In my first post I talked at length about ADD and how giving kids with ADD attention is exactly what they needed. This post is going to be a little different. I’m moving the focus off ADD and talking about parents and kids in general. My reason for this is two-fold. First, my experience as a youth pastor has pointed out some great general rules that I would like to share. Second, I’ve recently had the opportunity to talk with a number of parents about this very topic. It has been very beneficial to me and helping me understand this whole subject better. Not that I have it figured out. But I have a better understanding of the situation on the whole.
Love is our Motivation
1 Corinthians 16:14 says, “Let all that you do be done in love.” And that is where we begin. It is simple but it is in no way easy. Parents wear a lot of hats. Parents are protectors, nurturers, taxi drivers, teachers, friends, role models, and many more when it comes to their kids. No matter what hat you are wearing your motivation needs to be love. In case you forgot what love entails here is a short reminder.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:4–13 (NIV)
Again, it sounds really easy, but it goes against our sin nature. It is much easier to find our motivation in control, fear, or ignorance. Helicopter parents, snowplow parents, or any other kinds of power equipment parents are not motivated by love. They may feel like they are motivated by love, but their actions are not loving. Your motivation determines your actions and your attitudes. 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, “Pursue love.” If your actions are truly born out of love then you are doing what is best. Love isn’t just what feels loving it must really pass the love test. 1 Corinthians 13:1-20 is a great criteria by which to judge that action. This doesn’t mean you don’t discipline. Discipline is the very essence of love. Even God disciplines the very children he loves enough to send his son. Pursuing love doesn’t mean that you aren’t concerned with truth. Jesus was full of both Grace and Truth. Our pursuit of love is the foundation of our actions. When everything starts with love it is hard to go wrong.
Your kids won’t be kids for very long. During your lifetime they will be adults about three times longer than they will be kids. Once your kids are grown-up and out of the house your relationship changes drastically. You should keep this fact in the back of your mind. Ask yourself a couple of questions when you deal with your kids. Will your kids want to come visit you when they don’t have to? Will your kids want to be friends with you when they are older?
Again, this doesn’t mean that your primary responsibility is a buddy. As a parent you are responsible to raise your kids the best you can. Friendship is one aspect of a healthy relationship, though. Think about your friends. They speak truth to you, love you, are present, and do stuff with you. You can be a parent and have those traits as well. Making a kid follow a rule is not wrong (as long as it is motivated by love) but legalism and control will cause resentment. If you pursue love and friendship your rules, discipline, and correction will be remembered in a positive light. Do you want your kids to resent you or respect you?
Pursuing relationships with your kids is simple but not simplistic or easy. Wisdom is required for parenting. Wisdom understands when to “answer a fool according to his folly” and “NOT to answer a fool according to his folly.” Wisdom understands that you cannot raise every kid with the same formula. Wisdom knows when to speak, when to listen, and when to do something. The problem is wisdom is hard. Being wise is very difficult. It requires more thinking than simple rules. It requires more emotion than legalism. It also requires more involvement than a policy manual. When you pursue wisdom your relationship with your kids will improve.
There is hope for me and you. God is gracious. He deals with us graciously despite our shortcomings. We can be better parents. We can be motivated by love. We can be friendly with our kids. We can ask God for wisdom. We can have better relationships with our kids.