In addition to books there are other sources where I look for parenting tips. For starters I use my faith, my church, and the Bible to guide me. Christ is wonderful example of how I should parent. Although He was not a parent His actions and words are wonderful examples and tools for me to use with my children.
I also observe other parents with their children. Over the years when I meet children that are happy and well behaved I take note to observe how their parents interact with them. I have picked up many ideas from watching and listening....and even asking questions from other parents I admire. Our childrens' Godmother Helen has raised four girls. When Tuba was little I used to watch Helen parenting her kids in church. I loved it when one of her kids would act up and she would have to take them out of church. She would leave with a smile on her face and a calm demeanor. It was especially entertaining when the child in trouble would have the biggest frown. Ha! I also observed how she would bend over and whisper in her child's ear to correct behavior. It always worked and was a quiet and calm and private way to deal with a mis-behavior. She also gave me some great advice once. She told me that sometimes when her toddlers would mis-behave (for attention) she would close her eyes. I started doing this when Tuba was little and it worked so well. Oh, nobody is watching me be naughty so I guess I'll stop!
Another good friend of mine, Joy, who has three girls and one boy is a wonderful source of parenting tips. She has been writing articles for our parish newsletter. I really loved this one. It made me think about what Cam and I could do differently at home. We are the examples for our children.
A few years ago the drama department at Stanwood High School produced “Godspell.” You may not be a fan of that musical, but I love it and try to see it whenever I can. “Godspell” loosely portrays the Gospel of St. Matthew…it’s from the ‘70’s, so use your imagination! J I love the musical because it shows so clearly how the words and actions of our Lord turned the world upside down. There was a new way of living and acting in this world, and the standards were different no matter who you were dealing with…family, enemies, friends, slaves, etc. Jesus talked about it all. It makes me think about how we, as Christians, parent.
Back to my message from last month, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You can teach this to your children, and their neighbor should start with their Mom and Dad and with their siblings. If children are not showing love, kindness, respect at home, they are not being Christians…Christ-followers. Share with them opportunities to be helpful and kind. Teach them to SHOW their love! “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
Young children are “Me” centered. This is natural. But, they can be taught to be “Other” oriented. When Dad or Mom greet each other at the end of the day, when they come together after being apart all day long, they can take a minute to touch base with each other. The children can be taught that this is “Mom and Dad’s time,” and that they shouldn’t interrupt. They can be close by, and even part of the exchange, but the focus is on the Mom and Dad and their relationship. This can be just a few quick minutes, but it is a positive time that is not centered on the kids and helps the children begin to see that the world does not revolve around him/her. It is a start. (This quick “touch base” time can be a life-saver for a marriage too. Especially a marriage that involves young children! This exchange should be positive and up-lifting. What a great way to start an evening together! )
Another way children can be taught to SHOW their love is that siblings can be taught to look out for each other. If the kids are outside playing and someone gets hurt, the brothers and sisters should stop and make sure that child is okay, OR run and get Mom or Dad if needed. This is not natural for young children. The parent can teach them that those siblings are the most important people in their lives.
Speaking kindly and with respect is another way to SHOW our love toward each other within a family unit. If a family speaks kindly at home, it will be easier for them to do so outside of home. Everyone, within a family unit, should be speaking kindly and respectfully at home. Children, especially, can be taught to reply to a sibling in a respectful tone of voice and this is more easily done if Mom and Dad are speaking with respect toward each other.
This is how Jesus Christ wants us to live--in harmony and love. The words and actions of our Lord were outrageous for the people hearing them. Our lives should be outrageous, too. We should be living lives that are so different from the world that those around us…our neighbors…know we are Christ-followers. We can demonstrate that others are to be cherished and supported. Please take time this Advent Season to show your spouse, children, and neighbors the love of Christ.