- Valerie Bryant
3 Be-Attitudes of Good Parenting
I have been in the mothering trenches now in excess of 250K hours – over 30 years. That statement comes not as a bragging point, but as a reality that I have committed my share of mama bloopers. You who are in the trenches with me understand how it can be. You are moving along in your day quite well when, in an unsuspecting moment, crazy breaks loose in the form of attitudes and bad behaviors. When the Bible commands us parents to know the state of our flock, and then in the same Word warns us not to frustrate our children (even when they frustrate us), it’s easy to feel as if you are being held responsible for the impossible. The question becomes, “How then are we, as parents, to be right in deed and attitude to best serve our children, while producing a close-knit spirit?”
We are honored by God’s blessing to raise children. It’s a serious undertaking regardless of mode (biological, adoption, foster care). They are our captive audience, but for a short season of life. It is when we realize the magnitude of our duty as parents that we see how easily we are prone to err. Periodic errors can be tolerated; however, we must have some basic system by which to work as parents to prevent ourselves from continuously functioning in the negative.
If you are a single parent, the weight of your duties applies even more heavily upon you. Your shoulders bear the entire brunt of parenting and close-knitting everyone in your flock. Allow me a transparent moment as I justify why I can speak with some degree of awareness to those who, for whatever reason (and there are a legitimate many) are singles with children.
I have functioned and lived as a married-single parent for years. It began when we had 5 of our 9 children, and my husband either attended or taught classes most evenings. With our growing family, this eventually transformed into his working added hours to help finances. He would then be absent from most of the daily routine demands of child-rearing, to include some Saturdays. On Mondays in more recent years, he would leave before the “kids” awakened, only to return after they were asleep – repeating this cycle until Friday evening when they would see him for the first time all week. This saga spanned the years, being immediately followed by a 3.5-year period when he worked a job that was 1,000 miles away. I stayed behind with our six youngest children to provide needed stability as two were graduating high school. Digging in my heels for the imbalanced solo parenting waltz, I realized more of the plight of single parents than I ever thought to see.
My primary role expanded from one expected to always ever soothe, feed and nurture to being sole disciplinarian and physical support. With so many children under my care, whatever I enacted had to work. There was hardly time to even bluff my way through. Otherwise, home would rapidly transform into a mess of wreck-less behaviors.
Here then are the “Be-Attitudes” that helped me over the years and even now as I continue on my parenting journey:
BE TOUGH AS NAILS
1. Be tough as nails where it concerns your children. In other words, raise them in a way that helps them understand they must take your word seriously. If your children:
- Hear you call, they need to respectfully and timely respond
- Know you have rules (and you must have them), they must follow them
- Misstep, they must learn that making better choices helps them not face reasonable, bitter consequences (have them)
2. Be honorable before them, naturally charging them to follow your lead. So often I see parents living by the shallows of a “Do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do” mindset before their children. Understand that your child will likely demonstrate love to you, regardless of your imperfections; however, you do destroy their confidence to follow you. Any double-standard living invites them to disrespect you as a parent.
BE A KEEN LISTENER
3. Be a keen listener to your children, available to hear their talk as often as you reasonably can. Follow these measures so yours can know they are the proverbial apple of your eye. How must you listen?
a. Look them in the eyes, especially when they initiate communications with you. This may mean closing your computer, putting your phone down and physically away from you so as not to have distracting vibrations, or just physically turning your body towards your child. As you peer into their eyes, consciously note even the vein patterns in their sclera (whites of their eyes). So deeply noting their physical forces you to detach momentarily from your world of distractions. It also tells them the extent to which they matter to you.
b. Detach from your busy adult world. This is the only way you can sincerely listen to their hearts and hear what they are revealing to you. We too often listen “at” the words they speak, which is when we miss critical messages of their soul. In such a case, we are merely listening superficially – a dangerous and sure way to invite disconnects.
I had a powerful lesson this past summer on wholeheartedly listening to my child. It was late, on a Friday night, when I was desperately finalizing material for a parenting seminar that I would host the next day. There was no time to spare. This had been one evening when, as much as I love my children, I could hardly wait to be freed from their demands by their bedtime. That was when one of my children approached me, expressing a heightened need to talk. Their body language and tone let me know they needed connection right then. I am ashamed – but human - to admit that my flesh screamed, “Not now!” I tried faking attention and gave a perfunctory, shallow response. Undaunted, they stubbornly stood their ground, and proceeded to yell (yelling is a cardinal sin in my home – so I immediately knew this was a rare occurrence):
“Mom! You’re not listening to me! You’re not even trying to hear what I’m telling you!”
I am thankful for their persistence, even though it meant my having to do a near all-nighter to complete my work. What they shared went deeper and was not even remotely related to the topic they used as an opener. My child had wanted to be certain to have gained my undivided attention before feeling safe to reveal a pressing matter of the heart. When they needed to share was in that very moment. We spent the next many hours talking, weeping and hugging through that session. Nonetheless, when the sun rose, they were ok. I finished up my work, slapped on added makeup to conceal my tired eyes, and executed my seminar. I was well able to deliver from platform that morning, knowing full well I had appropriately detached, listened with my whole heart, and helped my child through real misery to a place of greater peace and resolution.
What we do as parents molds our children's psyche for life. Therefore, we best learn to take our parenting privilege seriously, while sometimes even casting our own routines aside, if only for a moment. It’s a moment of right attitude that positively impresses a life time.