Summer Parenting Series: How Strict is Too Strict?

 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord~ Ephesians 6:4 NKJV

 Parenting has evolved into an exercise in excesses. Authoritarian parents take strictness and rigidity to extremes, with little thought to how unnecessary rules and lack of flexibility affect relationships. Conversely, permissive parents are excessively indulgent, seemingly uninterested in creating any sort of boundaries for their kids, allowing kids to run the show and set the standards.

 Protective parents hover compulsively over their children. These well-meaning mothers and fathers are convinced that something will go horribly awry in the life of their child if they are not with them every moment to monitor and direct every aspect of their kid’s existence from birth to adulthood. Then there are the so-called free-range parents who are convinced that even very young children are perfectly capable of maneuvering complex situations with little or no input from adults.

 There is no area where you see extremes expressed more fully than in the area of strictness. Webster’s dictionary defines strictness as: “a firm adherence to the rules.” I define strictness as not simply adhering strictly to rules but as also as having an abundance of rules that you firmly adhere to.

 My logic for tweaking Webster’s definition is fairly straightforward. When we think of strictness we tend to think of conditions that are unreasonably burdensome or oppressive. Strictly adhering to one, two or even three rules is hardly burdensome even by the most liberal of standards.

 Authoritarian parents love rules and take great pleasure in creating new ones. The authoritarian parent has rule for every situation and their solution to every new problem that crops up is to create a new set of rules. Permissive parents tend to view rules with a cynical eye, believing that rules are a form tyranny intended to stifle imagination and keep kids from learning about the world around them.

 How strict is too strict? How many rules are too many? In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. It really does depend on the age and maturity level of the child in question. Young children need lots of rules and boundaries to keep them safe and help them figure out the universe. Kids should need fewer rules as they mature and begin to understand how the law of cause and effect works in day-to-day decision-making.

 In my experience, two to seven are the training years of childhood. Parents should be fairly strict—never mean or punitive, but there should be quite a few rules governing every day behavior. During this period kids should be carefully supervised and even controlled. Children this age should be told what to do and expected to obey parental directives because they lack the wisdom and life experience to make good decisions. Most choices kids make during these years should be controlled choices. For example:

 Do you want to eat grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly for lunch today? Rather than: what do you want for lunch today?

 Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt to Church today?

Rather than: what do you want to wear to Church today?

 Controlled choices help keep chaos to a minimum, establish parents as the authority in the home, give children a sense of control over their world and helps kids to understand what a good choice looks like.

 Eight to fourteen year-olds still need rules and firm boundaries to keep them in line. That said, parents should begin the process of letting go of control of their kids. This is accomplished by allowing kids make more of their own decisions. Kids this age need to discover the link between choices and consequences.

 Children acquire that knowledge when parents allow them to experience the full weight of the consequences of their choices. If they don’t wish to wear a coat, don’t force them. You may learn that your child has a higher tolerance for cold temperatures than you do (as I did), or your kid will learn that it stinks to be cold and in the process become responsible for their own comfort level.

 The later teen years are all about letting go of control and empowering kids to make adult decisions. Fifteen to eighteen year-olds should have minimal rules focused mostly on safety, respect and moral issues. The penalties for poor choices during these years should be painful, immediate and long lasting. A speeding ticket should result in a loss of driving privileges and perhaps a requirement to pay for their own insurance. Run-ins with authority figures ought to result in a complete loss of freedom for a season. Parenting kids this age is a balancing act between giving them freedom to make enough mistakes to learn but not enough freedom to ruin their lives or hurt other people.

 Overly strict and overly permissive parents share one thing in common: they both forget that kids grow-up to live their own lives. It’s our duty as parents to teach rather than control them. We must enable them to make good choices so that they can become the best possible versions of themselves they can be.

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Should Parents Teach Obedience?

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him~ Psalm 128:1

 One night a few months back, our adopted ten-year-old daughter asked me to explain Korah’s rebellion to her. Delighted by her sudden interest in the Bible, I proceeded to give her the highlights of Korah’s story found in Numbers 16:1-35.

