CroyleHow you can be a good parent even when it feels like you’re drowning.

By John Croyle

It’s been said (and I agree) that 85 percent of our child’s character, morals, values, and decision-making skills are set and determined by the age of 6. We then reinforce the base development between the ages of 6 and 10 years of age as we move toward those adolescent years.

At 10 years of age, children get the reasoning skills that they will carry for the rest of their lives. You can see it in their eyes as they listen and process the words, positive and negative, that you say. Pray that they hopefully file away the positives in their mental vaults. Pray fervently they will forgive and forget where you may have been unwise.

From 12 to 15 years of age, you are trying to figure out how such a sweet little baby could sometimes be the greatest challenge you have faced or ever will face. They test your boundaries like never before. Then, in a blink, they have a driver’s license and a freedom that they sometimes don’t know how to deal with. Then you are in survival mode until they graduate from high school and move on in their lives. That’s the natural order of things. You just hope that they are ready when that time comes.

Is it any wonder that most of the children at Big Oak Ranch come to us around the age of 12—the age when they have “figured it all out”? This fact has nothing to do with puberty or hormonal changes. Most of the time they arrive at Big Oak Ranch because the parents failed to realize that you cannot fool a 12-year-old.

There have been times in my life as a parent that our children, Reagan and Brodie, would look me right in the eye and ask, “What is wrong with you?” Regrettably there were times I wasn’t thinking clearly, walking correctly, or being my best. Perhaps you have those times, too. But I would just blow their inquiries off and give some lame response like, “Nothing’s wrong. Why?” They, being children, would go back to whatever they were doing and forget about it. But I’ve learned, now that they are older, that they still can for the most part read me pretty good, and trying to fool them or distract them is harder.

Let me clarify here that there is obvious discretion to be exercised when answering your children’s inquiries. But trust me, there are better ways to answer them than to outright lie. When you and I are drowning inside, we think we have our children fooled, but we don’t. So instead of continuing to be an actor and trying to fool the audience (your children), may I make the following suggestions about handling “internal drowning”?

Do not quit! So many adults quit on their families. Oh, you may not drop them off in our driveway, but you quit instructing, teaching, leading, guiding, and preparing them for adulthood. Sometimes we think it is just not worth the hassle.

Keep swimming. You may think you are drowning, but you are not. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NAS) says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Think about it—the Creator of the universe guaranteed that He would never put more weight on us than we could handle.

Ask for help. Humility to ask for God’s help is the greatest key to recovery. Many proud parents have lost their families because they failed to acknowledge that they needed help. They continually prayed, asking God to change everyone in their family, but then failed to ask God to change what was usually the source of the problem—them. Do not be guilty of pride. The acid of pride destroys everyone it touches.

Reflection. Whether you had a great childhood or a really bad one, there are many things that helped you be what you are today. Think of some of the things your parents did that worked for you and influenced you positively. What are some negative impacts that hurt you and negatively impacted you? Evaluate and repeat the good things where appropriate and obviously stop the negatives. Sometimes history is painful, but we can use the pain to change and be better parents.

Do not let the simplicity of these points take away from the importance of showing our children how to swim when they think they’re drowning. Give them a good example to follow.

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