Being a parent today can feel somewhat overwhelming. It’s a constant balancing act. You don’t want to be the heavy, but at the same time you don’t want to be a big softy.
Think of a teeter-totter. Has your child ever been playing with another child on a teeter-totter when one of them sees something else they want to try and they jump off only to send the other child plummeting toward the earth? The teeter-totter becomes unbalanced. And the child who was left behind goes crashing to the ground where, he or she will stay until another child jumps on and balances things out.
Parenting is a lot like a teeter-totter. You need both sides to balance each other out so you can enjoy the ride. You and your child are responsible to keep the teeter-totter totting away efficiently. When your child is young you do the majority of the totting and as your child grows older they take on more totting responsibilities until they find someone new (their husband or wife) to help them start their own little teeter-totter life with.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Notice that the verse says we are to train our children, not raise our children. There is a big difference between raising and training. Raising is providing for… providing food, providing shelter, providing sustenance. In raising your are maintaining life.
But training means – causing to change. In fact, the word training in the Hebrew means: To twist into greatness.
That word twisting implies that the training process is going to go against your child’s nature. But that’s really the point because your child’s nature is not a good one. Your child is born into this world with a nature that is bent towards sin. So we want to train them and help twist that nature out of them.
Your children have a will, and that will wants to do what it wants to do. So God has called Godly parents to twist it out of them and to twist them into greatness.
It’s going to take some focus and some hard work. It’s going to take some firm consistency, not harsh, but firm. But over time if we partner with God and with the Holy Spirit to train our children according to the Word of God, we are promised by God that they will not depart from it when they reach maturity.
So, lets talk about parenting with balance. How do we find the perfect balance when it comes to training children? What do we say “yes” to and what do we say “no” to? How do we love our kids without letting them run our lives? How do we discipline them without pushing them away?
In order to answer some of these questions we need to ask some questions. Hopefully these questions will help you to determine what kind of parent you tend to be so you can more effectively manage your child’s life as well as your own.
There are two different types of parents we are going to look at today. Parents who let their kids run over them and parents who run over their kids. Neither one of these parenting styles is balanced.
Question #1. Do you own ALL of your kid’s problems?
Now obviously, as parents some of your kid’s problems are your problems but not all of them.
How many times has your child come up to you to tell you that he or she was bored? Now how many times have you stopped what you were doing to solve the boredom problem?
A lot of parents just drop everything they are doing to try to figure out how to solve their child’s boredom issue. But here’s the problem, you’re taking on a problem that is not yours and your not doing your kid a favor by problem solving all of their little problems.
Your children are going to face things in life. Jesus said in John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
If you protect a child from the consequences of actions, their actions are likely to keep getting worse and worse until they hit a consequence that you can’t protect them from. It’s better for a child to face authentic consequences for minor problems, so they will develop their own self-discipline.
Hopefully, they will become stronger and more responsible because you are not taking responsibility for all the issues they face.
Let your kids take on some of the little problems they are facing in life. Let them find ways to solve those problems themselves. If they are bored tell them to find something to do. Go outside and play. Use your imagination. YOU think of something to do.
What about homework? How many times has your child waited until the last minute to finish his diarama for English class and you end up doing it for him? Next time don’t cancel your date night with your spouse to finish your child’s school project. Let them get out of the problem they got themself into.
They may not like you in the moment but in the long run you are training them to be problem solvers. A skill they will need all the days of their life.
Question #2 Are you in constant contact with other authority figures in your child’s life?
One of the main goals in parenting is preparing kids to be able to leave you one day. We want to train our kids properly so they can grow into independent adults who can direct their own affairs.
If you’re emailing or phoning school officials on a regular basis to resolve your child’s conflicts, then you are over managing. When your child gets a bad grade and deserves it don’t call up Mrs. Rierson and make excuses for him or her and try to get the grade changed.
If your son or daughter gets in trouble for talking too much during computer class don’t get offended at the teacher and call and complain about him to the principle. Or if your son gets benched at his pop warner game don’t go down on the field and make a scene.
Of course there will be times when you have to protect your child from certain teachers and coaches, and when that needs to be done… do it. But pick your battles.
If you do have to discuss something with a teacher or another authority figure in your kid’s life then do it privately. Don’t let your child know about it.
Question #3 Do you spend all of your free time driving from one practice to another?
Every time your child sparks a new interest in something you sign them up. Ballet, soccer, hip-hop dance classes, baseball, boy scouts, acting classes.. the list goes on and on.