 I explained that Korah and his friends disobeyed God when they attempted to overthrow Moses, God’s choice for the leader of the Israelite people. They also ignored God’s explicit instructions concerning the organization of the priesthood and insisted on doing some really important things their own way rather than the way God expected them to be done. I was careful to explain that obedience is a really big deal to God before I shared the specifics of Korah’s sudden and shocking end.

 Her reaction was not even close to the Sunday school response I was hoping for. Looking appalled and more than a bit scornful she replied…

 “That seems a little harsh of God. I really don’t see what the big deal is, all those guys did was disobey a few rules”.

 No amount of reason on my part seemed to persuade the child that the Creator of the universe has the right to demand absolute obedience of someone.

 Apparently we still have some work to do.

 After a little thought and a lot of prayer I realized that I was much more surprised by her reaction than I should have been. She is a sweet little girl who is also the product of a culture that believes three things to be so absolutely true and immutable, that even God Himself is not exempt from the consequences of violating these “truths”:

 It is a grievous sin to restrict or limit a person’s choices (even if those choices are dangerous)

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (even if it’s demonstrably wrong)    

Expecting obedience is a form of abuse

 These beliefs have become so deeply embedded in our cultural thinking that they have profoundly influenced every aspect of our lives—from politics and education, to workplace etiquette, to how we parent our children. Everywhere we look, “obedience” has become a dirty word.

 Some well-meaning parents subtly discourage their children from obeying and demonstrating respect for adults. These parents erroneously believe that some sassiness combined with a little spirited defiance empowers children to stand-up for themselves when confronted with unreasonable authority figures. Many otherwise intelligent adults have bought into the lie that childhood obedience sets kids up to be spineless adults unable to stand up for themselves.

 Training children to obey adult authority is only dangerous when we also fail to teach them right from wrong. Kids must be taught to understand that they are only obligated to obey leaders or adults who are doing the right thing. Children should be encouraged to flee from and tell on anyone (adult or child) who urges them to do anything dishonest or sketchy. Knowing how to think and reason is the best protection from evil or irrational authority figures.

 Teaching kids to obey must be done in a context of love and logic. Kids need to understand that rules and boundaries have been put in place for their protection. If they believe that rules are arbitrary or mean-spirited, they will rebel and bad behavior will be driven underground.

 No child will consistently obey unless taught to do so. Most will become passively noncompliant, while some will openly defy authority. Both are equally dangerous; passive disobedience, left unchecked, creates an environment where folly and deceitfulness take root in a child’s heart.

 Conversely, a child who openly defies adult authority will mature into an adult who tends to be disrespectful of people and property and who may even be at odds with the law. Both passive and active defiance, left unchecked, produce an adult who is difficult to like and not worthy of trust.

 Teaching kids to obey parental authority is not a form of abuse; rather, it’s a form of protection. It protects kids because they learn through doing what is sensible and wise by following the directives of their parents. Obedience keeps kids out of trouble and makes them more likeable to other adults. Kids who are liked by others naturally receive more opportunities in life.

 In order for obedience to make sense to kids, parents must be willing to explain the reasons for their rules. The point is not to squash a child’s ability to think independently, or to make them completely dependent on their parent’s wisdom. The goal should be to help kids while they are young to develop the common sense and good judgment necessary to make good choices and lead others as they grow into adulthood.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Photo Cred goes to: http://www.theatlantic.com

Parenting 101- Foundations

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock~ Matthew 7:25

 

Like many couples, my husband and I have entirely different priorities when it comes to house hunting. I am all about cute. I look for original wood floors, unique details, and lots and lots of windows. My husband worked in construction for years and has a far more practical (read: boring) bent; he is concerned with the condition of the roof, the energy efficiency of all those windows I am in love with, and—of course—the location.

 An older home with original molding, distinctive features and a front porch roomy enough for two rocking chairs will leave me swooning and impatient to commit. Until my practical hubby kills the moment by pointing out that my dream home has no garage, a vintage furnace, and is located between an all-night liquor store and a vacant lot scattered with hypodermic needles and evidence of a homeless camp.

 If we are lucky enough to find a house cute enough for me and sensible enough for my husband, the next step is a trip to the basement for a thorough inspection of the foundation. My man has been known to spend an hour checking over every square inch of the foundation searching for cracks and other evidence of weaknesses. If I had a dollar for every house that has been crossed of our list on the basis of a questionable foundation, I could quite possibly double the down payment on our next house.

