Be your child's parent and not their friend

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Do you raise a child, or do you allow him to grow himself and make most decisions on his own? When he chooses to skip ball practice simply because he doesn't choose to appear, do you allow him to stay home because, "He doesn't want to go?"

Are you bothered when your children say, "I hate you, everybody else is doing it," or "You are the worst parent alive?" Do you feel guilty when he says, "Everybody in my class has an iPhone except me," then find out he's wrong.

Trying to be his friend is the biggest mistake of all. You are a parent. Your child has plenty of friends. What he needs is a stable guide and teacher who loves him and has his best interests in mind. You need to at least help make decisions and sometimes make them on your own.

As children mature, one's likely to believe some of the arguments they present. Kids can be so convincing. "I don't want to attend church," they might say, or, "It's my choice what denomination I choose." What are you to do as a parent? Scripture tells parents and caregivers to, "Raise up a child in the way he should go, even when he's old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

Isn't that instruction enough?

Youth like to make their decisions, which is good to a point. Learning to make responsible choices is necessary if one is to be successful and it helps instill sell-esteem and confidence. Many parents go overboard in allowing offspring to make their own choices. Often you grant permission to avoid becoming involved. Rearing children is, for sure, a serious and important vocation. In the first place, if children were capable of making adult decisions, why did God create parents?

There also is a huge difference in being a parent and a friend. Friends are usually independent from each other and attempt to get along and please. It's impossible for a caring parent or a guardian to always gratify their child.

I attended a Boy Scout Mass recently at a local church. The priest recognized the scouts and also the leaders. He pointed out that "it does indeed takes a village to raise a child." He stressed the impact the scout masters and den leaders make in the lives of the children. They all shared a part in raising the child.

If you've ever been the parent of a Boy Scout you know it isn't always a smooth road to travel. Many times the member balks at attending the meetings or performing the actions necessary to attain badges and advance. Then is the time when a mom, dad, scout leader or someone else can prod the child to continue on. Later, they are proud they persevered, did their best, and perhaps attained the highest rank available in the organization.

Choosing which religious affiliation to pursue can be a sticky subject within families. When people reach maturity they ought to be free to choose which, if any, to follow. However, how can people make choices if they've never been exposed to a denomination? This leaves kids open to whatever appeals to their inexperienced nature. Even though young people rebel, the Scripture passage, "Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it," still rings true. Do introduce your child to your faith community.

As you teach and interact with children, love is the guide to employ. Children open up to love and tenderness. Although firmness and expectations have a place, kids sense genuine love. Give those in your care a dream and encourage and praise them lavishly. Remember Paul's words in his first letter to the Corinthians: "Love is patient and kind."

To raise a child is an awesome privilege. Appreciate the opportunity.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office

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