My husband and I are very involved in our children’s lives. If you’re parents, I’m guessing you are too. It’s very natural for parents to care deeply about what happens to their children and how their kids grow and develop. And, because we care, we work. We get involved. We guide and instruct. We try to open opportunities for them. We’re proud when they succeed, and can get disappointed when they don’t. All of these thoughts and feelings are VERY, VERY natural. But they can also get overwhelming, especially when our kids test our patience or fail to live up to our hopes. In these cases, while it’s important to continue being positive, responsible parents and staying closely involved in our child’s life, it’s also important to remember a few things we might forget:
1. Your child is a child. Yes, I’m stating the obvious. Because sometimes its not that obvious. Sure, we know our kids are several sizes smaller and have higher pitched voices that we do, but we sometimes forget their developmental stage when we set expectations for them. All too often, we expect them to react with the maturity of an adult. Think back to your own childhood days. Please, NEVER FORGET WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A CHILD. The innocence. The joy. The wonder. The simplicity. Enjoy every moment with your child at the developmental phase they’re in, with all its growth and its quirks. They have the rest of their lives to be an adult; they will never be able to go back to being a child.
2. Kids NEVER get tired of hearing that we love them, even when they pretend that they do. Say it often. Show it even more often. Do it in the good moments, but especially in the “bad” moments. The times that our kids mess up and we’re most likely to yell at them are also the times they most need to hear that we love them. Believe me. They already know they’ve done something wrong. It only gets worse for them when they’re afraid of being rejected by their parents as a result. Don’t jump in and save them – they remain responsible for the consequences of their actions, but make sure they know you still love them. As your child gets older and starts getting embarrassed at hearing you say you love them in public, find more discreet ways to do so, but keep making sure you communicate your love. Parental love is the greatest security and stronghold a child has in the midst of a beautiful, but sometimes rough and daunting world.
3. Parental input and guidance is important, but we sometimes exaggerate our own influence and see our parenting techniques as the main guiding force in our child’s life. This causes us to get more stressed because see ourselves as mainly responsible for our child’s development. In reality, we are only 1/3 of the equation. We need to do our best, but it’s OK (read: necessary) to relax a little. Part of how the child’s development depends on their parents. But a second part depends on their own innate tendencies. Kids are born with different talents and skills, different interests, and different rates of growth. No amount of parenting can change, or speed up, the child’s innate capacities. And the third part depends on the grace of God. Yes, we are the child’s father or mother, but God is their Father. And while he works through us, he also cares for our kids directly, giving them the grace their need to become who he wants them to be. So a child’s development is really about 1/3 parental guidance, 1/3 innate abilities, and 1/3 grace of God (of course, ALL of those ultimately rely on God, but God chooses to work partly through the parents and the nature he has given the child). So it’s OK to relax a little bit. We need to keep doing our best, but even our best is not going to guarantee a certain outcome, or move a child on to another stage if the child isn’t ready and isn’t yet receiving the grace to go forward. Similarly, even if we mess up sometimes, which we’re bound to do, it doesn’t mean we completely fail our kids – they still have their own God-given abilities and the grace of God supporting them.
4. We need to listen to our instincts, and we need to listen to our children. We do not need to worry about how other people view us, or them. Our children are not an extension of ourselves. It’s easy to feel like we have failed when our kids fail at something, or to feel like we are have done something wrong if our kids do or say something that goes against social expectations. But that’s not the case. They are establishing their identity. Their successes may make us proud, but they aren’t our successes; their theirs. Likewise, their failures may disappoint us, but they aren’t our failures. Be their guide. Be their role model. Be their cheerleader. If they aren’t doing anything wrong, respect them even when they’re different from you. Show your child and the world that you are proud of your child because of WHO THEY ARE, not because of who they are expected to be.