As a Mother, what am I responsible for when it comes to parenting my son? There are many opinions and answers to this question, but as a Christian Mom I came up with a few thoughts.
My job as his Mom right now is not to be his best friend, although that goes against popular belief. I am called to love my son, and that is not hard for me to do. However, my job, or rather my privilege is to teach my son: (each of these items are worthy of an entire blog or book so please know these are not complete)
- To love the Lord God with all his heart - Not just to attend church with us, but to teach him all throughout every day, even through my own actions and examples, who God is, who Christ and the Holy Spirit are....and why they are so worthy of our Love and Worship. And...how his personal life can be forever impacted by having his own relationship with God.
- Teaching him God-Esteem instead of Self-Esteem - This will ruffle feathers undoubtedly (I worked for years in counseling centers and fully understand the controversy over this subject), but in my view, 'self'-esteem is not all it's cracked up to be. It is putting the wrong (and very fallible) person first...us! When we as humans, and our ever changing our ideas about what is failures and successes, are guiding how we feel about ourselves...our 'self-esteem' will change like the ocean tides. But if we have God-Esteem, building our view of ourselves upon what the creator of the Universe says about us, it is solid. We can have security, we can worry less, and find a life much more fulfilling. I want that not only for myself but for my son. I've found that I've used the term 'self-esteem' so often over the years that I have to make a point to change the way I speak about this...especially to my son. I think in a lot of ways it is harder for our kids to feel good about themselves now days, than it ever was for us! They need all the help they can get to counteract what they see and hear when they're out in the world. I believe this is the case whether you send your kids to public school, private school, or if you home-school.
- Wisdom and discernment - Our kids must know how to make choices between right and wrong, not just when we are there to help lead them to the answer. I must teach my son how to do this himself, especially now that he is a teenager...he needs to learn how to take the facts and weigh the options thus making a decision based on what he knows to be responsible and true. And the most important part is that he would not be weighing against what he 'feels' is right, but what he knows to be right from the Word of God. And part of learning this lesson is failure, to see the consequences of poor choices can sadly be a great motivational tool to avoid such mistakes in the future. (hopefully) But as parents we pray that learn on the little things, and while they are still under our protective wings.
- Setting Boundaries - If we must teach our children how make decisions, then we must also teach them how to set a boundary when they are faced with decisions that are difficult to make....and this is DEFINITELY IMPORTANT for them to know how to do when you are not around, for their own protection! Peer pressure can be overwhelming and we must discuss and even role play with our kids before the temptations present themselves. I am a firm believer in giving our kids the facts of some of the larger temptations in life (age appropriate details of course), but if you aren't telling them, then they will ask someone else and who knows what sort of information they will get. How will they know why it is important to set boundaries, if we don't explain to them why it is important to put them in place? I also like to give life examples in this area and point out some choices from his own life...good and bad...this way a a good choice vs. this was not the best choice....and here is why. And if you are really brave....try giving them some examples from your own life. When they see that other people suffer natural consequences from bad choices, it somehow means more and becomes information that seems for valid.
- Discipline as a mode of teaching, not punishment... Giving our children rules and boundaries, and helping them to be able to expect in advance the outcome of their actions...is what I believe is not only Biblically correct but I truly believe it helps our kids to feel safe, important, and loved. **Discipline does not = physically beating or verbally abusing a child!** There is so much to say about this, but I will save that for another post. I will just say three extra words....CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
- Compassion - It is important to teach our kids that serving others is not only a good thing, but something that will make you feel better and be healthier. Selfishness breeds pride and causes many problems and should not be excused in children just because they are young and immature. Give your children the gift of knowing what it is like to put others first! There is no other feeling that beats knowing that you have surprised someone with a blessing of provision that they had no idea was coming! You get to feel for a minute like the hands and feet of Jesus. Our kids need to also realize how blessed most of us are to have a roof over our heads, food to eat at 3 main meals a day, and someone to love and care for us!
- Choosing their inner circle of friends - Helping our kids to identify the qualities that make them a good friend, and the qualities that they should want to have in their friends will help them to reduce friendship drama. And DO NOT underestimate the fact that your children's friends will have so much influence over them, as a parent you will be thankful for good choices in this area! Know the parents of the friends your kids are spending time with, and if there is ever a question of safeness....do not allow sleepovers! That is really a separate subject but I wanted to be sure to say it. You would be shocked to know how many kids are abused staying over at other people's homes.
- Teaching them independence -I believe this is best in small doses and in varying degrees of responsibility, but this is what prepares them to be on their own. Allow them to learn and falter under your supervision. Keep your Mothering eyes open for teachable moments... they're all around you! We need to teach them to stand on their own....and I personally find this is a hard one as Momma....but alas I am trying. :-)
Having a good husband and parenting partner makes a world of difference as does having a solid and group of fellow Mom's who allow for vulnerable and 'real' conversations about the ups and downs of Motherhood and offer advice and hugs when needed.
And for those of you who are single Mom's, I just want to say that having that core group of fellow Mother's is essential! I spent 10 years raising my son alone, so I can relate to the special hardship that comes with trying your best to be everything to your kids...when you can only do so much and you feel like you often fall short.
If you are a Christian, remember Christ is your Partner and He is the Father to the Fatherless (even if they do have biological Fathers that just may not be present often or ever). If you aren't a Christian, all I can say is.....consider it friend.....I'm not sure I could have made it without Him! He is still my best friend, closest confidant, and best advise giver!
I am far from a perfect parent, I'll tell you that in all honesty and humility. I'm just attempting to be a good steward of the son god gave me each and every day.