 As vexing as I find my husband’s practicality, I do understand where he is coming from. Flooring can be changed; location cannot. A faulty foundation takes buckets of money and a Herculean effort to repair.

 Houses are not the only things built on a foundation. The character of our kids is built on a foundation. The foundation we build when our children are young will go a long way in determining the outcome of their lives.

 There are three components necessary to build a solid foundation in the life of our kids. It all starts with:

 Authority

 The daily skirmishes with your two- to seven-year-old child are not about what they appear to be about. It might feel as if you are simply having a difference of opinion over food choices, personal hygiene, bedtime, organization and obedience. In reality you are in a battle with your child over who exactly is going to be the leader in your home. You win it by kindly but assertively making the decisions about what is going to happen in your home, giving controlled choices and clear explanations for your decisions. Success will establish you and your spouse as the principal authority figures in your child’s life. This will prepare the child to accept and submit to the authority of teachers, coaches, police officers, bosses and God. If you lose, your child will become the default leader in your relationship dynamic and as a result every rule and request you make will be tested, either actively or passively (depending on the personality of your child) and your child will never respect you or any other authority figure, including God.

 Spiritual and ethical training

 Every kid needs to understand that they are not the center of the universe and that other people matter as much as they do. We communicate this reality by teaching them to not just to love God, but also to obey Him, and teaching them biblical standards of right and wrong. Without a healthy fear of God and fixed standards to guide them, kids grow into adults driven not by reason, concern for others, or virtue, but by their own egos, appetites and passions.

 Love

 Love as described in 1st Corinthians 13 is central to Christian parenting. Without love, our efforts to assert our parental authority will be perceived by our kids as cruel and controlling. Teaching kids to obey God’s precepts without modeling His love and grace in our daily interactions will lead to a skewed perception of and eventual rejection of God. Too many parents in our culture love their children extravagantly, all the while forgetting that love, if not combined with biblical training and appropriate respect for authority, produces a lonely, unhappy, self-absorbed adult.

 Successful parents look at the big picture. Good parenting is not about making kids happy every minute of the day. Good parenting is about preparing kids for the future and teaching them right from wrong. It takes a combination of authority, moral instruction and love to get the job done.

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

The Real Have-Not’s

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them~ Deuteronomy 4:9

 

All hell broke loose in the Charm City this past week.

 Madness and pandemonium erupted after the funeral of twenty-five year old Freddie Gray. Gray died of unexplained injuries sustained while in police custody. The particulars of this case are unsettling and raise serious questions about police practices and potential brutality.

 From a social and spiritual perspective the reaction to Gray’s death is every bit as troubling as the case itself. It appeared that the entire city collectively lost its mind: buildings were burned to the ground, businesses plundered, onlookers attacked for any and no reason. Twenty police officers were injured, six of them seriously.

 These events have had the chattering class chattering around-the-clock. Reporters and pundits have debated the details of the case nearly to death and have theorized endlessly on why the people of Baltimore would react with such tremendous violence. Poverty has been identified as the principal cause for the behavior of the rioters.

 Journalists and social commentators have repeatedly referred to residents of West Baltimore as “have-nots.” Some of these same commentators have used poverty not only as an excuse for bad behavior but as a justification. I do not dispute the fact that many, if not most, residents of West Baltimore are poor and in many respects disadvantaged. That fact is plain and indisputable. I do take issue with the notion that poverty automatically puts people in the category of “have-nots” and that poverty is a viable justification for violence, anarchy and hate.

 The poor have been a part of human society since the dawn of human society. Jesus himself promised that poor people would continue to be a part of human society as along as human society endures (Matthew 26:11). There is nothing fundamentally wrong with being poor, just as there is nothing immoral about being rich. It is how one reacts to the conditions they were born into that determines how that individual turns out.

 Much of how an individual responds to their circumstances depends not on the size of their bank account, but rather on what their parents sowed into them when they were young. Parenting—not tax bracket—is the real dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.

