Psalm 103:13-14: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”
Last time we talked about the important ways to help your child stretch in order to achieve the independence and maturity required in adulthood. However, today I would like to focus on the other important, often overlooked aspect of that maturing process: The emotional side.
As stated before, every child is different. Some are tough and appear as though nothing fazes them (but we know differently, don’t we?), others have more of a tender heart, while still others need lots of practice in order to learn important concepts. Not only is it essential to know what type of child you have (or types of children if you have more than one) but it is critical to know what works to motivate them, helping them to achieve their very best.
It is important that while teaching your children independence and mastery of skills that you do not forget the emotional aspect of love and acceptance, cushioned in between a great sense of humor. This may come easy for some, but I have to admit I sometimes struggle in this area.
Before I became a parent, I worked at a residential home for troubled children ages 5 through 11 and then ran a daycare in my home after that. Because of those experiences, I have a somewhat “assembly line” mentality at times. That does not mean that I do not treat each child as an individual, but time constraints in those jobs did not always allow for long, personal, one-on-one attention. I was so used to being efficient while getting everyone fed, changed, and making sure everyone was safe, that I sometimes forgot to stop and actually either teach, encourage, allow for pushing the restart button, or stop to find the humor in the situation.
When we only had two children, it was easier for me to remember those important rules and so I did it more effortlessly. However, since adding our third child, I find that sometimes the “assembly line” me comes out and rears its’ ugly head, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed with life. Usually I am convicted of this phenomena when one of my kids inevitably cries, “You just don’t listen to me.” That is when I have to stop, slow down, and really reevaluate my reactions, determining whether or not I am focused more on the end result or instead focusing on the truly important part of the process – my child’s heart during this particular stretching process.
Sometimes I think that helping your child to stretch is as much about you as a parent as it is about him or her as a child. You are being stretched as well. It is hard to balance figuring out what responsibilities your child should be required to maintain, when you should step in and lend a hand, or if you should go ahead and let them learn from their mistake.
I find personally that I am more attuned to my children’s emotional needs when I have first given it over to God than if I try and wing it, figuring it out on my own. To those of you who are married, showing a united front to your children with your husband is essential also in helping to keep the focus on the skill that needs to be mastered instead of refocusing on other distractions like which one of you is easier to manipulate.
So, overall, while stretching into adulthood can be hard, it should not be impossible or regimented. Keeping a sense of humor, staying focused on your children’s legitimate emotional and physical needs while ignoring the manipulation, and most importantly, cushioning it all with encouragement and love should help make the outcome positive. And, seriously, just as a baby does not stay in diapers his whole life, eventually whatever task you are working on with your child will be accomplished if neither of you give up.