By John Croyle
After 42 years of watching all kinds of families function (or maybe a better description would be malfunction), we have learned a couple of things about raising children. No matter what age your children are right now, perhaps we can identify one way to improve your relationships.
Recently, I asked a good friend, “What would you do differently in raising your children if you had known then what you know now?” I was really expecting the standard answer of being a better mom or dad or perhaps a better mate. Those are usually the go-to answers when I’ve asked this question in the past.
My friend’s reply was very clear and to the point: “I would have worked harder on my heart, mind, spirit, and soul, and thus been closer to the Lord.” They went on to say they would have been a better parent if they had been a better individual. They would not have been so nitpicky about every mistake their children made.
Anybody can come in and look at a situation or watch a child’s behavior and point out everything that’s wrong. You can bring in a stranger that has no relationship with your child, and they see all that is wrong with that child’s actions. Likewise, there is the extreme opposite reaction that many parents have taken with their children, and that is ignoring the negative situation or behavior and hoping it will go away. There has to be a balance between the two extremes of always seeing the faults vs. ignoring the issues needing to be addressed.
For so many years, I have said, “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” A possible solution might be realizing that the problem might not be the child’s but yours as the parent. Sometimes we get so frustrated and angry at ourselves, our mates, a job situation, or whatever is consuming us that day or moment, that we take our frustration out on our children. We blow something very minor way out of proportion. When this happens, what you are creating within your child’s heart is distrust, fear, insecurity, or a myriad of other negative and out-of-balance feelings.
I believe that if you focus on the relationship, it will improve your ability to pick and choose your battles with your child, whether you have a teenager who’s giving you fits or a toddler who is learning how to test his limits. It just makes sense that the better the relationship is between you and your child, the easier it will be to read your child, see what needs repair, decide if it is worth the fight, or decide it is better to let this one go by.
To have any chance of finding the wisdom and balance of negotiating this precarious journey, let’s see if we can come up with a formula for success. Perhaps you and I need to focus on the following questions:
1) Am I overacting to the issue?
2) Am I being consistent? (Inconsistency creates imbalance.)
3) Is this issue worth the fight it will create?
4) Am I ignoring a serious problem if I let this one slide?
Notice the focus is on you “checking” yourself and where you are in your own personal walk with the Lord, your mate, and your children. As simple as this sounds, when your children have problems, try walking through these questions with them. Let them see the process that you go through. In the end, your child will mature and grow into a more solid young adult because they watched you live out this end result daily in front of them.
I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that most every fight, confrontation, issue, argument, or messed up situation I have been a part of has me as the culprit. It is very difficult for any of us to admit that a very high percentage of the blame is on our shoulders.
I have learned that the closer I am to the Lord, the better my decision making. Join me, and let’s be wiser parents and better mates because we focused first on being awesome individuals who have our priorities straight. I know I still have a long way to go—join me on the journey.