 There is a ridiculous myth that has taken root in Western thought. The crux of the myth says that in order to produce a civilized, respectable, God-fearing and useful human being; one is required to have two good incomes, money in the bank, a four-bedroom house in a highly rated school district and a college degree. Nothing could be further from the truth. Things may be helpful, but ultimately things are just things. Things do not produce god-fearing, decent human beings; good parents do.

 Good parents work hard, at menial jobs if necessary, to support their children financially. Good parents model honesty and virtue don’t cheat the social welfare system. Good parents get married before bearing children and do what it takes to stay happily married afterward.

 Good parents introduce the concepts of discipline and self-control early in life understanding that discipline and limits help ensure that children will become law-abiding citizens later. Good parents teach the truth that right and wrong are fixed standards rather than squishy opinions that adjust to the times and setting.

 Good parents value education enough to insist that children stay in school, pay attention to their teachers and do the homework. Good parents demand that that kids respect authority and discipline kids who are disrespectful towards teachers, police and other authority figures. Good parents teach their kids that human beings are obligated by God and human law to do right even when life is hard and circumstances are trying.

 Just as poverty is not an excuse for bad parenting, poor upbringing is not an excuse for bad behavior. People are only savage, soulless animals ruled by circumstances if they wish to be. We are moral beings capable of making moral choices regardless of resources or upbringing. The events of this past week support the notion that we need a rebirth in this country. A rebirth of good parenting, personal responsibility, common sense, and fear of God. When one has those things, they have everything no matter their tax bracket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The One Skill Every Child Must Have to Survive

 Last week marked the beginning of winter semester at the university where my son Alex attends college. He and I caught up after his first day of classes and chatted about his day.

 Just when I thought our little talk was drawing to a close, Alex said something that promptly reinvigorated the conversation. He casually mentioned that he’d had a tough time getting around school that day. Apparently the campus was swarming with parents who were hanging out, introducing themselves to the professors, looking for things, and even attending classes with their children.

 I was suddenly intrigued and bursting with questions…

 Really?

Was it parents’ day? (If so, why wasn’t I invited???)

Was there a problem at the airport, forcing parents to stay in Tucson?

Were the parents actually sitting in on the classes?

Were the kids embarrassed, sitting with their parents in college classes?

Were the professors annoyed?

 My son explained that it was not parent’s day, nor were there any issues at the airport that he was aware of. Some of his younger friends had informed him that not only did parents introduce themselves to the professors and sit in on the classes, but a few raised their hands to ask questions on behalf of their children. Surprisingly, the kids seemed to be perfectly okay with the unofficial “bring your parents to college day” but there was some serious eye-rolling going on among the professors.

 At first I thought the whole thing was a little weird and kind of funny. It simply never occurred to me to attend college classes with my kids. I just presumed that if they were old enough to enroll in college, they were capable of introducing themselves to the professors, finding nourishment, and locating their classrooms without my assistance.

 Later, I was struck by how unfunny the whole thing actually was. This sort of thing is a symptom of a problem that cripples many middle-class kids. Well-meaning parents have become so fearful regarding their kids’ safety, comfort level, and overall happiness that they have gone to extremes to shield their kids from harm or distress. In the process, some have missed the entire point of parenting and failed to teach the one skill everyone needs to survive in this world: Self-management

 Self-managers know when they are hungry, tired, cranky or sick and they understand how to deal with those issues appropriately. Self-mangers are not afraid to participate in life because they know how to recognize and protect themselves from dangerous people and situations. Self-managers take care of their own needs, treat people the way they wish to be treated, problem solve, have common sense and self-discipline, and are capable of healthy communication with other human beings. A child should be adept at the basics of self-management by the time they reach puberty. Sadly, most are not.

 There are three ways parents can teach self-management.

 Encourage children to take controlled risks-

 There is a lot of debate over how many and what type of risks children should be permitted to take. Some believe kids should be insulated from even the most remote danger. These are the people who want to hand out bulletproof blankets to kindergarteners and put helmets on children before recess. Others think kids should be permitted to wander completely unsupervised. Wisdom lies between the two extremes. Children cannot learn to manage risk without taking risks, and they learn by doing. Kids should be coached about safety and then given age-appropriate opportunities to walk to the park alone, pay for things, ride their bikes unsupervised and walk around a store or mall without Mom and Dad by their side.

