one more post before we get back to planting trees! my wise & inspiring blog friend sarah bessey is hosting a week-long parenting blog carnival centered around the practices of parenting. i rarely write about parenting here for the sake of my dear children who wouldn’t be too keen on me sharing a lot of details about them on the world wide web. facebook is enough for them. they are 20, 18, 15 1/2, and 12 (the last 2 are twins). 4 boys & 1 girl (she is the 18 year old). one already in college and one going later this year. they are awesome, and it is definitely a circus around here! jose and i are so thankful for our babies. they teach us more than we ever bargained for. they make us tired. they make us happy. they make us cry. they make us laugh. they make us proud. they humble us. most of all, they are part of this wild & crazy journey we are on to learn what it means to love, to be loved.
sarah’s call is to have others share some of their practices of parenting. after 20 years of this, we have many things we wish we hadn’t done & many things we wish we had & many things we’re glad we did, too.
yet, out of everything we read for years and years about being a good parent, the one thing that somehow got overlooked in all of those amazing books & magazines & videos was the importance of us, as parents, becoming safer, healthier, better people. and something i am more sure of than ever, this many years in to parenting, is that the safer, healthier, more secure & free person i become, the better off my kids are. it’s my personal opinion that kids do not reap nearly as many benefits from years of their parents “going to church” & Bible studies every week as they do if their parents engage in support groups, safe-places-to-actually-really-share-honestly-groups, recovery groups, therapy, and other places & relationships where they can learn to become better human beings.
in these kinds of safe & healing places, we learn to become safer people. safer people become safer parents. and safer parents create more secure, free, healthy kids.
so this is my practice in parenting these days, trying becoming a safer parent.
these practices are modified from a list in my book, down we go: living into the wild ways of Jesus, (pages 124-125) in one of my favorite chapters called “welcoming pain.” in the book, they are a challenge to consider how we can keep becoming safer people, safer communities and more accurately reflect Jesus in our relationships. they are no easy task, and we will need God’s help with these! we talk about this often in our faith community, the refuge, and how natural the “unsafe” parts are to many of us.
as a parent, they are even harder to resist (especially when parenting teenagers, ha ha).
here are the characteristics of each //
unsafe parents (yep, starting with the ones-i’m-trying-not-to-practice first):
- tend to be judgmental and defensive.
- control, control, control.
- are quick to offer advice but remain unwilling to receive input or feedback from the kids.
- think we have all the answers and reflect certainty that their opinion or perspective is for sure the only way.
- blame the kids for our mistakes but refuse to take responsibility for any of our own.
- often demand trust as implicit in the relationship without having to offer any work on our end to earn it.
- remain closed to change but always want the kids to.
- offer unsolicited advice, quick fixes, and trite responses.
- avoid conflict all together or create a lot of it to keep control in the relationship (aka make big deals out of little deals to stay engaged).
- talk instead of listen.
- project that somehow we “have it all together now” and rarely express our own struggles or weaknesses out of fear of losing power somehow.
yikes, some of those hurt, and it’s hard for me to admit how natural some of these are as my default, especially when i’m scared.
but there’s a better way, a way that is more reflective of Jesus than the pharisees.
safe parents try to:
- offer love and acceptance freely, without strings attached.
- notice when we’re being controlling and admit it instead of pretend it’s not there.
- see beyond the surface to the good that’s within each child.
- are good listeners, willing to sit with painful stories & boring details instead of fixing or giving unsolicited advice or tuning out.
- help kids feel comfortable being themselves, just who they are.
- challenge kids to grow, stretch and practice in encouraging & hopeful ways that aren’t about pressure or performance.
- embrace paradox in our kids instead of defaulting to all bad or all good thinking.
- receive help, input, and feedback from the kids instead of only giving it.
- apologize when necessary and confront when necessary instead of hold silent grudges.
- engage in healthy conflict instead of avoiding it or relying on yelling.
- are honest and kind, willing to say the hard things in love.
- help kids fan their individual passions into flame even if we don’t understand them.
- listen well.
- remain humble and connected to our own stories and pain and are willing to share our weaknesses and struggles with our children in an appropriate way.
oh, i really need these as a reminder every.single.day.
i want to keep practicing becoming a safer parent, a safer person.
and like all-things-relationship, it’s art, not science. actively processing through these lists with a parenting lens has been so helpful to me. a reminder of what i am trying to practice. what my kids need. of what i desperately need God’s help with.
God, show us how to be safer parents, safer people. we really want to be.
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check out other links & posts & all kinds of lovely parenting practices here: