There is nothing more humbling than raising a child. Children are both a reflection of you – your values, your expectations, your worldview – and a fountain of self-expression. They offer constant reminders of the need to refine your own capacity of self-expression while challenging you to grow and develop as they do.
I had the privilege the day before yesterday of attending my son’s first kindergarten parent-teacher conference. Not sure what to expect, I went in expecting a report card on two fronts. I was eager to see how well our child was living up to our expectations and to see how our expectations stood in relation to other parents in my son’s class.
His teacher gave a glowing report, offered suggestions relative to areas in which he could improve and suggested that we keep doing what we’re doing. I feel blessed to be raising a young man who loves challenges, who is inherently obedient and who has a wanderlust matched only by his enjoyment of new experiences.
Raising children is no easy task. They require constant nourishment and consistent love. They need boundaries that move out as they grow and privileges that remain dynamically linked to the responsibilities they carry. All of this while you go about living your adult life in the background!
As a parent you do the best that you can to provide what they need while in the nest of home. You must be careful not to over-protect or spoil them and you must work assiduously to develop a fundamental element of character called “obedience.” Obedience to me is not a mindless following, rather, it is an actively conscious state made possible by trust, respect and the regardful willingness to follow righteous leadership.
Obedience is not an end, but a means to an end. Obedience sets the stage for agreement and original self-expression, for you must learn to follow before you can learn to lead. Disobedience, on the other hand, is more often than not at the core of the failure to launch into adulthood.
Obedience is fostered whenever reasonable boundaries are carefully and respectfully enforced. Whenever arbitrary or unnecessary force is used to induce a state of obedience, the result is typically compliance, which looks like, but is nothing like, obedience. Children who simply comply submit to authority unwillingly while children who obey in the sense I am hoping to convey give themselves to authority lovingly and out of respect.
Inconsistent parenting is one of the primary causes of disobedience. If you set a boundary, respect the boundary yourself. Don’t hem and haw when the children wear you down. Don’t disrespect the rules out of a concern to quiet the children or to “buy” their love.
Children often try to play the father against the mother…don’t fall for it. Spousal agreement matters. If you are a single parent, you won’t have that problem, but they will find ways to play one aspect of your personality against the other. Either way, you have to stay on your toes.
Child-rearing is not an easy task and I wish that our schools could find a means of better preparing children for future parenting responsibilities. Book smarts have little to do with effective parenting and ACT and SAT scores are no indicator of parental preparedness.
At the end of the day each parent must do what is right in his or her own eyes and heart. While I highly doubt that humanity will ever come to an agreement about the details of what that means, I do feel there are a number of qualities of character that can be considered universal.
More on that later.