1. Let them grow. The most common error of mothering is probably that of over-mothering. We get so used to meeting all our children’s needs, being teacher and guardian, that we fail to step back and let the child be his own person.
One day our children will be adults. Our role toward them will change from chain of command to chain of counsel. We need to prepare them, gradually, for that change.We cannot one day be doing everything for our children, then on their eighteenth birthday, expect them to be self-sufficient adults. If the child can do it for himself, let him, even if he does not do the job as well as you would. Whether it is making the bed at age four; or writing birthday thank you notes at eight; or deciding which part-time job to take at sixteen. We can offer instruction, then advice, even ask leading questions to help him learn decision-making, but let the child learn to think and act for himself.
2. Be there. In today’s society it is usually difficult for Moms to be on hand each time the child has a need. But we can schedule our time to hear about the day’s events; see the Christmas play; pick out the party favors together; and host a teen party. Most of all, we can communicate to our child that we really are there, mentally and emotionally, when our bodies are there.
3. Discipline. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”22 Discipline is communicating to a child what is expected of him, then reinforcing it through reward and punishment until that conduct becomes second nature to the child.
If a young child knows that he should not step off the curb without holding Mommy’s hand or looking both ways for traffic, and he feels pain on his bottom if he fails to obey, he soon learns not to step off the curb. If a child is taught how to keep his room tidy, he will want to repeat his behavior if appropriately praised for his efforts.
However, before we can discipline we must know what kind of conduct we want of the child. We need to anticipate the various situations and temptations the child might experience at his stage of life, discuss with him the possible choices he may make and point out the alternative results of those choices. Parents who fail to teach their children how to conduct themselves in others’ homes, at a funeral or at camp leave the child to embarrass themselves and their parents. If such a child misbehaves, he is really not at fault.
4. Provide appropriate role models. Parents are not the only role models in our children’s lives. Teachers, peers, entertainers, even our best friends, are serving as role models to our children. I marvel as I listen to our children, now adults, talk about those who have influenced their lives. How grateful I am that it is godly Christian School teachers, youth pastors and family friends that they emulate, rather than rock stars or movie stars. I frequently spot a familiar gesture or phrase of a friend in the midst of their conversations.
5. Give reasons. It is much easier to answer a child’s “why’s?” with a quick, “Because I’m the parent and you’re the child!” But we miss an opportunity to help the child learn the reasoning necessary to make wise decisions. If the child wants to stay up late, we can tell him that school tomorrow and the body’s need for rest require a certain amount of sleep. The child will not necessarily understand the reasons you give, but he will learn that thinking through the pros and cons of a situation will help him make decisions when he is later tempted to steal a car with his friends or spend time alone in his girlfriend’s house when her parents are not home.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
© Beverly Caruso