This afternoon I started a parenting series for moms at my house with a few friends. The material we are using is kind of dated but the principles are still relevant and timely. It was written by Claudia Arp and it is called “Building Positive Relationships with Your Children.”
I’m doing this series for moms who have young children so we can also get our kids to play together. Not everyone whom I invited was able to make it, but there were five of us who met today. I wanted to keep the format pretty laid back so I asked them to read the material ahead of time so we could share what we learned when we were together.
Today we shared about the obstacles we face in our parenting, where we are at in terms of our relationships with our children, how we want to improve, and what areas we need to improve in. It was refreshing to be with other moms and share stories.
The reason why I wanted to start this group is because I believe that parenting is really a challenge. Nobody gets it perfectly right. But we can all improve – we can grow to become more loving, more understanding, more affirming, and more intentional with our children.
Unlike skills that you train for or study for, “there are no schools for parenting,” as my parents say in their seminars. We need to have the right reference for good parenting. Our reference for how to be a parent will greatly impact the kind of parents we will be.
For example, if a mom follows her mom or dad’s style of parenting, she may pick up the good stuff, but she may very well pick up the bad, too. The “sicknesses” that get passed on are things like anger, inflexibility, over-protectiveness, perfectionism without room for grace, not listening, criticism, being uptight, busy, etc.
Other people may rely on “instinct” and go with what feels right. We might be sincere, but sincerely wrong. I’ve known men whose fathers believed it was part of their initiation into manhood to sleep with a prostitute. What in the world?!
So what guiding principles can we follow in order to be better parents? Well, we started off our first session of the series by looking at Jesus’ relationship principles. Jesus served others (Mark 10:42 – 45) and encouraged his disciples to serve one another. He accepted all kinds of people – one of the most dramatic of all examples being the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-26). He was affirming when he restored Peter as a leader even after he denied him three times (Matthew 16:17-19). He was unconditionally loving and illustrated this by telling the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). He was intentional in his instruction of the disciples. And he was encouraging (Mark 10:27).
In summary, when it comes to building positive relationships with our kids, we can put on a servant attitude toward; we can be accepting; we can be affirming; we can love our children unconditionally; we can instruct our children; and we can be encouraging.
Personally, I need to work on having a servant attitude. For me this means making my children feel they are my priority and that their needs are more important than mine. When my kids want me to help them with a task, want to play, or want to get my attention, but I’m in the middle of something, I don’t like to be interrupted. I get so focused on my task and so zoned in it’s hard to pry myself away. What I usually say is, “Just wait, I have to finish something.” Or, “Ask the yaya, mommy is doing something.” I’m not irritated but my tone is dismissive. I shared with the ladies that this is an area of improvement for me.
In contrast, my parents allowed us to interrupt them anytime when my siblings and I were young. My mom used to drop everything when she knew we wanted her attention. It could have been a silly thing like, “Mom, can you blow up this balloon for me?” And she would do it. My dad was the same way. He used to tell his secretary, “If my wife or kids call, I will take their call.” We were the only ones allowed to disturb his meetings and it was a great feeling knowing that we had access to our dad whenever we needed him. It didn’t matter to him whether the call was urgent or not, what mattered was that we made the call and he would take it because he wanted us to know that we were important.
I want to change in this area because I don’t want my kids growing up feeling like activities, work, or other people are more important than they are. They should be my priority and they should feel like they are my priority. So my practical application for this week until my next session with the moms is to let my kids have my full attention (beyond my teaching time with them in the mornings). This means that when they come to me (even while I’m in the middle of something), I’m going to stop what I’m doing, look at them in the eye, and say, “Yes, sweetie, what can mommy do for you?” In fact, I need to apply this with my dear husband, Edric, too! But, of course I won’t use the word mommy!