Daily Devotions

Scars are Only Skin Deep

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Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.  (Romans 14:13)

Parenting is tough business. It is made more difficult when we, as parents, bring our own parenting expectations to the forefront. “I will never allow my child to act that way!” The problem with judging other parents, especially before you are one, can only lead to disaster. Don’t judge others until you have walked a mile in their shoes. All children are different, and some are naturally a little more stimulating than others. Perfection and parenting are incompatible.

There is one important lesson that can greatly enhance one’s ability to be a good parent. It isn’t a technique or even an acquired skill. It is simply a recognition that we are not totally in control of our children’s lives, and even less so, their actions and emotions. Worrying about your child’s actions and emotions come from a negative place, many child psychologists call “fear-based parenting.” When we fear our actions/inactions will hurt our children, we can become crippled with inaction, or become so overprotective we are unwilling to let our children make their own mistakes. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, parenting is vitally important work, and our decisions and actions do make a difference in the lives of our children, but not every little misstep will permanently scar a child. (Unless you are playing hockey with your second-grade daughter and you accidently raise the puck just as she is falling, and the puck hits her in the eye. Even then, while she’ll never let you live it down, her scar was only skin deep.) Children are resilient. Consistency is the most important gift you can give your child. Then, when an inconsistent moment occurs, your child will be less affected, even if it is a parental screwup.

Today, if you are a parent, or grandparent, give yourself a break. We all scar our children. No parent is perfect. The parents who are caught in “fear-based parenting,” often leaves both parent and child feeling they are not good enough. Part of growing up is making mistakes, learning from them, and moving forward. Maturity is developed by learning from one’s childhood mistakes. Sure, if your child is walking toward a cliff, scream at them and forcefully stop them. But most of the time, they are not walking off a cliff. Let them make their minor mistakes. Their mistakes are not representative of your parenting. Be there, as a non-anxious presence, to listen and guide them to a better, wiser, more-mature place. It isn’t about you and your parenting. It is about your child and their maturity and growth. Prayerfully offer God your worries and stress, so your child doesn’t have to carry your stress with them. Enjoy the ride, because they grow up very fast.

Learning from Baby Elizabeth

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And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) 

My wife and I returned from a wonderful vacation in Vermont last week. On the way home, the 75+ people on our flight from Burlington to Chicago all got the opportunity to meet Elizabeth and her parents. Elizabeth is a cute, little 20-month-old. We happened to sit across from the family at the airport waiting for our flight. This was one of those hip couples who read one too many parenting books. I can just hear them, right before Elizabeth was born, “I will never raise my voice to our child, like those bad parents.” During the time at the airport, Elizabeth would look at me and smile, and I could have sworn at least once she winked at me just before she would renew her screaming tantrum.

Sweet little Elizabeth screamed on and off for the hour and a half before the flight and another two and a half hours on the flight. The mother and father’s response to Elizabeth’s tantrums was to say, “Elizabeth, it appears you are frustrated, can I help you address your feelings?” Now, I am 56 years old and I am not sure what Elizabeth’s mother was trying to say. How could she expect a 20-month-old to describe her frustrations and articulate her feelings?

Young children’s understanding of the English language is not much beyond “no,” “yes,” “momma,” and “dad-da.” The rest of mom’s words are just, “bla-bla-bla-bla, Elizabeth.” Children that age are in tune with the emotions of those they love. You shouldn’t scream, but showing disappointment, challenge, joy, pride, care, love, and yes, a little anger, helps small children understand how mom and dad feel, and about what is expected of them. Children appreciate boundaries and feel comfortable when they know how to live up to them. We do our children no favors when we let them run wild. I believe most of Elizabeth’s screaming was a cry for help, not from bad parents, but parenting in need of further guidance. Elizabeth was requesting, the only way she knew how – the needed boundaries in her life.

Today, consider how you were raised. Then, if you had children, how you raised them. Previous generations were often too quick to use corporal punishment. Yet, there are a number of other disciplinary tools that can help address proper boundaries without spanking a child. Pray for parents, in the struggle to teach and guide their children. Continue to pray for new and innovative ways to raise our children in the best possible ways, providing boundaries and faithful expectations.

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