 Limit the use of technology-

 Good communication skills are essential to self-management. Technology (especially texting) keeps kids from developing the skills necessary to actually talk with other human beings. Kids need face-to-face communication to learn to read non-verbal cues and to understand how their words affect others. If kids are allowed a cell phone before puberty, parents should insist it’s used for phone calls only.

 Do not eliminate negative consequences-

 Consequences are the fruit of choices. We do kids a disservice when we cushion them from negative consequences. If a child is inconsiderate, irresponsible, rude or careless they should be made to deal with the fallout of their choices even if it’s inconvenient or embarrassing for Mom and Dad.

 In the early years, parenting is all about protection and provision. Loving parents do everything within their power to provide for and guarantee that no harm befalls their young child. As kids mature, parenting priorities must shift. If they don’t kids will grow up with all of the passions and aspirations of adults while missing the maturity and wisdom to manage and make the most of those passions and aspirations. The skills gained through the teaching of self-management lay the groundwork for a life of productivity, happiness and holiness. Without the capacity to self-manage, no one—no matter how loved they were in the early years—will ever reach his or her God-given potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Parenting Mindsets that will Ruin Your Kids

There are few subjects in life where we are likely to get a consensus from a group of individuals. Folks will argue and debate about anything and everything. The issues otherwise rational adults will argue about swing from the significant to the silly. Art, politics, the best burger and pizza places in any given city, the correct way to hang a roll of toilet paper, religion—if it’s a subject we talk about, then it’s undoubtedly a subject we argue about.

The one exception to this rule seems to be the topic of mindset or attitude. Everyone seems to agree that mindset can make or break a person. What one believes or thinks about any given subject affects how they behave concerning that subject. Some of my favorite quotes illustrate this truth:

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. ~Mary Engelbreit

Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious. ~Bill Meyerange

Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~Katherine Mansfield

There is no subject where mindset matters more than parenting. There are mindsets or attitudes that we adopt, sometimes unknowingly, which can seriously affect our ability to parent well. Most of these mindsets are actually lies that we’ve bought into, and if we allow these mindsets to continue unchallenged, they can eventually ruin our kids. Today I will share four of the most dangerous mindsets parents can fall into.

Good parents do everything for their kids

There are a many well meaning Moms and Dads who are knocking themselves out to do everything but breathe for their kids. They do their dishes, pick up their stuff, pack their lunches, clean their rooms, pay for luxuries long after kids should have jobs of their own and sometimes even do their kid’s homework for them. This is dangerous because it teaches nothing, produces laziness, and encourages a welfare mentality. Parents should teach kids how to do things for themselves and hold them accountable for a job well done.

Misplaced anxiety

The 24-hour news cycle has produced a generation of adults who have weird priorities when it comes to anxiety. Parents worry themselves sick about protecting kids from things that will likely never happen, or that don’t really matter. They freak out over school shootings, Ebola, random kidnappings and what will happen if their kids don’t learn to play an instrument or get into the “right” school. Some of these same parents will allow their kids to be exposed to dangerous ideas and corrupting influences through television, peers and the Internet. Bad things happen, but kids are much more likely to be harmed by the influence of a friend than to become a victim of a school shooting. We should worry about the things we can control and trust God to protect our kids from random acts of evil or disease.

Guilt

Parenting and guilt go hand in hand. Parental guilt begins in pregnancy, gathers momentum throughout early childhood, reaches a peak in the teen years and continues…well, until you die. Guilt is not automatically a bad thing. If handled wisely, guilt can be a powerful motivator towards change and better parenting. Guilt becomes a bad thing when parents are driven to do things, buy things or indulge their children’s whims out of guilt. Next time you feel guilty about a parenting issue, stop and analyze the feeling. If you can change something, (like yelling or not spending enough time with your kid) change it. If the guilt is coming out of something you can’t change, don’t try and compensate for it with stuff.

Blaming outside influences

Even the best kids have areas that need work. Kids will lie, mistreat other kids, shirk responsibility, and disrespect adults. Their flaws are a result of their human nature. These flaws need to be dealt with decisively. Not blamed on bad teachers, television, other children, gluten or video games. All of those things may contribute to a kid’s issues, but they are not the cause.

