This morning as a I sat going through my normal routine at the computer, I came across a post that my Pastor friend Noah had written about parenting and lying. He is addressing the effect our lack in following through on our words has regarding our children. Specifically, when we tell them that if they don't stop such and such action, they will receive a punishment. A punishment they never end up receiving. He is right, this is inconsistent. It is lying. It is teaching our children that we do not mean what we say and they can disregard our threats, our promises, our authority. When we do this, we are setting ourselves up to fail and struggle both now as well as later in the harder teen years. If we can't control and guide and be affective in our parenting and discipline now with toddlers, how can we expect that they as teenagers will listen to us? We will have taught them for years that ours is not a voice of authority.
Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." I always believed and was taught that this meant specifically in regard to teaching them your beliefs and values from childhood so that they will still be embraced as adults. I am now considering that it can be applied to all aspects of their lives. It is our job to be teaching them to respect us, both as people and authority figures (and so we must act in ways that they can respect) but it is more than that. We are also to be teaching them to be healthy individuals in all areas of their lives.
When our kids are young we have the power to affect their current and future relationships with everything from ourselves, to exercise, food and nutrition, learning and studying, spouses, their children, themselves, etc. We have the power to influence nearly every area in their lives. My Mom always told us that she wanted us kids to take the best aspects of her and Dad individually, and leave their bad ones behind. For our children to do this we actually have to give them good things to emulate. While we cannot be perfect parents, we are human and therefore fallible, we need to have a positive influence on them much more often than not.
I often joke that as parents, Hey, Babe and I are the dictators. If it is true it needs to be a loving dictatorship in which we try to give our children little cause to rebel or revolt, while we are still be doing our darnedest to make wise and mature decisions regarding them and our family. I think that in many ways parenting has to be a dictatorship, especially when our kids are young, because we cannot entrust the care and decision making of our children to persons lacking in wisdom, maturity or experience (i.e. themselves). It cannot be an anarchy, where our instructions are disregarded as meaningless. Which is why we need to be consistent in both our words and our actions. We need to teach them, with love and care, that ours is the last word and not a hollow chant to be ignored. The safety and well being of our children depends on the strength and effectiveness of us as parents. A sobering and weighty responsibility.