Friday, September 7, 2007

Love and Control

Another forwarded email which is worth sharing.

Healthy parenting can be boiled down to two essential ingredients: love and control that must operate in a system of checks and balances.

Adapted from The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James C. Dobson.

When a real donnybrook occurs between generations, it is extremely important for the parents to "win." Why? A child who behaves in ways that are disrespectful or harmful to himself or others often has a hidden motive. Whether he recognizes it or not, he is usually seeking to verify the existence and stability of the boundaries.

A child who defies the leadership of his parents is reassured when they remain confident and firm under fire. It creates a sense of security for a kid who lives in a structured environment in which the rights of other people (and his own) are protected by well-defined limits.

1.Begin teaching respect for authority while children are very young. The most urgent advice I can give to the parents of an assertive, independent child is to establish their positions as strong but loving leaders when Junior and Missy are in the preschool years. You, Mom and Dad, are the boss. You are in charge. If you believe it, the tougher child will accept it also. Once a child understands who is in charge, he can be held accountable for behaving in a respectful manner.

When that nose-to-nose confrontation occurs between generations, it is extremely important for the adult to display confidence and decisiveness. The child has made it clear that he's looking for a fight, and his parents would be wise not to disappoint him! Nothing is more destructive to parental leadership than for a mother or father to equivocate during that struggle. When parents consistently lose those battles, resorting to tears and screaming and other signs of frustration, some dramatic changes take place in the way they are seen by their children. Instead of being secure and confident leaders, they become spineless jellyfish who are unworthy of respect or allegiance.

2. Define the boundaries before they are enforced.Preceding any disciplinary event is the necessity of establishing reasonable expectations and boundaries for the child.

3. Distinguish between willful defiance and childish irresponsibility.When accidents happen, patience and tolerance are the order of the day. There is another category of behavior, however, that is strikingly different. It occurs when a child defies the authority of the parent in a blatant manner. She may shout "I will not!" or "You shut up!" or "You can't make me." It may happen when Junior grabs a handful of candy bars at the checkout and refuses to give them back, or when he throws a violent temper tantrum in order to get his way. These behaviors represent a willful, haughty spirit and a determination to disobey.

4.Reassure and teach after the confrontation is over. After a time of conflict during which the parent has demonstrated his right to lead (particularly if it resulted in tears for the child), the youngster between two and seven (or older) will probably want to be loved and reassured. By all means, open your arms and let him come! Hold him close and tell him of your love. Rock him gently and let him know again why he was punished and how he can avoid the trouble next time.

This is a teachable moment, when the objective of your discipline can be explained. Such a conversation is difficult or impossible to achieve when a rebellious, stiff-necked little child is clenching her fist and taking you on. But after a confrontation has occurred—especially if it involved tears—the child usually wants to hug you and get reassurance that you really care for her.

5. Avoid impossible demands. Be absolutely sure that your child is capable of delivering what you require. Never punish him for wetting the bed involuntarily or for not becoming potty trained by one year of age or for doing poorly in school when he is incapable of academic success.

6. Let love be your guide! A relationship that is characterized by genuine love and affection is likely to be a healthy one, even though some parental mistakes and errors are inevitable.

Prayer for a Strong-Willed Child

When parents bring one of these tough youngsters into the world, they need to recognize that while raising that child may be difficult for a time, it is worth their effort to do the job right. Their attitude should be, "The Lord gave me this challenging child for a purpose. He wants me to mold and shape this youngster and prepare him or her for a life of service to Him. And I'm up to the task. I'm going to make it with the Lord's help." That's the healthy way of looking at parenting when the pressure is on.

I am convinced that there is no other true source of confidence in parenting. There is not enough knowledge in the books, mine or anyone else's, to counteract the evil that surrounds our kids today. We must bathe them in fervent prayer when we are in our prayer closet, saying words similar to these:

"Lord, You know my inadequacies. You know my weaknesses, not only in parenting, but in every area of my life. I'm doing the best I can to raise my kids properly, but it may not be good enough. As You provided the fish and the loaves to feed the five thousand hungry people, now take my meager effort and use it to bless my family. Make up for the things I do wrong. Satisfy the needs that I have not met. Compensate for my blunders and mistakes. Wrap Your great arms around my children, and draw them close to You. And be there when they stand at the great crossroads between right and wrong. All I can give them is my best, and I will continue to do that. I submit them to You now and rededicate myself to the task You have placed before me. The outcome rests securely in Your hands."

I've found that God is faithful, as a loving Father, to hear and answer that cry of the heart. Turn to Him for solace when you've reached the end of your rope. He will be there to comfort you and work within the soul of your beloved child.

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