Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Foundational Principles for Parenting - Part 1

Our church, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, GA, gave us this book when we dedicated our second child. It is by Chip Ingram.

"It is fruitless to parent either without direction or from a reactionary anxiety..." - Fruitless? What an interesting word choice. A "fruit of the spirit" is a visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit in our life. But what "fruit" do parents bear?

Ingram provides 4 foundational principles for parenting (2 in this chapter):

1. Set Clear-Cut Objectives
2. Practice What You Preach

"Proactive parenting requires a target." Ingram writes that we should not be passive or reactive parents. How tough! My attention goes to whomever is screaming or crying at the moment. I know that long term I need to set some goals for my parenting, but what should they be?

"Focus on the essentials and give some latitude on the nonessentials." - just another way of saying "pick your battles." I wonder if I do this with my two year old. I try to let her make decisions as much as I can so she can learn some assertiveness and not just be an automaton. I am also trying to her her to talk more. So, for example, she has two toothbrushes. Every night I let her choose "Do you want to use the blue toothbrush or the orange toothbrush?" I make her answer verbally. She can't choose whether she will brush her teeth, just which brush to use. I feel like it gives her a little bit of control over her situation. She has spent so much of her life having no control over what happens to her, I want to try to empower her and let her make decisions for herself.

"Do I want my children to turn out like me?" Wow. I assume for all of us the answer is "in part." I have some traits I am proud of and want my children to copy. There are other traits I hope they don't copy.

Catherine copies everything I do, even small trivial things. Every morning I walk through my closet and look for the clothes I want to wear that day, often pausing on several shirts before I make my selection. This morning Catherine went into my closet while I was getting dressed. She walked up and down my row of clothes, stopping to look at several items. After a few minutes, she took one of my shirts off the hanger and brought it to me. I indulged her and wore it. I have never spent one second teaching Catherine how to pick out clothes, either hers or mine. She is only two and it never crossed my mind that she should have that skill at this stage. Yet, she has watched me pick out my own clothes every morning and obviously has a desire to copy that behavior. What a surprise it was to me that she was successful at that skill this morning!

Picking out clothes is trivial, but it is a great reminder to me that my child, no matter how small, is watching what I do, not just what I say.

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