Parenting Confusion – Two common things in raising children are:
Problems appear in parenting, resulting in conflicts, and
Parents tend to replay what they have seen in their parents.
Parenting is a tough but rewarding task. Hence, if we who are parents maintain godly principles with open and honest communication, our children will generally be more willing to follow our examples.
These are tough times, and many parents are experiencing serious conflicts in training their children. People tend to blame the mother for the children’s behavior, while the mother blames the father for spending long hours at work. Sometimes the wife becomes overwhelmed with the arduous, or difficult and strenuous, task of caring for the children, including feeding, toilet-training, preparing dinner, cleaning up and getting them ready for bed. Yet the father often trivializes the hard work of the mother and criticizes instead of complimenting her. Thus, many mothers lack emotional support and struggle with child-rearing.
A baby is usually born with each hand clasped, which can symbolize the craving for authority, self-will and defiance. As children grow up there is a constant struggle between parents and them in terms of the will. Early nurturing and training therefore are vital. My mother used to say, “You can bend a young plant, but you can’t bend a tree.” An expert in working with families, Dr. James Dobson, concluded, “The most urgent advice I can give the parents of an assertive, independent child concerns the importance of beginning to shape his will during the early years.”1
Parental Authority, Discipline And Clear Limits
There are frequent conflicts over parental authority. Sometimes parents have difficulty when the children challenge their authority, and there may be confusion about roles and discipline. The father may fail to assume his role of leadership, and the mother may undermine the father’s role in disciplinary methods and consequences.
The father may be too rigid while the mother may be too permissive in disciplining the children. Therefore the child may develop a closer bond with mother and respond to her in a mannerly way: “Yes, Mom.” On the other hand, the same child when called by the father may respond in an angry tone of voice: “What do you want?” Hence, it is important for parents to agree on disciplinary measures so that loving discipline is equally administered and authority is recognized.
Parents sometimes have difficulty setting clear limits for their children and maintaining consistency. The father or mother may warn the child that if he or she violates the norms, the child will be punished. But so often the family norms, or standards, are not identified or specified, and the child is unjustly punished or there is no following through with the consequences stated by the parents. The parents may scream at the child, but the conflict remains unresolved and the child continues to be non-compliant because of the parents’ inconsistency in limit-setting. Thus, parents need to set limits clearly and be consistent in enforcement so the child knows and understands what the parents want. The child will then also know that his or her parents mean what they say.
When both parents are working away from home, discipline is sometimes given a lower priority. The working father and mother often are so exhausted from work that even when disruptive behavior is displayed by the child it is often ignored. They feel that discipline would create more disturbance and guilt.
The husband may tell the wife that she should be at home with the children; the wife in turn may tell the husband that she wants to help shoulder some of the financial burdens of the family. Therefore, both parents may try to overcompensate and be lenient toward their children since they are away from them all day and have so little quality time with them. Good discipline does demand time with the children, and there is no easy way around it.
The working mother often has difficulty setting limits for her children because of her own feelings of guilt. She has so little time with them that she tries to maintain peace as much as possible by avoiding punishment. But avoiding discipline to sustain some measure of tranquility leads to greater turmoil later on in life. Hence, working mothers who overlook misbehavior of their children are often, in reality, reinforcing negative behavior.
Parents use various methods of discipline. Some believe they should simply allow their children to grow up without discipline. Others feel that bad behavior should be ignored but good behavior rewarded. A number of parents believe that biblical principles should be adhered to, including spanking when necessary. There are many parents who fear to discipline their children because they think they may be accused of child abuse. Hence, there is an increasing tendency to allow children to develop their own lifestyle and attitude toward authority figures.
Many parents face the conflict of obeying the Bible’s guidelines versus the contemporary philosophy of child-rearing. Look around; modern methods are a failure. The Bible’s instructions are the answer! Further, parents not only should set rules, but they need to be an example or role model for their children in proper behavior. The clear guidelines presented in the Bible are the best standards for child-training and resolving conflicts. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6 NKJV). Training is a continuous task manifested by instruction, godly examples, love and consistent Christian living.
Failure to discipline in the early developmental years likely will result in disrespect for parents, violence, rebellion and manipulative behavior in later years. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (29:15). It is important to note that discipline should always be governed by love for the child, rather than the means of venting anger or frustration.
Parenting is a challenge we must face if we want family relationships to improve or remain healthy. In times like these it takes courage, time, effort and love to execute biblical disciplinary measures. I strongly concur with Dr. Dobson, who said, “Corporal punishment is reserved specifically for moments of willful, deliberate, on-purpose defiance by a child who is old enough to understand what he is doing.”2
In summary, parenting confusion and conflict can be resolved by:
Adhering to biblical guidelines,
Total agreement by parents on the methods of discipline,
Consistency in following through with limit-setting,
Clarifying unacceptable behavior and its consequences,
Setting and being a good example to help model behavior,
Recognizing and reinforcing good efforts, behavior and achievements, and
Maintaining a calm, caring, nurturing, loving, accepting and supportive environment.
1. James Dobson, The Strong-Willed Child, (Illinois: Tyndale, 1978), 24.
2. James Dobson, Parenting Isn’t For Cowards, (Texas: Word, 1987), 92.
By Emmanuel V. John, adapted from “Resolving Family Conflicts – How To Prevent Break-downs And Breakups,” published by Overcomer Press, Owosso, MI; 1993.
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