As I left the hospital with my bundle of newborn joy, no one sent me home with a parenting manual. I brought my beautiful baby home with hopes, dreams, and lofty goals.
We dote on babies, hold them close, and protect them. The smile of an infant can make us feel like our world is complete. Then they grow up.
They develop personalities, ideals, and interests. They realize they have choices, and sometimes they rebel.
Babies are amenable, responsive to the love and care they receive. With babies, many of us are like thermometers. We ascertain their needs and respond appropriately. That is necessary for good parenting.
However, parenting styles will need to adapt as our children mature. Simply being receptive to the temperature of the circumstance is no longer enough. A thermometer is passive, rising and falling in response to its environment, yet is ineffectual regarding change. If we want to impact our homes, we must change our tactics. We have to become the thermostats that set the temperature of our homes.
A thermometer reacts to the temperature. A thermostat gauges and adjusts the temperature.
Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
We are commanded to raise our children by teaching them. Being the thermostat requires us to be actively present, gauging the emotional and spiritual temperature of our homes and the relationships therein, and be proactive in modifying it if required.
In today’s busy world, it can be easy to fall into the trap of being a thermometer. We may be parents, but we are also human. Our families grow, our children age, and we try to balance our parenting with our many responsibilities. If we work outside the home, we come home tired. We work while tired if we are home with them throughout the day. Sometimes it seems easier to go with the flow and let the little (or sometimes not so little) things go – until the flow begins to take us away with the tide.
While I advise parents to choose their battles, I also advise against getting swept away by the waves. Parenting can overwhelm us if we let it. That is why finding a way to walk in peace daily is essential. Moreover, peace in our hearts and homes will not just happen. We have to be proactive in that too.
So how do we walk in peace to be the thermostat our family needs?
1. Follow His example
Just as Jesus took time alone with His Father, we, too, need time. Starting each day with our Savior is vital to hearing from the Lord. Reading His Word and making time for personal worship is essential to preparing our hearts and minds for the tasks ahead. When we remain in His presence, He fills us and strengthens us. By inviting God to pour into us, we can offer the compassion our children need.Our compassion supply is limited without the Holy Spirit, but through the Holy Spirit; we can extend to our children the patience and love that only comes through Christ. Click To Tweet
- We can not impart what we do not possess
- We need to hear from God regarding how to parent our children best
- We need discernment to understand the Lord’s leading
Self-care is a vital parenting component, extending beyond the spiritual into the physical. What are we doing to give ourselves moments of rest or relaxation? How do we have fun? As much as I love my children, I need time to refresh. If I become overwhelmed, I might be tempted to believe that ignoring problems is more manageable than addressing them.
Further, we need to check our own temperatures regularly. If we find ourselves heating up (becoming angry, anxious or stressed) or going cold (withdrawn), take a mini-Sabbath, and reset.
2. Model by example
Our children need us to model godliness, love, patience, forgiveness, resolving conflict, and making amends. Remember, we teach through more than words; we teach by example.
That means we have to be available. Setting aside time for the family to laugh and love one another allows everyone to practice kindness, and affords us the chance to address negative attitudes or problematic behaviors in an organic fashion.
3. Healing Conversations
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Building a relationship with our children is paramount. In order to build a relationship with someone, we have to get to know them. A large part of that is accomplished through conversation. However, going beyond surface topics will require us to be active listeners. Are we just hearing them, or are we listening? Are we seeking to understand by asking questions or just seeking to be understood?
We let our children know we are listening by giving them our undivided attention (which can sometimes be a challenge), paying attention to their body language, giving nonverbal cues, and offering verbal responses to let them know we are listening. After they speak, we should ask questions and summarize what we have heard. We must also refrain from shaming responses so that they can be comfortable opening up to us.
Do not go at the conversation alone. Pray before attempting to have discussions that could prove difficult. Then, continue further. Pray throughout the conversation. God hears you, and he will lead you! When addressing my children’s behavior, I pray during soft and hard pauses! The Holy Spirit must lead us. Without His guidance, we can easily get caught up in our own (fallible) wisdom, ruining the opportunity to facilitate growth and change and, at worst, exacerbating the situation.
Finally,let us be certain we encourage our children through our speech. Words are powerful. Click To Tweet
They can heal and mend as easily as they tear down and destroy.
We may not have a parenting manual, but we have the Word, a Father who loves us, and the Spirit to guide us. I’ll take that over a manual any day.
For more information on this topic, check out today’s Daily Hope & Prayer.