After twenty-five years of parenting I have learned that the time is short and we have to take advantage of the teachable moments. When we are deep in the trenches of diapers and temper-tantrums it’s hard to imagine that that our kids will ever grow up and make adult decisions and choices. They do, and they do it very quickly. Smart parents decide early on what kind of an adult they want produce. Then they are intentional about sowing those qualities into their children. Our attitude toward the process makes or breaks our ability to sow truth into our kids while we have them.

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations~ 1st Chronicles 16:15

Five Mistakes Even the Best Mothers Make

Having a young child in our home for the first time in nearly a decade has driven me to do and think about things I haven’t thought about or done in a very long time. Things like chore charts and discipline methods, dance lessons, parent teacher nights, Disney movies, themed birthday parties, homework, sleepovers (ugh), and the social politics of fifth-grade girls (more ugh).  

I read parenting books compulsively and am far more attuned the parenting I see going on around me. I will shamelessly ask anyone I meet who has adopted or fostered an older child for advice. My hope is that I will glean some wisdom and insight that will empower me to maneuver this latest challenge God has placed in my life.

One question I typically ask Mothers of older kids is:

Is there anything at all you wish you could do over?

 Even the Mothers I have admired most confess at least a few things they wish they had done differently. After countless conversations I have concluded that even the best mothers would like a second chance in at least some areas. Following are five mistakes even the best Mothers make:

 Failing to become a student of your child-

 Many of the older Mothers I have spoken with deeply regret not understanding who their kids really were and imposing their own goals on their kids. I am convinced that the number one responsibility of a Mother is to assist her child in knowing and understanding him or herself. Kids need to be aware of their strengths as well as their weaknesses.  It is not a Mother’s job to decide what a child should do and then guide them toward her goals for their lives, but rather to observe her kids and help them to dream dreams and form goals based on their own unique talents and abilities.

 Thinking bad behaviors are cute-

 Intense competitiveness, smart mouthing, nitpickiness, precociousness with the opposite sex, melodrama and enhancing the truth can be oddly charming on adorable little children. Those same actions become less charming and even offensive when you’re dealing with an older kid or an adult. The next time your little cutie gets cozy with the boy or girl next door, saunters out in a skimpy ensemble, demands they win for the hundredth time, tells you a whopper of a tale, or says something saucy, try and imagine what that behavior might look like on a fourteen-year-old. Any seasoned Mom will tell you that it’s easier to break a habit in a child than in a teenager

Disregarding the spiritual-

 Every human being has a dark side. It’s our nature. Belief in the God of the Bible has helped keep the ugly side of humankind in check for eons. Taking your kid to church and teaching them to apply Christian principles to their lives will go a long way in helping to keep narcissism, greed, violent tendencies, and self-interest from spiraling out of control in future years.

 Not finding out what they really think-

 Even the best Moms can be guilty of telling kids what to think rather than finding out what and why they think what they think. When we push our views without listening to theirs we drive wrong thinking underground where the wrong thinking becomes embedded in their character. Ask questions to discover what your kids believe about issues. Don’t jump to correct every little thing they say or they will shut down and stop talking. Instead, ask them further questions about why they think what they think and then gently help them see the eventual end game of a faulty belief system.

 An unwillingness to change your mind or admit wrong-

 Admitting we got something wrong and changing course in front of our kids is one of the most uncomfortable and humbling things in the world. We have to do it on occasion because it is extraordinarily prideful and foolish not to. It’s not as if they won’t figure out on their own that we don’t actually know everything. Kids desperately need role models who are willing to humble themselves, apologize when wrong and change course when necessary.

 One truth I am relearning is that good parenting is not really about being perfect (whew!). Good parenting is about loving our kids enough to help them discover who they really are and what they might be good at. It’s about modeling grace and humility. Good parenting is about looking ahead at what present behavior might eventually become and loving our kids enough to educate them about the God who loves them even more than we do.

5 Strategies to Avoid Raising a Narcissist

For by the grace given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him~ Romans 12:3 Amplified Version

 The American Freshman survey is an annual study of incoming college freshmen; the 47 year-old survey covers attitudes and perceptions of college students.

