Understanding Your Role as a Parent

As parents, we frequently feel that we need to press the “help button.” I believe all of us understand the importance of our role in the lives of our children. Because of that awareness, parental responsibilities can be overwhelming and we need help. Although we would like to be perfect parents, it’s not possible. There are no perfect parents, because we are human. In a sense, it’s a relief to know that successes and failures are normal in the life of a parent. Our child needs us to bean attentive parent, not a perfect one. In fact, through mistakes, we can learn to make needed changes. Scientists tell us from brain research, that we learn more from our mistakes, than by doing things perfectly every time. At this point, we may feel as though we have made so many mistakes that we have created a huge mess! Be encouraged! It is never too late to begin doing the right thing and making positive changes for the benefit of our child. Did you know that much of what we learned about parenting comes from the daily interactions we had with our own parents? Hundreds of early childhood experiences between our parents and us have influenced the way we parent our own children. The ways in which we were picked up, rocked, comforted, disciplined, encouraged to try new things—everything—was absorbed through these early childhood experiences.

Agree or Disagree? Much of what we learned about parenting comes from the way we were parented.

To understand where we are going, it’s important to reflect on where we’ve been. So, let’s look back on our childhood families. It’s important to understand why we do some of the things we do as parents. Frequently, our children’s behavior can “trigger” our response based on our childhood experiences. Let’s begin by looking at the four basic parenting styles and their characteristics. I like to represent each one with a visual. Every family has an atmosphere influenced by the parenting style. As we continue, be thinking about two questions:

1.Which parenting style was most dominant in my home as a child?

2.Which parenting style am I using with my children?

The Authoritarian Parent: The Rock

•Makes most of the decisions for the child

•Uses anger to control and intimidate

•Sets rigid rules and unreasonable expectations

•Demands obedience without giving choices

•Is punishment oriented

•Lacks demonstration of love

•Does not listen to the child’s ideas or feelings

•Creates power struggles and conflict—with child

The Permissive Parent: The Pillow

•Avoids control

•Has trouble setting limits and guidelines

•Feels bad and apologetic when correcting child

•Is inconsistent

•Gets easily frustrated and gives into the child

•Is easily manipulated by the child

•Pampers the child

•Sets low expectations for responsible behavior

•Provides little structure or guidance

The Uninvolved Parent: The Bubble

•Absent physically and emotionally

•Is sometimes unavailable, due to addictions•Is inconsistent

•Unwilling to establish rules and guidelines

•Unable to provide guidance, forcing the child to make own decisions

•Sets few expectations

•Provides little structure or guidance

Questions to think about: What behaviors and attitudes might you see in children who come from homes with these parenting styles?

Children who grow up in homes where parents use the above three styles are more likely to:

•Feel insecure and unloved

•Experience less emotional connection and trust

•Struggle with following rules

•Demonstrate little confidence

•Have difficulty making responsible decisions

These are just a few of the possible outcomes for children raised in these home atmospheres.

Let’s look at the fourth type of parenting and the one that will help us be the most successful. This style of parenting has the best outcome for both parent and child.

The Authoritative Parent: Road Map

•Teaches and guides

•Is reliable and available

•Sets limits and guidelines

•Allows child freedom to make choices

•Respects child’s ideas and thoughts

•Uses child’s mistakes to teach him/her better ways to behave

•Shows unconditional love

•Builds connection between parent and child

•Follows through consistently

•Makes decisions based on child’s needs

•Is firm and loving•Is clearly in charge

•Provides structure and guidance

Describe, in your own words, the relationship between parent and child using the Authoritative model of parenting.

Helpful Hint: Each parent can have a different style, but usually one is the strongest in the home. Occasionally, parents have a different style, and both are equally represented.

Do I parent my child the same way as I was raised? List some ways.

When we can look closely at our childhood home, we can recognize its strengths and weaknesses. We are free to hold onto the things of value and let go of the rest. We do not have to make the mistakes of our parents. Sometimes, this is a difficult process, because of the pain associated with our childhoods. We have to ask ourselves if we love our child enough to look at the past and make the changes needed for the benefit of our child. I think most of us are willing to do that. So, let’s dig a little deeper.

List some areas of strength in your childhood  family that you would like to continue in your own family. Examples might include: a strong work ethic, loyalty, high moral character, honesty, or ways of showing love.

List some things you would like to change. Remember….It’s okay to do things differently.You do NOT have to repeat the mistakes of your parents.

Once we begin thinking back to our childhoods, we may find that it is necessary to forgive our parents for their lack of good parenting. The Bible teaches us that we need to forgive, because Christ forgave us. Forgiveness is the key to moving forward with our own families in positive ways. Take as much time as you need to forgive your parents for what they did, or did not do. Please use the prayer below as a guide if you need help getting started.

Dear Lord,

I feel a lot of pain and anger from my childhood. You say I need to forgive because you forgave me. Today, I choose to forgive my parents for (…not loving me, …for abandoning me, …for abusing me, …for not protecting me….whatever fits your situation).I know my parents did the best they could. Give me courage and strength to raise my children differently, and in a way that pleases you. I pray this in the name of Jesus.

A True Story: In one of our classes last year, Charles commented that he couldn’t recall one, single strength in his childhood family. “My childhood was horrible! My father was an alcoholic and beat my mother and all of us kids when he came home drunk. Whenever we heard Dad coming up onto the porch, my mother locked herself in her bedroom and all of us kids locked ourselves in our bedroom. We were scared!! No, I can’t think of a thing!” He thought for awhile and his eyes suddenly brightened. To his own amazement, he exclaimed, “I can think of something! Loyalty! I learned loyalty from my brothers and sisters, because we watched out for one another. That’s something I can bring into my own family.”

Like Charles, it’s possible for us to find something positive on which to build. Charles had found something to appreciate in his childhood family, although difficult, and healing was beginning to take place within him and his family. Go back and review the parenting styles. Our TARGET is the Authoritative Parenting Style, because this style builds a foundation of trust between our children and us. As you review the qualities of this style of parenting, you will notice that it is God’s model for parenting us, as His children. Our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally, consistently guides and teaches us according to what’s best for us, and wants to have relationship with us. God is our model for successful parenting.

Try Something New: In the space below, write one of the Authoritative parenting qualities that you will try this week. We can’t do everything at once, but we can start small by developing one quality and build on that one.

This week, with God’s Help, decide which Authoritative Parenting quality you will practice.

Verses for Encouragement:

Forgiveness is The Key to Moving Forward:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,  just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

We Can Be Successful Parents with His Strength:

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

It’s Never Too Late to Make Changes:

“Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26