Parenting is tough. While children go through their developmental changes, each with their own unique personalities and temperaments, parents must morph their parenting tools to adapt and change. Not only must the techniques and tools change with developmental stages but, at the same time, they must further adapt to the uniqueness of each child. I sometimes wonder who must change the most during these transitions: the child or the parent!?
Wise parents use a complex, dynamic arsenal of tools to help their children move from the cradle to differentiated lives as adults. We use rewards to encourage good choices and punishment to discourage bad choices. At other times we ignore behaviors in hopes that they will stop for lack of reinforcement while we redirect their focus of attention to encourage positive feedback loops and new interests.
There are parents who do not have a clue about how to use these tools equitably and their kids still live successful lives. At the same time there are others who apply them with wisdom only to watch their offspring make horrible choices with painful consequences.
As the ultimate Parent, God, the Father of Israel, worked to shape the lives of His children over hundreds of years of history with punishments, rewards, forgiveness and blessings and so much more…but they still killed his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Parenting is tough…just ask God.
And when you struggle with the choices your kids make, remember: God wrestles with the choices we make as well, in spite of everything He has done for us. Yet, our failures do not mean He is a failure, nor do our children’s wrong choices necessarily mean that we are bad parents.
Children will make wrong choices, just like you and I did!
Here is the kicker: bad choices are often made because we choose to make them, not because God let us down. It’s the same with our kids. Sure, unlike God, we have all made parenting mistakes…some of us more than others. But at some point we must realize that our children are free to make their own choices and to suffer their own consequences for those choices. Like us, our hope for them is that their choices become learning opportunities that open the door to better choices in the future.
So, give yourself a break now and then and stop beating yourself up for the mistakes your kids make. Parenting is tough and perhaps the biggest lesson to learn along the way is that the maturing process may have more to do with what we learn as parents than what our kids learn under our watchful eye. Perhaps just as important as what our kids learn in the process of life is discovering what we are learning as parents who are hoping for the best in the process.
Struggling with parenting? You are in good company!
1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.