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Monday, 21 November 2016

Failing as a Parent

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a perfect parent and have had it all together through the years. That would only discourage you and the goal is to encourage and give you the benefit of any wisdom I may have. Some, or much, of that wisdom has been hard-won and only through the experience of failure have I learned what I ought to have done instead.

My kids would be the first to tell you that I haven’t arrived; in fact, they’d probably rush to tell you.

There may be times we deserve their dislike or disappointment. Out of the overflow of the heart come our words and actions, and the heart can be desperately wicked and self-serving. We say and do things that don’t reflect who we want to be as people, and unfortunately, once words and deeds have been said and done, they can’t be taken back. Occasionally time will dim the memories, but not always. An apology is in order, but even if it’s received and forgiveness offered, the damage is done and all you can do is move forward.

My husband and I have, I feel, been very good at apologizing when an admission of wrong-doing/wrong-saying has been warranted. I wasn’t raised with that example, so in my defense, progress has been made. Just the same, I have regrets and if I could get a do-over, I’d take it. I suppose that’s one thing many people love about becoming grandparents: it’s a second chance.

I’m not expecting to be a grandparent anytime soon. My kids are only 19 and 21, not currently dating, and not ready for the responsibility. I don’t want to rush them.

So, how can this post help you parent more intentionally? No matter what, you’re not likely to become a perfect parent. This side of heaven, no one can. But, anyone can become a better parent, and I hope this is where I can help.

At some point in your parenting, you are bound to become frustrated, annoyed, angry, even outraged. At that time (or those times), I’d encourage you to take a step back, leave the room (if you can), do some box breathing or count to ten in your mind. Let the emotions die down so you can think more clearly instead of just reacting or blurting out something you’ll later wish you hadn’t. Remember that this is your child, the one that God gave you for some reason you may not have figured out yet. You are to care for this person, to love him/her and to invest in who s/he is and who s/he becomes. Ultimately, our goal should be to raise a person who becomes a valuable, contributing member of society, who doesn’t think just of his/her own needs and wants. Make sure what you say and do will encourage this outcome.

Sometimes an apology will be in order. Swallow any pride you may have and just do it. Recognize that your apology may be insufficient. At those times pray, pray, pray that God will help your child to overcome the wound you have inflicted. Read and memorize scriptures that address areas you struggle with (impatience, anger, a judgmental attitude) so you can get control over these and, with His help, do better in future.

Parenting is without question the most difficult job in the world. Children don’t come with instruction books and we bring our own personalities, temperaments, histories and experiences to the table. Their personalities, temperaments and processing of experiences also enter into the equation. You are not going to be able to parent successfully without excellent input. Again, I encourage you to be in God’s Word, to read books on parenting, to engage with older parent-mentors, to listen to Christian teaching (e.g. Focus on the Family), etc.

In a way, parenting is war. If you’re a believer, you know this: we have an enemy (Satan) who seeks to destroy our families and our faith. Our response must be to put on the whole armor of God.

May He bless and guide you as you raise your children to develop His character and reflect His image. Depend on the power at work within you, which comes from your relationship with Christ.


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