Sunday, January 10, 2016

Serious Advice 1-2: Respond to Them

            The last list of advice was a humorous one . . . humorous, but true.  However, on a more serious note, there is another list of rules that I try to live by.  These are beliefs that I have formed, though not executed perfectly, from things that I’ve read and by watching how people (including myself) interact with their kids.  They are ones that you probably will see in some parenting books.  They may not fit for you, but they do for me.  (These do not include specifics or advice on discipline.  There are numerous good books out there about that.  These are just some general principles.  And many of them also speak to how we should relate to all people, not just our children!) 

            #1  Hold them as much as possible when they are young.  Don’t buy the old “Just let them scream it out.  It’s good for their lungs and it makes them more independent” thing.  I think the opposite is true.  They are looking to you to respond to their calls.  A little baby isn’t trying to manipulate you when it is crying to be picked up.  (The ability to manipulate comes later.)  Babies actually have a need to be held and interacted with.  There have been neglected children that have died for lack of human contact.  It’s a physical need to be cuddled and communicated with. 

            I think that the more you do respond to their calls, the more secure they will be; and therefore, the more independent they’ll become later.  You would have given them a stable foundation from which they could explore the world.  (At least, that is my hope because I’ve probably held my children “too much” when they were young.  Even the handyman, Bill, noticed one day and said “Lady, you are never without a kid on your hip.”  And my shoulders are paying for it.) 
            They’ll also be comfortable being appropriately dependent on another person because they knew that they could depend on you when needed.  And hopefully, prayerfully, they’ll transfer this trust to God more readily and learn to be appropriately dependent on Him because Mom and Dad modeled for them someone who was there and who responded to their calls when they were young.  They will better understand God’s love and faithfulness.  
            Lamentations 3: 22-23:  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
            #2  On a similar note, don’t turn them away when they come to you for comfort.  When they are scared of a storm or the dark or got their feelings hurt, take their fears and feelings seriously - even if they seem “childish” to you.  They are children and so they will be childish. 
            Think back on how it felt to be a child.  Imagine how it must feel to be afraid or heartbroken.  And you go to Mom or Dad seeking safety or comfort.  But instead, they send you back to your lonely, dark room or say something like, “Stop being such a crybaby.  It’s not that big of a deal!”  As though your feelings had no validity.  Not only would you have a broken heart or uncomforted fears, but now you are feeling like a fool for having them.  And you’ve learned not to go to Mom and Dad with your concerns.  
            There’s no easier way to shut a child down than to make them feel unimportant or to talk down to them.  Once again, you reflect God to your children.  And God doesn’t send us away when we come to Him with our “childish” concerns and He doesn’t call any of them “trivial.” 
            As a counselor, I once met with a woman and her six-year-old son.  The mom was doing everything in her power to push this child away because she really did not love him.  (You don’t think this is ever possible, but it does happen.)  And one of the saddest things I have ever seen was this little boy trying and trying to talk to his mother and to joke with her and smile at her.  He kept looking into her face, searching for her eyes.  But never once would she ever look him in the eye.  She always looked down at the floor.  She basically wouldn’t even acknowledge his existence.  He wasn’t worth a glance.  And if it broke my heart to see it, I can’t imagine what it did to his! 
            My husband can’t understand why I always let the kids come in to say “Good Night” even if it wakes me up.  I told him that I never want to turn them away when all they want is a hug or to be by me or to hear an “I love you!”  Wanting these things is something I want to encourage, not discourage.  And it will set the tone for the future when I want them to come to me with their questions and concerns or for guidance.  If I shut them down and turn them away now with the little things, they will not come to me with the big things. 
            Do you want your children to believe that God has time for them, that He cares about their fears and hurts?  Do you want them to be able to readily call on the Lord for help?  Then model it!  They will have an easier time believing this if they had a parent that made them feel welcome, even when their problems seemed “childish.” 
            “Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.  My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!  Your face, Lord, I will seek.  Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.  Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.  Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.’”  (Psalm 27: 7-10)