The Understanding Parent

“You have them from day one; you can teach them and train them to be what you want them to be.”

“I’m sure if you just love them they will always want to do what you ask.”

“I wouldn’t ever tolerate THAT attitude in my kids!”

“Why don’t you just give them what they need? I’d never let my baby cry!”

Yeah right. You do have them from day one, and you do have a very high responsibility to instill in them values and respect. They do flourish in a loving environment, and it does make a huge difference in how they respond to you. You ARE the parent, and as the parent, you are going to be the only factor of personal consequence in their early lives. And nurturing them and meeting their needs is indeed vital to effective parenting, but as you can see, these are all puzzle pieces to balance. And that delicate dance is what makes parenting a daily challenge.

You have nurtured, cared for, comforted, and taught this little angel from day one. She is your heart, your everything. And then one day your little princess is going to throw a fit. That’s right. It might be in the store, at Grandma’s, at home. But it will happen. With my first, she was about a year old. I was cooking dinner, and she wandered into the kitchen. She wanted me, and there wasn’t a thing wrong with that. Except I was frying chicken with hot oil. So I told her, in no uncertain terms, that she couldn’t hang on my legs. She freaked. Full out on her back kicking and screaming. I remember thinking ‘who taught her that?’ Who indeed. No child ever had to be taught. So, the fits will happen. How you guide them from there will impact the rest of their lives, and it’s important to teach them that this isn’t a proper (or safe) response to displeasure. But at the same time recognize where the frustration is coming from, and learn what you can about YOU from the circumstance. I found that spending special time with her between nap time and dinner prep helped her to be able to play happily on her own when it was time to cook.
They won’t always just do the right thing. The first time my child picked up a pair of scissors and snipped off all her hair I had to realize this. And often it isn’t deliberate naughtiness. Sometimes they are impatient and doing something they asked you to do, and you haven’t gotten to it yet. Sometimes it’s that they are spontaneous and independent, and need to learn to control their impulses. Sometimes they don’t know they are being bad and are just letting those creative juices flow. And sometimes they honestly thought their hair would turn brown like ‘Rapunzel’ in Tangled, and they wanted to have hair like Mommy. I didn’t congratulate my daughter when she destroyed 4 yards of fabric that was supposed to be matching outfits for the lot of them-creativity or not. She never got the dress and hasn’t massacred a piece of fabric since. But I also had to realize that I had been putting her off when she asked me to help her sew them. It wasn’t my fault, but it also wasn’t her being destructive for destructiveness’s sake.

Meeting your child’s needs is about so much more than filling their belly, or giving them what they want at the moment. It’s about showing them character through the good times and the bad times. Being an example of Christ in all things, being there for them, and communicating that they are worth your time. It’s about guiding them and equipping them to be their best person. It’s helping them realize they mean the world to you, but they aren’t the center of the universe. You would lay down your life for them, but the world owes them nothing. They can be whoever they want to be but will get out of life exactly what they are willing to put into it. Making their childhood a beautiful, but character building experience. Maintaining their innocence, but not raising them in naivety.

It’s the dance of an understanding parent.

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