What are we trying to accomplish in raising our children? If I am a Christian and want my faith to be reflected in how I am a parent, what would that look like?
We DO parent by techniques, or by methods. Woe to the parent who has no idea what he or she is doing. But no mastery of techniques will make us the best parents we can be, without what we might call parenting by principle.
What many of us lack as parents is a set of principles. We are busy and stressed and, because of that, we are often reactive in our parenting. Something happens. Our kids do or say something—usually something we don’t like—and we react. And when we react we are often operating on emotion and not on our principles. We often don’t parent by principle because we really haven’t thought about what those principles are.
I encourage parents to put time aside to think about, talk about, and pray about the principles they want to live by as parents. Here are some examples of principles parents may adopt.
- Our children are individual children of God. We will strive to treat our children with respect.
- The world is often coarse, unkind, and cruel. We will strive to raise our children to be kind, generous, loving, and respectful of others.
- Children cannot grow physically, mentally, or spiritually without being certain they are loved. Loved by their parents, their families, and by God. We will strive to not let a day go by without reminding our children they are loved.
There are many more to consider! What are your principles of parenting?
Let’s end with this prayer.
Father of all, you entrust these children to our care.
Let us remember on this day, and every day, this gift--
a gift as precious and as undeserved as our own lives.
Father, give us the grace to love our children abundantly,
and to have your love for our children flow through us
pour into their hearts.
Father, help us to grow in our understanding or our children,
of their joy and heartbreak, of their struggles to move through
a world in which good and evil fight for their souls.
Father, help us be the parents you would have us be.