 The findings of the most recent survey were, well…interesting.

 The survey found that while the average measurable skill level of students has decreased dramatically in recent years, students’ feelings about their skill levels have risen exponentially. Essentially, what was learned from this study is that young adults today are seriously lacking in key areas but they feel really good about themselves. This is a very, very bad thing.

 Experts have expressed concern that many students surveyed display indicators of narcissistic personality disorder. A narcissist is someone who does not care about other people’s feelings and needs, takes advantage of others, feels superior, and has a strong sense of entitlement. Narcissists typically have relationship difficulties, fragile self-esteem, and express disdain for those they feel are inferior. People with narcissistic personality disorders believe they are unusually special and have little empathy for others.

 Narcissism is a fancy-pants modern-day term for what the Bible calls pride. Scripture has nothing good to say about the sin of pride (Proverbs 8:13). Pride is at the root of discord and quarrels (Proverbs 13:10). It is also a common character trait in criminals (Psalms 73:5-7) and pride is the ultimate cause of all self-destruction (Proverbs 16:18).

Parenting is at the root of our cultural problem with narcissism. Parenting is a spiritual issue (Deuteronomy 4:10, 6, Proverbs 20:7, Colossians 3:20) that has long-term societal consequences. If parents of young children make changes in their parenting styles today, our society may be saved from a horrific fate tomorrow. Following are five strategies for raising caring, emotionally healthy kids. First:

 Encourage gratitude and giving~ Colossians 2:6-7

 When my two oldest were young they went through an ugly phase of discontent and entitlement. We only had one TV and no gaming system, our computer was lame, and they only got new toys at Christmas and birthdays. I was certain my kids were hopeless ingrates. A friend suggested that I get them involved at the local food bank. In no time my kids had brand-spanking-new attitudes. Being around kids who were excited to get a day-old cake or a box of macaroni and cheese did wonders for their perspectives. We have to teach kids to give rather than take and to look outside of their problems and really see other people.

 Teach kids to fear God~ Proverbs 9:10

 Kids need to understand that there is a God who demands justice, mercy and right living (Micah 6:8). They also need to understand that each of us will be accountable to God for our choices (Hebrews 4:13). Understanding these two truths is often the only thing that keeps our self-interest and bad behavior in check.

 Teach your child to deal graciously with disappointment~ Philippians 4:11-12

 I am not a fan of the “everybody gets a trophy” philosophy of parenting. In my view, it has produced a generation of infantile adults who can’t lose with dignity or deal with hardship. Kids should not always be shielded from the fact that life is sometimes hard. If we want our kids to grow into productive adults they must learn to recover from loss and difficulties with grace.

 Instill empathy~ Romans 12:15-16, Matthew 9:36

 People are jerks because compassion and empathy are not natural behaviors for human beings. Parents must model AND teach these behaviors. Most kids have to be taught to think about situations from the viewpoint of others. One of my children went through a phase where he became irritated with anyone who was old. I sat down with him and explained in child-like terms the physiology of old people. I also explained that they he would be old someday and asked him how he would feel if he overheard someone talking about him the way he talked about older people. This got him thinking about the feelings of others and changed the way he viewed the world.

 Teach and model respect~ 1st Peter 2:17

 My husband and I did not to allow disrespect or back talk, nor did we permit name-calling or mean-spirited teasing among the kids. Sadly, this was a counter-cultural parenting decision. Many well-meaning people assured us that our kids would be emotionally crippled by the cruel limitations we placed on their speech. For the record, they are all just fine. The Bible is clear that respect for others is an essential aspect of a functioning family, society or organization, (Leviticus 19:3, 32, Proverbs 13:13, Romans 13:7, Ephesians 5:33, Hebrews 12:9, 1st Peter 3:7).

 Truth is both caught and taught. If we teach a truth but don’t live it, kids will see the contradiction and deem us hypocrites. If we model truth without giving instruction, we are running the risk that our kids will never be perceptive enough to “catch it”.

 The culture we are living in today is in part the fruit of millions of individual parenting decisions and choices. If we want a different culture tomorrow, we must start making different parenting choices today.

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up~ Galatians 6:9