As I type this post, I’m sitting in a charming little air b-n-b above a garage in St. Petersburg, FL. All the windows are cranked open, the birds are singing, and I can hear the husband and wife next door interacting with their toddler while making breakfast. As the bacon sears in the pan and the fork clangs on the countertop, they ask their little girl, “Would you like to go potty in the toilet today?”
“No!” she states emphatically.
They are at the beginning of the life-altering journey we call parenthood, and I find myself contemplating my trek through that winding path.
Looking back, what would I do differently?
I’d boil it down to two things.
First, I would parent from faith, not fear.
When my kids were little, I was told my primary job was to make them obey. Learning obedience would serve them well in the education, business, and even the faith-centered world. After all, God wants obedient children, right?
But that led to parenting out of fear.
Was I choosing the right discipline? Should corporal punishment be used for every defiant “no”? Did they have to be perfect little soldiers to prove obedience? Could I give room for process, or did I have to address every small infraction?
I didn’t feel confident. I was always worried whether I was “doing it right.”
Then there was the fear for their safety, health, what friends they’d choose, or whether they’d get kidnapped from the yard.
But faith has quiet confidence. Here are a few examples of what that looks like:
- Faith allows parents to not always have the answers, and highly encourages the search.
- Faith doesn’t worry about bad days because it all works together for good.
- Faith says “yes” a lot.
- Faith loves healthy risk takers.
- Faith knows failing isn’t a failure.
- Faith encourages a child to sit by the one nobody else wants to, to not worry about being popular, and to feel free to give away their coat or lunch to someone who needs it.
- Faith doesn’t worry about what everyone else thinks.
- Faith encourages interaction with all sorts of people – not just the ones who think or look like me.
- Faith expands the boundaries instead of erecting tall fences close to home.
- Faith puts emphasis on relationship and the heart vs. appearance and performance.
Which leads me to the second thing I’d do differently.
I’d parent my children’s hearts, not their behavior.
I’d care more about what was happening at the core. I’d look for the source behind the behavior by asking these questions:
- Are they tired?
- Are they insecure?
- Are they scared?
- Are they frustrated with themselves?
- Do they have all the info they need?
- Are they going through hormonal changes?
- Are they afraid I won’t love them if they tell me the truth?
- What’s really going on right now?
- What does love look like right now?
The answers give valuable information that determines the next action. Kindness, patience, hugs, love, gentleness, or listening can all be employed instead of heavy-handed discipline.
God parents us out of unquenchable love. His love doesn’t depend on our performance, so He looks at our hearts and responds with the greatest care. I would have represented Him better by doing the same.
I know this now.
Thankfully, my adult children have forgiven me for my parenting mistakes, and God has helped my husband and I create a culture of honor with our kids, along with much laughter.
It is good.
Tell me, what would you do differently as a parent? If you’re not a parent, what do you wish your parents would have done differently?
I’d love to hear so comment below or on Facebook.
As always, have a great week full of better thoughts,