In this post I want to share with you what I believe to be the three most important tenets of good parenting. Being a parent is by far the most important job any of us can have. We are not only responsible for the formation of another person, but in forming that person we have a share in shaping the larger world in which we live. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
When I work with clients, I often explain the different views we have of our lives. In the same way that a good photographer will use different lenses to achieve different perspectives, we can do the same thing in our lives. Sometimes we get a better picture using the wide-angle or big picture lens. At other times we want the close-up view.
When parents come into counseling for parenting advice, they have specific complaints or problems in dealing with their children. It is often the case that they are feeling so overwhelmed in the moment that they have lost sight of the big picture.
I usually spend some time in session reminding parents of their purpose and goals. That is, I bring them back to the big picture. Once parents are back on track with the big picture, I can help them connect it with what is going on in the moment, the little picture. Parenting works best when parents are able to stay connected to the big picture, keeping the little picture in context. Keeping things in context gives parents the knowledge to stay consistent and strong when they need to be, and avoid being manipulated by the child.
The three tenets that I am going to share with you build on each other. The first one is a foundation for the second, and the second is a foundation for the third.
The first of these tenets is this: our children are on loan to us by God.
This is the biggest picture, the foundation, and sets the stage for everything else. It means that I do not own my children. They have been entrusted to my love and care by God, our mutual Creator. I have a sacred duty to bring them up so that they come to know God, and live Godly lives. I need to keep in mind that this life is a journey back to God. I need to remember that God, in creating us, desires that we will live with Him eternally in heaven.
This is the major context for our lives. When I am focused on this, life decisions become clear. All decisions need to be made against this backdrop.
The next tenet comes from the fact that human beings must develop from a state of total dependency as babies to become independent, fully functioning adults. Another way to state this is that we want to move from an external locus of control to an internal one. This means that we want children to eventually be able to control themselves. Until that time we have to set things up in such a way that we guide them into making appropriate decisions.
This leads us to the third tenet. It makes a difference whether we make good decisions or bad decisions. A crucial life lesson that our children need to learn is that good decisions tend to reap good consequences while bad decisions tend to reap bad ones. Without this knowledge everything seems random and up for grabs. This is the chaos that we witness in our world today. People are lost without a moral compass. As parents, we need to get clear of our own moral bearings in order to help our children develop theirs.
In future posts I want to become specific in how to handle particular problems. What are some of the parenting issues you would like to see me cover? What parenting problems are you dealing with?