Parenting is a rewarding, but challenging job no matter how you look at it. Kids are wonderful, but they also stretch our hearts, minds and wills as far as they can be stretched. It can cause us to grow a lot, or to snap. Here are 3 virtues that help us bring out the best in ourselves, as well as in our kids!
Taboo word. I mean, who wants to promote lack of self-esteem, right? But that’s not what humility is, at least in the Christian sense of the word. Humility refers to the ability to recognize, and accept who we really are. This doesn’t mean debasing ourselves – it means objectively recognizing our strengths as well as areas of challenge. Humility is essential for parenting.
The only way to give the best of ourselves is to first objectively recognize and acknowledge what that is, AND what that isn’t. Knowing our own shortcomings and challenges is essential if we want to avoid passing them on as much as possible. Humility implies the ability to learn. We often think of parenting as a process of giving and teaching, but it is just as much a process of receiving and learning.
There’s nothing wrong with learning from our kids. Learning as a parent is a beautiful reality. But it comes with its challenges – like the willingness to APOLOGIZE when we’re wrong and accept that being parents doesn’t mean we always have to be right. Our kids will respect us much more for acknowledging and apologizing when we’re wrong then they will if we insist we’re always right even when it’s evident that we’re not. Humility.
As a final thought: humility also means that we have the ability to accept others as they are. It’s OK if our child isn’t the smartest, or the fastest, or… or… or… It’s OK if one of our kids has a hard time with patience and the other has a tough time sharing. That’s part of life. It’s part of who they are. It’s NOT a reflection of our parenting. We need to be humble enough to accept our kids as they are and yes, help them grow, but without resenting that growth is needed. They’re not perfect. We’re not perfect. And that’s OK. Parenting becomes much easier when we recognize and accept that.
I list patience after humility because it’s impossible to be patient without at least a little humility. We obviously need patience with our kids as they make mistakes and learn from them, learn how to handle their emotions and express themselves, take all of our attention and more, etc. But we also need patience with OURSELVES, and with our spouses and other people involved in our children’s lives. That’s sometimes harder than being patient with our kids, because we often have higher expectations for ourselves and other adults than for or kids.
But again, none of us are perfect and all of us are going to make mistakes. Being patient with ourselves, others and our kids makes life more livable in spite of its imperfections. It also helps keep things into perspective and avoids letting a little thing turn into a big thing due to our impatience. Even setting all mistakes aside, we still need patience as parents because the nature of childhood is gradual development. Even the best and easiest child takes TIME to learn things and develop skills and habits, and waiting takes patience.
Be honest. Be true to yourself. Be authentic and coherent. The foundation for a loving relationship, as well as effective parenting is trust. Your child has to be able to trust you in order to confide in you, learn from you and follow your example. Integrity is also essential for establishing a family culture and helping your child grow in character, virtue and principle.
Ultimately, your integrity teaches your child how to discover who they are and be true to themselves. Shortly after they reach the age of reason, children start experiencing peer pressure and can be tempted to conform for the sake of conforming. When they’re young, this could just mean what type sneakers they wear or what games they want to play, but as they get older, more serious issues get involved. Your integrity can help your child learn from a young age how important it is to be true to their principles, even when it means going against the flow. Later on, they’ll be very grateful that you taught them how to be THEMSELVES, because in the end, that’s who they’ll be living with for life!