28 Dec 2016

You are the best parents for your children: parent differently in the New year

"You know what dad said to me over Christmas lunch?"

The dh looked at me somewhat surprised.

"He said if Abi's results are good, ask her to study Medicine".
"Haha, he's still at it after all these years?"

"I think you should study Medicine"
just one of thousands of Asian parent stereotypes online... help!

With 2017 round the corner, will we be after our kids for the same things? 
same bad habits we cannot stand
same attitude that irks us
same worries about their motivations and results (and future)
same concerns about their spiritual vitality
same old way of conversing and relating

O, we have the scars to prove it!

The last few years, I have felt a few rounds of serious exhaustion. I mean, being nice to our kids can take a lot! They don't always get it or respond to it the way we hope. But each time, I ask myself what truly matters. I realize that my exhaustion arises a lot out of focusing too much on outcomes and allowing discouragement to set in.

I have learnt how to battle better. I have learnt that there is something fundamental that fuels change: desperation.

How to get a really NEW year deals with it. But here is the special parents edition. You will be surprised that your children are desperate for change too (I mean, who doesn't want a happy family life?).

Before the New Year arrives, while you are busy putting away Christmas stuff, checking up tuition agencies, sorting our finances, looking at school supplies.... plan to set aside a few pockets of quiet times to parent differently next year.

Here are some prompts that have helped me over the years:

1. Begin with appreciation

Write each child's name down. Take deep breaths and pray to see how the child has been a gift to you. Detail their spark, gift, and talent. It doesn't have to fit some existing category like Junior Chef...more like, 'what about this child makes your heart smile'?
Give thanks.

2. Bolster the relationship
I nearly forgot how brief moments of intimate, personal affirmations count. When I get stressed, my tone of voice and content of words change dramatically. I find that I tend to nag or then sit down and try to reason. But my children want to connect with me. They do want to please me and make me proud, but somehow the motivation dips when they feel distant from me. Nagging pushes them away.
Children these days feel the tension of our world's divisiveness. They are more alone than ever with smaller families and a hectic pace of life. All those child suicides make me really wonder about why these children have so much emotional pain they cannot process with anyone.
In the end, don't we all want our children around us, happy family moments, and the savouring of milestones traversed together?
So after giving thanks for each of our children, think of ways you connect best with each one and schedule that in!

Connecting frequently allows me to do the next thing: champion their uniqueness.

3. Boost their spark
Consider how resistant or open you are to their uniqueness.
I will admit to agreeing with my FIL that Medicine is a great choice! But it isn't looking that way folks, despite her great memory and steady hands!
In fact, I have met more than a few young adults who have done what their parents want, and at some point, decide to pursue what they want. Some with no small amount of hurt and bitterness. Some fall along the wayside because the climb was way too steep.
So together with you, I have to learn how to encourage my children to pursue their self-knowing and exploration of their abilities and gifts. I have to learn how to tell my son that while gaming is a valid vocational option, it is not the same as playing games all day! I have to be alright with the fact that my children may not show distinct definitions that I can shape at age 11 or even 16, and that is okay! Some people will be generalists and (like their mom) love doing a slew of things! (there's some bit of accepting ourselves in there too).

It is important to recognise that contributing to the home is an important aspect of their spark! The home is the training ground for life, and the child who can tidy, serve and share is learning to bear responsibility, be considerate and exercise self-control. These are all wonderful qualities that are needed to be able to steward their unique gifting well.

4. Brag about them....haha, YES, but not on social media as much as to them.
Tell your children often what you notice about them, both their strengths and their weaknesses. Anchor it back to a solid theology of who they are in Christ, how they are Image-bearers.
I remember my son telling me he is lazy, stupid, slow... (you get the idea). I had to gently and persistently correct him that it is normal to struggle with temptations to be lazy. It happens in a diverse world that we will sometimes feel stupid. It is true what we are slow at some things. But the deeper truth is he is wonderfully and fearfully made, and a work in progress. I had to teach him that he can fight against the temptations and human tendencies. And I brag about his success to him!

Now go do the same exercise for yourself!
Affirm your own life, notice your uniqueness, plan to grow yourself and find those who can encourage you*

Have a NEW year fellow parents!

How about let's pray this (somewhat desperate) prayer together:

Dear God, 
it's us - parents, those you somehow feel we have what it takes to birth, raise and send out actual breathing, kicking, working animations of life. 
In 2017, help us do what we must do better. 
Help us be more rested in our hearts. 
Help us see our children the way you see them. 
Help us allow them to grow us. 
Help us grow a better relationship of mutual love, respect and support. 
Help us find You and worship You in our days and lives. 
Help us remember you are parenting us all. 
Thank you for your help!

Related reads:
What links resolutions to solutions
An arc of goodness: insights from Jeremiah

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