Parenting isn’t easy. Life is difficult at times. But through the years five principles have proven to be essential for a safe family environment.
- Take Time to Relax and Enjoy Each Other.
Rest soothes, heals, and gives perspective. Why is it that, in a world of instant everything and more time-saving gadgets than all of us can possibly use, we’re usually stressed for time? Over commitment and fatigue are two of the greatest distractions from positive parenting. Our children need our time and attention. What kids often remember most is those times mom and dad took time to play with them. Here’s our advice: Parents, quit working so hard. Save energy for yourselves and your family. If it means moving to a smaller house or making a smaller car payment, then do it. Life’s too short to settle for fatigue, lack of intimacy, and busyness in the place of meaningful relationships with your spouse and children. What are you doing this week that will be an absolutely enjoyable experience for you and your children? If you don’t have a plan, stop what you’re doing and create one. Time is too short not to celebrate with your family. The yard can wait. The dishes can wait. Turn off the TV. Turn off your wireless devices. Grab a few moments of joy and laughter.
- Discipline with Consistency.
Discipline is a training process. The primary purpose of parental discipline is to teach responsibility rather than to evoke obedience. This means consistently helping your children understand that most of life involves choices and consequences. Discipline in the home should consist of setting clearly defined limits with your children. The vast majority of kids we meet in crisis claim not to clearly understand family limits. Most of those kids come from homes where discipline isn’t consistent. Parents need to emphasize consequences. From the earliest ages through adulthood, we all live with consequences – some good and some bad. When it comes to family issues, the consequences almost always are the results of our actions. If a child runs through the house and breaks a vase, the best discipline is having to clean up the mess and help pay for a new vase. When the act is outright defiance, parents should not be afraid to use a stronger form of discipline. The consequences for attitudinal rebellion should be quick, clear, and felt. If parents fail and allow rebellion to go uncorrected, when the child becomes a teenager, he or she will have difficulty understanding that rebellion will result in not-too-pleasant consequences.
- Express Affection.
Every household is different when it comes to showing affection. Many parents unconsciously withhold hugs, touches, and embraces simply because ‘it wasn’t done that way when I was growing up.’ Even in some of the most caring homes, many parents stop touching their children once the children reach grade school. When they stop touching, an important part of showing God’s love also stops. As parents and significant adults in the lives of children, all of us should constantly model the love of Jesus Christ. Every day you should tell you kids, ‘I love you.’ This positive reinforcement and reminder of unconditional love will give them the ability to go on during tough times and say no to temptation. Every day you should show physical affection. It’s incredible what a meaningful and appropriate touch, hug, embrace, kiss, or even a ‘high five‘ will do to a young person’s self-image. Touching brings a real sense of meaningfulness and security. Every day you should listen to your kids and pray with them.
- Build up a Shaky Self-Image.
Building a positive, healthy Christ-centered self-image in your children is one of the primary tasks of all parents. Children who grow up in an environment full of put-downs, negative nicknames, and criticism often become critical adults whose self-esteem is less than adequate. Time is valuable. And the only quality time is quantity time – you need to spend time with your kids. Set family time and stick to it. In addition, you need to encourage your kids. Your kids need you to believe in them, praise them, and be available to them. We’ve got to catch them doing something right and tell them in order to build up their self-esteem. Also, help your kids practice thankfulness. Happy people are thankful people. Get your kids to focus outside of themselves. Kids with low self-image are extremely self-absorbed. Yet when kids are challenged to serve and become other centered, their self-image will improve. Use every opportunity to get your children involved in missions and service projects.
- Love Each Other.
This principle seem obvious, but at the same time, half the people reading this are single parents or have been remarried. Children are much more secure in their lives when they know their parents love each other. If your marriage is suffering, please seek counseling. A relationship in which there is love, time, and energy is one of the major factors in keeping a family together. We challenge you to stop investing your energy elsewhere and to put it back into your marriage. With the proper amount of work, most marriages can succeed.
By Steve Arterburn and Jim Burns