Proverbs 1:8: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
Last time we talked about how important it is to teach our kids to obey our authority which teaches them to obey God’s ultimate authority. Today I want to talk about the other side of the story.
Yes, I firmly agree that there are times when our children need to just obey – without arguing, whining, debating, manipulating. However, there are other times when listening to their opinions and asking them how to solve an issue might grow their independence, reasoning skills, and learning responsibility.
I’m talking about the non-life-and-death situations. There are certain nonnegotiable items in life, but there are also lots of gray areas. As a parent, I’m learning that it’s important to distinguish between the two while our kids are still young, so that when they hit middle and high school and their independence really needs to blossom, these skills will already be in place. For a “semi-control freak” like myself, this is sometimes a hard lesson to teach.
It’s important to look at the big picture. As the parent, you want certain things done in a certain timeframe. For instance, chores need to be completed before your kids participate in a fun activity, they need to be relatively clean and presentable (including shower, appropriate clothes, hair and teeth brushed), and they need to learn how to make appropriate decisions in a variety of situations. But…can’t the end result look different for each family and possibly even for each family member?
Taking into consideration that each child is an individual, isn’t it acceptable to allow one child to do his chores in the morning because he wakes up fresh and ready to tackle the day but give the other child a chance to slowly greet the morning and still have hers done by lunchtime? Is it super important to take a shower at night, or can one child take their shower in the morning as long as there is enough time to catch the bus? Yes, there are certain clothes for certain situations, but within that boundary, isn’t it more important that your child work on his or her own sense of style while still living under your roof, and give time for a child to experiment with individual taste before that all important job interview? And isn’t it more important that your child came up a solution, unique to him and his situation, that you agree with, when dealing with the bully, the awkward social situation, or the problem with friends?
If really listened to, and encouraged to sometimes think outside the box (which means we, as parents, need to be willing to step outside the box too), our kids can come up with some creative solutions to their own situations and maybe some of our sticky situations too.
I encourage you today to really listen and ask your child once in a while to solve a particular challenge. I am learning in my own family that there is more than one way to stack groceries, clean a house, or cook dinner. And you know what…I’m enjoying the change as well as seeing the pride in my kids when they realize they are listened to and their ideas are considered worthwhile. That, in all honestly, is the main reward.