I grew up in a non practicing Christian home with two parents and one sibling. We were your typical “mid level” family; my parents worked hard to provide for my brother and I while trying to better their careers. My mother worked two jobs at times and my father held down a job while finishing college. We moved around quite a bit and were not all that close. We had extended family that we kept in touch with and we took a family vacation every year, nothing out of the ordinary but we were content. Praying at the dinner table was not one of our things but neither was eating AT the dinner table. My parents got married young and had their fair share of arguments but they remained married. My brother was my shadow and annoyed me at times but I stuck up for him like no other. Being only three years apart, we had some things in common and were able to understand concepts on the same level.
Sometimes, as a parent, I forget that my own experiences don’t mean squat to my children. I have trouble remembering that when I share a story or past experience with them (in hopes of teaching them a lesson) I must do just that- SHARE, not just tell.
My kids struggle with anxiety when it comes to what their peers think or how their peers see them. I was lucky enough as a youth to not be burdened with this worry. I realized, early on, that if somebody embarrassed me, made fun of me, or simply made me feel bad for being myself I did not like feeling that unwarranted shame. I swore to myself, in the fourth grade, that I would never allow another person to make me feel that way- only I could bring on that red-faced, eye-swelling disappointment. Once I became a practicing Christian I understood that it wasn’t just ME being disappointed in myself at times but it was God allowing me to see the mistake I chose to make. It’s difficult to convey, to a child, the idea of “a being that you can’t see making you feel remorse for something that you did wrong.”
Many words are said while picking up my children after school and the majority of those words are how they spent their day and the good and bad that went along with it. The occasional, “so and so said this about me” or “so and so made me upset” slips out exposing the opportunity for emotional growth. These are the moments that I can’t screw up! It’s times like these that I have to remind myself to SHARE and really hear my kids when they talk. Once I’ve spilled the beans on a similar experience from my younger days I like to get my kids’ feedback or thoughts on how I handled the situation. I fell it gives them a chance to see options of reaction. After we review their own reaction to the current situation, they usually tell me if they have handled it in an acceptable manner…if they did not then we go over ways they could have handled it better. I find that doing all of this has cut down on tantrums, tattle-tailing, and the rare screaming match between siblings at home.
Yes, kids are kids…yes, they have to figure things out on their own…yes, kids only think in “the now” but it’s my job to help them and guide them by showing them how they can be a better individual and actually make a positive difference to the people around them. I like to think that I have tons of patience and that comes in handy when dealing with kids but patience doesn’t play an enormous role in helping my kids grow up to be good-hearted people. Having the guts to spend that time with my kids is essential. I’ve witnessed parents “cleaning up” after their kids and fixing their problems for them and that breaks my heart. As parents, not only as Christians, how are we contributing to the growth of our children by stunting them? I know that I am not, by any means, perfect…and neither are my children but we can strive for that in God’s eyes. Doing the best we can and making the right choices along the way will help make a strong base to grow from.