Last week I was browsing on Pinterest (it’s becoming my little vice lol) and I came across a quote, which said
“If your child lies about what they’ve done, it’s because you’ve overreacted to their mistakes in the past”
Theologically, this is far from accurate, lying is a sin which is a direct consequence of the fall of man. I know this and you know this. Lying is a sin and I am not excusing it in any way. However, there was something that struck a chord when I read this. I believe that a child can feel unable to open up to their parents for a number of reasons. The fear of discipline, the fear of taking responsibility for their actions, the shame of knowing they done something wrong, the embarrassment they might feel. I would consider these reactions to be ‘normal’. After all, who among us adults is eager to own up to our mistakes, to other people or to God?
My real concern is that as a parent I do have the capacity to overreact, we all do. Even the calmest of us can allow an unrealistic standard to be placed against our children and we can create an invisible barrier between us and them because they fear how we are going to react to their mistakes. While we must have standards, morals and expectations in our homes, there is a fine line between holding a child accountable so that he/she can learn and penalising a child for every mistake they make just to make a point.
When I think about my children and what sort of people they will be when they grow up, my first thought is that I would love them to be saved and happily living for the Lord but my second thought is that I want them to have a close relationship with Andrew and I. This will not happen if we try and be their best buddies all through their childhood, neither will it happen if we are so hard on them that they cannot come to us and be honest about what is going on in their lives. So how can we find the balance? I read a lot of parenting books, as you know, and I wish their was one that could act as a guidebook for navigating these sorts of issues, but it’s much too deep to be covered in one book. The bible has given us many examples of the parent/child relationship in the sense that God is our heavenly father and we are his children. He most definitely has a standard for us to live by and laws that must be obeyed. But he also is quick to forgive and love us no matter what mistakes we are making. As a child of God there is nothing that we can do to make God love us any more or any less. When we take that as our example to follow, it gives a little clarity on how we should approach our children.
In real life terms, when dealing with everyday challenges, I think there are a few things we can do to model the traits we are hoping to see in our children.
- Be honest about our own mistakes/sin/shortcomings. Admit when we are wrong and be quick to apologise. Humility is a wonderful character trait, children can learn this by watching us.
- Before reacting to something your child has done, take a deep breath and think about how to turn the situation around into something positive. There is always a lesson to be learned if we are willing to think it through.
- Look at other parents who have great relationships with their children. I know we can’t take everything at face value when we look at other people, as there is always so much that we cannot see, but I’m sure you can think of someone who seems to be genuinely doing a good job with their children. Watch them and follow the example. On the same note, if you see or have experienced negative parenting tactics that you know to be destructive to the parent/child relationship, avoid them! Don’t judge, but ask the Lord to give you wisdom to avoid behaviours that will create barriers between you and your child.
- Keep each other accountable. I know that sometimes Andrew and I can both be too harsh on our children, but we are both quick to speak to each other about it. An honest “that was too harsh” or “you said that in anger” is usually enough to give each of us some perspective. None of us are above dealing with problems ‘in the flesh’ and it helps to have someone remind us that we are supposed to deal with our difficulties in right spirit, with self control and loving heart.
That’s my thought for the day anyway 🙂 this parenting job is a tough one sometimes!