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.