I tremble when I write a parenting blog. If you don't know me, then you may get the idea that our family has it all together. If you do know me and my kids, then you may smirk and say to, "Hey lady, I have seen you and your kids. Please step down from the platform!"
Be that as it may, I learned a few things as I worked this parenting gig for twenty two years. I’m not talking theory, but reality: I am the parent of 22 year old Taylor, who graduates in May with her education degree; 18 year old Caleb, who is visiting a college campus today and 7 year old Levi, who is in first grade.
When Taylor was my only, my expectations were crazy high. I lived by this motto: I am raising my child to become an adult. Truly we are training children to be adults-- that is what they will become, not what they are expected to be right now. Taylor's early life was filled with an overemphasis on correction. The standards were high; the grace was puny. I've owned this wrong done to her; have said I was sorry and wished I had shown more grace.
So much of what drove my parenting was my own identity. I was not going to be "that" parent. You know who I'm talking about. That parent allows his child to run willy-nilly in the grocery store, lets her child jump up and down on the pew at church, and is scared to death that he will scar his child by saying,”No.” That parent allows back-talk, eye-rolling, sass, etc.
I was so glad I was not that parent. My children were going to know who was boss!
When Caleb came along, I had relaxed a little, but my heart was still driven by fear. If my Caleb misbehaved, the message I heard was, "bad parent!". What I should have heard was, "Here is your child with foolishness bound up in his heart. Take time to give him clear correction and direction." Caleb needed to know what was ok for the playground was not ok for the store. But I was more concerned with the approval I got from total strangers when I reacted with harsh words.
The years rolled on. Kevin and I hit the wall in ministry and marriage. God used those circumstances to get us into counseling. We learned that our family dynamic was not so healthy. We took the wisdom to heart. We grew and changed little by little over time.
Then came another, unexpected parenting opportunity when we received our 20th wedding anniversary gift of pregnancy.
We parent Levi with more grace than we did with Taylor and Caleb. We get grief from the older two about that. "That's not what you would do if we were standing on the furniture!" they protest. "That's not what you used to do to us when we yelled across the house!" Taylor and Caleb now yell across the house.
We smile and say, "Yes, you are right. We didn't do this way with you. We loved you. We did our best for you with what we had. We've changed. We love Levi and are doing our best for him with what we have now.
I'm still not the perfect parent. I make mistakes. So there are not "3 Secrets to Raising Obedient Children" after all.
Karen loves to write and lead women's support group. She is learning to walk in God's grace day to day as well as learning to extend that grace to others. You can follow her blog at karencone.org