New thinking for great moms and dads

There is an article that is being passed around the Internet right now and I am glad.  In fact, I hope after this blog is released, it will be passed around even more.  I sent a link to the article with a note to both of my sons.  My oldest, Ryan, is a great dad to my almost-one-year-old granddaughter, Axia.  The picture is Axia dressed up for daycare in her fun pajamas.  My youngest son, Craig, is hoping to be a dad someday.  (Note to my friends:  there is no announcement here so help me with the rumor mill!)  The article I e-mailed to both of them begins with these words:

I remember the exact moment that began the near unraveling of my marriage: My first daughter Olivia was three days old. I had just put her down in the bassinet when I heard the garage door open. “Where is she?” Michael asked my mother in the other room, and when he breezed into the living room I smiled, and started to stand up to greet him. But he blew right past me, making a beeline for the baby.

My heart sank. When Michael said “she,” he had meant her, not me. Something inside me knew this was the beginning of what was almost the end.

The article continues with examples of what a great dad Michael is; the variety of compliments the author received about her husband and his commitment to their children; and the many ways his abundant attention to their children, instead of to her, eventually weakened their marriage.  I do not know anything about the author.  I do not know if she was neglected, or just felt that way.  I do know that, when a group of “grandmas” get together, I often hear some interesting conversations.  One topic that I hear discussed on a regular basis is that children have taken on a level of importance that might be damaging to the family.  The term for that is “entitlement parenting.”

Parenting is somewhat different now than it was when my children were babies.  I was never distracted by my cell phone or iPad because those things had not been invented yet.  I was distracted by my television, however.  I did the vast majority of the childcare because I was a “stay-at-home-mom” and Jim was pastoring a church, teaching courses at the seminary and finishing his Ph.D.  I was happy to see him walk through the door at the end of a long day and I worked hard to train Ryan to run to the door shouting “Daddy.”  It made Jim feel good and I got some time off!

This is a different world, and there are different expectations placed on families today.  This article illustrated one of those differences.  Most men today are much more involved with their children than their fathers were.  That is the expectation and I think it is a great blessing to everyone – unless the balance gets off.  There are only 24 hours in a day and balancing priorities can be tough.  Many children are being given the lead position in the family structure and therefore begin to gain a sense of entitlement that may not be beneficial to them.

Please don’t misunderstand my words.  Children are VERY important – but so are Moms and Dads.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject of teaching kids they are loved, but also teaching them to maintain a healthy perspective on their place in the home.

Teach children that they are equal to, but not greater than, the other members of the family.  Example:  I used to teach my boys that they were each one-fourth of our family.  Their opinions, their moods, their wants mattered – but not more than those of any other family member.  The family gets unbalanced when one member is given too much attention, at the expense of another.

Teach children that there are times when they will matter most.  If a child is ill, hurt or having a birthday – they will be given a greater amount of attention.  The goal, however, is to make the child feel special without allowing them to feel they are more important.  Our job as parents is to help our children function in the real world and, unless they grow up to be Beyoncé or Eli Manning, they will need to know how to be happy without being indulged.

Understand that the most important lesson you will teach your children is how to have a happy marriage.  You will have them in your home for about eighteen years, or about one-fifth of their lives.  The vast majority of their lives will most likely be spent in a marriage to someone else.  It will be important to show your children that sometimes they are not nearly as important as your spouse.  Your children do not need your attention nearly as much as they need you to give attention to one another.   Get a babysitter, get a room and spend some time remembering why you fell in love with one another.  There is nothing your children need more than for their Mom and Dad to stay happily married.  If you miss one of their games, they will survive quite nicely.

Finally, teach your children that God redeems their mistakes, their siblings’ mistakes and their parents’ mistakes.  I would do a few things differently if I could, but then I would probably just end up making a new set of mistakes if I did.  So, teach yourself and your children the wisdom of Romans 8:28.

We will never be perfect but God will “work all things together for our good” if we will live “called to his purpose” for our lives.  God is a perfect Parent, but he is the only perfect parent.  So teach your kids to live with grace for everyone, especially those in their family.  

May the Lord bless your family, as you set your priorities and love one another.  Love really does cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)!

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