Organized activities and sports are beneficial for kids for a number of reasons. They provide opportunities for play and exercise. They teach sportsmanship, self-discipline, conflict resolution and most of all, they’re fun!
BUT, the key is keeping them that way, and making sure that you and your kids aren’t becoming overwhelmed.
You and your spouse need to agree on some ground rules before you sign up your kids for too much. For instance, plan to play one sport per season, or limit activities to two afternoons or evenings during the school week. Before you say yes, make sure you, your spouse and your child know how much time is required for an activity.
Make sure your not going to be missing church. It’s important for kids to learn at a young age that going to church is something that shouldn’t be compromised. Skipping church for your children’s extracurricular activities sends a message that those activities are more important than God. Let your children be involved not enthralled by after school activities.
Don’t let your kids busy lifestyle become your busy lifestyle. Talk regularly with your spouse about your child’s schedule and don’t bite off more than anyone can chew.
Now if you answered no to all of those questions you might think you’re sittin pretty. But we’re not done. We have a few more questions to ask you to help you find out if you’re like the other parent we mentioned – the parent who runs over there kids.
Question #4 Do you only support your ideas?
For instance a child who hates going to piano lessons asks his parents if he can learn how to play the drums instead. His parents cringe at the thought of having a drum set in their house and they tell him that they don’t think it’s a good idea.
When a child becomes interested in something new, don’t just write it off because you aren’t interested.
When our son was little he really got into football. He wanted to be in the NFL. Statistically, of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, only 215 will ever make an NFL roster. That is 0.2%! But we didn’t discourage him.
In fact every night when I got home from work I would go out in the back and throw passes to him and he got good. Obviously, our son is not in the NFL, but that’s not the point. He got excited about something so we got excited about it with him.
We got to spend time together and I got to teach him a lot about football and to this day football is a hobby we share together. So when your child becomes interested in something, even if you aren’t or even if it seems silly to you, get interested in it with them and support them.
Question #5 Do you say “because I said so” like it’s going out of style?
Your five year old says they are full and can’t eat anymore. You tell them to eat 3 more bites, they ask why and you say “because I said so.”
Your seven year old wants to go outside after dinner and play a little longer and you say no, he asks why and you say “because I said so” like he pulled the little pull string on your back that controls what you say.
Try explaining yourself to your kids. Think about why you are saying no. Do you really have a good reason? If you do I’m sure they will understand.
Think about this; if you asked your boss for a raise and he said no and you asked for an explanation and he answered you with “because I said so”, wouldn’t that tick you off a little bit? When we ask questions we want explanations, show your children the same respect.
Question #6 Do your kids have to sneak behind your back to have fun?
Maybe they are and you don’t know it. I heard about an 8 year old who was not allowed to eat candy or sweets. She wasn’t allergic. Her mother just worried that she would become overweight. Anytime this little girl was away from home she would devour all the Starbursts, Twizzlers and Recees Pieces she could get her hands on.
Kids have one goal and it’s this: To have fun! It’s important as a parent to make sure that your kids can have fun in your presence. If they feel like when you are around they can’t enjoy themselves, then they will start to sneak around behind your back to get to the source of their fun. And they usually go a little overboard when they get a hold of something that they are “not allowed” to have.
If you have rules about what your kids eat I am not saying to throw those out the window so you’re kids will love you more. I am saying to check out other options. They make sugar free candy. Get them some of that. It’s not as good, but it’s better than nothing to an 8 year old.
It may not be candy in your child’s life. Whatever it is just make sure your kids know that they can have fun when you are around. Let them have their friends over to spend the night. Rent video games for them. Surprise them and take them out of school one day to go see a movie. Let them bake cookies even if makes a mess in the kitchen. Have fun with your kids!
I love this quote:
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. – Fred Rogers
If you want your kids to to learn from you, you have to have fun with them.
Are you sitting on the teeter totter by yourself? Has your easy going or hard nosed parenting style got you stuck on the ground? Start putting some boundaries in place to balance things out. Don’t always let your kids run over you and don’t always run over your kids.
Here are a few scriptures to meditate on about parenting. The first two are how your children should treat you and the last one is about how you should treat your children.
Ephesians 6:1-2 CHILDREN, OBEY your parents in the Lord [as His representatives], for this is just and right. 2 Honor (esteem and value as precious) your father and your mother–this is the first commandment with a promise— Do your kids esteem and value you?
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. Do your kids resent you?
Let God speak to you and show you areas that you need to tighten or loosen up with your kids.