Walk the Parenting Tightrope without Losing Your Balance
- Monday, November 28, 2005
The more parenting advice you seek, the more confused you can become when solutions that seem so simple for others don’t work in your own life. The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for successful parenting.
Instead, parenting is an art that requires the skill of a tightrope walker. Performing in the circus of everyday life, you must constantly balance challenging demands. If you stretch the rope too taut by forcing rigid principles on your family or allow the rope to become too loose by giving up, you and your kids can topple over.
Here’s how you can walk the parenting tightrope without losing your balance:
Strike a balance between limits and freedom. As you face the challenge of training, make it your goal to help your children make wise decisions (exercising increasing freedom within limits they choose for themselves). Do your best to instill wisdom and right values into them. Remember that your job isn’t to control them or to neglect them; it’s to train them and to influence their choices.
Model the behaviors you want your kids to see, imitate, and reproduce. Live out your core values with integrity in your own life. Let your actions match your words. Instruct your children on your expectations. Clearly and consistently describe what you expect, and why.
Coach your kids by getting them on track when they lose their way, improving their technique when they’re ready for progress, helping them recover from whatever wounds limit their effectiveness, and encouraging them to do their best to fulfill their greatest potential. Correct your children’s mistakes and attitudes that need tweaking. Embed your ultimate values, so your kids truly own what they have learned. Periodically adjust your training to help them more successfully absorb your values and learn to respond automatically with wise choices.
Strike a balance between punishment and nurture. As you face the challenge of discipline, make it your goal to help your kids achieve self-discipline (knowing when to feel appropriate guilt because they are safe enough to admit wrong).
Get to know each of your children’s temperament and let that knowledge influence how you discipline him or her. Discover how each of your kids learns best, and take that information into account as you decide how to discipline. Rather than just trying to change external behavior, dig deeper and focus most on shaping your children’s internal character that will guide them their whole lives long. Ask God to help you be objective and clear as you consider your kids’ choices.
Vary your disciplinary techniques. Make the punishments fit the crimes. Discipline as part of a team. Take advantage of your spouse’s strengths if you’re married. Lean on grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, and church leaders. Be tenacious and never give up. Remember that disciplining your children is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, because it helps them grow in vitally important ways.
Strike a balance between tradition and choice. As you face the challenge of healthy spirituality, make it your goal to help your children develop personal faith (in which their spiritual path becomes their choice and they have the benefit of a the framework for your family’s faith story).
Teach your kids thoroughly about your faith and ask God to help you live it out well and consistently in front of them. But realize that they have free will, and must be given the room to choose lives of faith for themselves.
Remember that traditions offer wonderful teaching opportunities and family stability, but don’t push family traditions too hard. Instead, build authentic relationships with each of your kids that respect their need to make private decisions about faith. Discover how each of your children connects best to God, and encourage and support them as they do so – even when their spiritual style is different from yours. Partner with your spouse (if you have one), other family members, friends, children’s ministries leaders, youth group leaders, and others to pray for and mentor your kids.
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