In these early years of parenting, when training and discipline seem to fill my days, it’s hard to imagine future friendship with my children (quite possibly because at 1 and 3, I can’t imagine what they will be like at 10, 18, or 25!). But I hope that one day, when the hard work of the early years and the enduring work of the later years bid my time as the primary nurturer, caregiver, teacher, trainer, etc…farewell, I will have laid solid foundation for strong friendships with each of my children.I appreciated this chapter in the Mission of Motherhood because of the long-term perspective Ms. Clarkson reminds of to keep during these trying, tiring years. She refers to Galatians 6:7, in which the principle of reaping what we sow is discussed.
“If I sow affection, encouragement into the lives of my children, chances are I will reap deep, close relationships with them that will last for a lifetime. If I don’t make our relationships a priority, I risk reaping the consequences of a broken, scarred, or distant relationship.”
I believe that what she says is true. From personal experience, the former does cause broken, scarred, distant relationships.
“Often times our maost basic sense of well-bring stems from our connectedness and sense of being unconditionally loved by the significant people in our lives. When that sense of love and connection are missing, depression and insecurity result, and the search begins to find someone to fill in the lonely times.”
I don’t need to ask how many of you have family members (or you yourselves at some point) who have gone astray due to broken relationships with parents. My family was not left untouched.
“God designed the family to be the stabilizing structure in our culture in which to build those vital relationships and also to teach the art of true intimacy. In the context of the family, children learn how to be themselves, how to live peacefully with others, how to give and receive affection, how to care for each other. They develop both the personal security and the relationship skills that are necessary to attach themselves to another person, as well as the wisdom to choose healthy attachments over unhealthy ones. When children have a safe haven–a place to be protected from the storms of life; a place to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually encouraged; a place where they enjoy the time and attention from the important people in their lives–and time in which to mature, then they will have a good opportunity to become emotionally healthy and flourishing human beings.”
I really cannot live being any other way than what is described above, yet, this is not what I experienced growing up. I am so excited to provide this for my own children and hope that we will successfully do so.
Five relationship principles are discussed throughout the remaining of the chapter:
1. Time and availability.
“Whatever the age, my children develop better when they know I will make our time together a priority…Simply being with them, enjoying their company, playing whatever game they choose for us to play (even another round of Candyland!) matters most to our children and best fosters a loving relationship with them. This commitment to them will build bridges of love and intimacy far more effectively than one more correction or assigned chore.”
2. Acceptance and unconditional love.
“A child who can go to her mother or father an reveal her inner heart and still feel accepted will feel secure enough to take risks and grow. If that child senses she might be rejected because of her performance–or, worse, because of her thoughts and feelings–then she will wonder if she can ever live up to her parents’ standards…when children feel that pleasing their parents is impossible, they often reject the values and beliefs of their parents.”
“Sometimes it’s tricky to reconcile our duty to train and discipline our children with out need to accept them unconditionally. One thing that has helped me immensely in this regard is the realization that my children are still immature. This may sound obvious, but it’s something many parents forget…”
3. Affirmation and encouragement.
“This is not to say that we must praise our children indiscriminately. Effective encouragement requires thoughtfulness and effort. Words of affirmation should be both positive and true, based on a careful, loving, and specific observation of a child’s strength and efforts. Even gentle words of correction, if balanced with affirmation of a child’s potential and efforts, can be encouraging, but thoughtless criticism merely stings a child’s soul.”
“In particular, I try not to criticize my children for what they cannot help.”
This was so helpful! I experienced such a lack of affirming, encouraging words and I hope to build my children up, truthfully.
“One day, when my children were young, I was frustrated more than usual with the chronic messes around the house. I said to Clay, “It seems like our training makes no difference in the lives of these children! How many times am I going to tell them to pick up after themselves?” Clay gently responded, “Honey, how old were you when you quit sinning? That’s how old they’ll be when they obey us perfectly!”
Oh, how I can relate! There have been several times when I have lamented to Blane that I feel like a failure and as if my child just won’t obey. He reminds me that she is a sinner, and that it’s also not always exactly a reflection of my work.
5. Relationship Training.
“..an important part of deeply loving our children is training them to deeply love themselves and others. We train them by helping them to confront their own sin and selfishness and to replace these attitudes with patient and generous love…Relational training involved teaching our children the value of honor–giving worth to another person out of the dignity of our own heart…”
This chapter is one I could read several times over. It is a treasury of wisdom from which I have already returned to several times since my first reading of it. It would be easy to quote the entire chapter!
I have walked away with an even sharper vision for my role as a mother…to be building a strong relationship that will last through even the hardest times of parenting.