10 November 2007

Respect and Freedom

One of the things that I have been learning a lot about in this past year is respectful, mindful parenting. Growing up in "children should be seen and not heard", parental authoritarian environments, this has been a difficult stretch. On one hand I know that God expects parents to guide their children - but I am learning how this is done more by example, and less by talk. As a child both of my parents said, "Don't ever smoke" as they blew a nicotine cloud out the side of their mouths. I know that they said this because they knew it was a horrible, nasty, addictive habit, but their example of smoking for years spoke louder than their words, and when I was old enough, I began to smoke. Thankfully, the Lord helped me quit after many years of smoking.

Recently I have heard parents say things about their children, or recount things said to their children that have given me pause - and while others around seem to be nodding their heads, I struggle to understand. I am not taking issue with these parents - because their thinking is the general consensus in the Christian homeschooling community of which I am so much a part, and I have thought or said similar things. I am wondering if we can all learn to do it a better way. The respect that we want our kids to learn is a mutual thing. If we don't show them respect, respect for their feelings, their thoughts, each phase of their growth both physically and spiritually, how can we expect from them what we have not modeled. I know these parents did not intend to demean their children, and yet I wonder how they would feel if the same things were said to or about them.

Parents get pretty hung up on their children's behavior being a reflection on them, and I wonder if that completely negates those children's individuality, their sin nature, their own hopes and dreams and desires, the growth the Lord is doing in them, and the story of their lives that God is writing on their hearts and has had laid the foundation for from before there was time. I was absorbed into the life of a mentally ill mother. She told me how to dress, think, wear my hair, talk, walk, and I still struggle with these things today. Any little hint of difference between us caused a major rift. I ran away at 16 with only the clothes on my back, and when my aunt took me shopping - I stood in the middle of the department store and cried, because I did not even know what kind of clothes I liked. I determined in my heart that I would let my children be individuals. Perhaps it is a sensitive issue for me personally because of my history - but I wonder if all parents couldn't stand to practice a little more putting myself in their shoes.


  1. Jewel,

    You know you are singing my song. I learned well into my parenting journey, that I cannot command my children to love, to respect. I guess I can force them to act like that respect me, but that's not true respect, is it?
    Our home is one of mutual respect and we don't all get it right all of the time. There is a lot of grace, mercy, repentance, forgiving, trying again. But the LOVE is HUGE!

    Did you read one of my latest posts, called Peaceful Parenting. We are having an issue with the youngest calling people nasty names. We talked about how we could punish him enough that he wouldn't say it out loud again, but we need to deal with the heart issue ... the anger, the frustration, the lack of control. It takes a lot of reminding, teaching him conflict resolution, and sometimes consequences. It's a longer process without immediate results but it is more productive in the long run.
    Same child and his next older brother did something on Friday that they knew they shouldn't do. They did not attempt to hide it from me, confessing their wrong doing immediately. Because of that, I knew that other accusations from another adult that they had lied to her were false accusations well, at least misunderstood accustations. My boys didn't have fear of being honest with me.
    There are consequences to their poor choice but they understand the real consequence is the lost of trust. They don't want that because they want to be trusted, they want to trust others.
    It's just a totally different mindset, isn't it?
    I'd love to chat more with you about this parenting journey, if you want. Just contact me via my blog.

  2. Yes, good thoughts here. WE want to address the heart but so often it can feel better to have that fast, surface obedience because it makes us look like good parents and is sometimes easier to deal with in the moment than the messier experience of children pointing out their confusion and upset at our own hypocrisy. I don't have the balance totally figured out. Probably never will.


Awaiting your words......
♥ Juls ♥