PARENTING- The Long Game
PARENTING can be a loaded word- it’s personal and relational and it comes in long stages. There is joy mixed with fatigue and confusion. It seems like, as a parent, we are often experiencing the polar ends of emotions. Moments of hope are fleeting and followed by despair. We are on mountain tops and sinking into the valleys in a matter of minutes. You can read many parenting books and blogs, listen to podcasts and talk to professionals, as well as trusted friends and still feel like you are in the dark. Sometimes we end up more overwhelmed than before we started looking for answers. All this messiness is because parenting is personal and our kids are each unique. Additionally we bring our own mixed up parenting perspectives into the relationship to add to the emotional confusion. Even within a family unit, parenting multiple children can look very different.
On top of all of that, we take the outcome very personally. We place the value of our parenting in the goodness of our children. Am I an effective parent because my kids made it through dinner in a restaurant without making a scene? Did my children exhibit kind, respectful behavior at a friend's house because I taught them all the polite things? And on the negative side of things; is my child going to struggle forever because I am failing in parenting? The idea that our worth as a parent is a result of their good or bad behavior is FALSE. The two ideas are not connected. The true source, of both our worth and our goodness, comes from the Father, the same is true for our children. I have 3 girls, ages 8, 6 and 3, and parenting each of them the same way would be ineffective and unfair. Parenting becomes personal because each child is unique. We have done a lot of ground work to establish the rules and values of our family. Although the house rules and family values are the same, the way they have learned and experienced this varied. We have gone through a lot of hard work to get here and now the lessons are learned through them trying out what we have taught them and feeling the consequences of their actions and independence.
Take a look at the long game of being a parent. The goal is not that they put their toys away, or tidy up their room, or have impeccable table manners. The goal is that they have self-respect, compassion towards others, take responsibility and can positively contribute to their family, community and the world through their own unique giftings. THIS LONG GAME PERSPECTIVE MAKES PARENTING HIGHLY RELATIONAL.
I felt like my family had a season where we were losing our relationships for the rules. There was very little joy or fun and it was a battle over who was more persistent. The result was negative and loss of the relational ground we needed to be building with our daughters. Slowly that stage of parenting has shifted as well as our perspectives and their needs. What feels like we are in a hard phase that will never end; slowly, we are actually moving to a new place almost overnight and there is light. I have appreciated the 4 phases of parenting outlined as Commander, Coach, Counselor and Consultant by “Focus on the Family”. I can recognize that when it felt like a battle ground in our house, we were likely in the middle of the commander stage with 3 young kids. And now we have progressed to some coaching and some commanding as the kids have aged. Don’t lose the relationship over the rules, don’t linger too long in the a stage, push yourself and your child to stretch when the time is right. Don’t be afraid to return there when needed. Always remembering, the character and care of our heavenly father is being extended to us in these stages as we navigate life as well.
After months of being “off” my parenting game due to moving, COVID, virtual school and so many other disruptions I feel like I have had to go back to the “commander” stage more than I would like. I try to balance this with intentional time to build the relationship individually with each of my kids. Today, we had a longer day of chores, but focused on the relationship as I took two daughters to get their nails done and later made a secret dessert for the family with another. I feel more effective as a parent when I have made these relational efforts with my kids. And I feel more effective as a parent when I make relational efforts with God.
INVITE GOD INTO THE STRUGGLES AND JOYS OF PARENTING BY PRAYER AND WORSHIP. HE WANTS TO SHARE IN THIS PROCESS, AS HE IS A SUPPORTIVE, LOVING, PRESENT FATHER.