By Omolara E. Gbadamosi
Gone are the days when things were still sane and being strict was good enough to curtail your children’s excesses. It is a different ball game nowadays because to insist on using certain old parenting measures for today’s youngsters is like shooting yourself in the leg. They are not intimidated by their parents anymore; some won’t admit it but they are the ones fearful of their sons and daughters. The reality of Ephesians 6:4 which reminds parents to prevent unpleasant outcomes is seriously taking its toll and it is wisdom not to cross your boundaries with ‘certain’ children because you’ll just never know.
Concern for children cuts across all social classes. Whether uptown or downtown, the problems are similar. Lack, poverty and the desire to be accepted are amongst the main reasons for those from humble backgrounds to fall victim to vices. Even children from privileged homes also have their own struggles too. Some are easily influenced or victims of dysfunctional homes who are forced to look elsewhere for affection and attention, some are just plain discontented while others suffer from inferiority complex issues and would do anything to fit in. These are prevalent excuses that are leading youngsters astray and farther away from good judgment. So what are we to do, ground them? Beat them blue-black or curse them? Parenting is definitely not for the faint hearted. Have mercy, dear Lord.
Lame as it sounds, love remains one powerful way of dealing with them. That’s the truth- love them! Sounds cliché? Maybe, but I am talking about love in its practical form. When I say love, it is not to shower a child with whatever he wants or overlook his naughtiness, No, dad! It is not anyone’s wish to groom a child who would grow up to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. God forbids! Yorubas call such a person ‘apka’ (a caterpillar, destroyer or devourer that never adds value to anyone or any endeavor). May we reap bountiful harvests of honor and peace in our latter days.
I am talking about being open-minded but solid with the extrovert, patient and understanding with the gentle, firm but appreciative to the lazy, a dodged encourager to the timid, mild but unwavering to the daring, a lovely example to the rebellious and the list goes on. Understand your children and treat them according to the way they are wired. Realize and accept the fact that each child is unique so you ought not use your super child as a yardstick for the rest of your children, no! You will be doing yourself a disservice by creating room for strife and envy. Avoid it. What this means is that you should make it a priority to be your child’s friend. If you want to know what’s going on in his life (and there may be a lot going on), you need to get into his world. That’s right! Come down to his level!
Sit and play video games with your son, occasionally make a conscious effort to go on trips together and have a great time. Compliment their outfits and work at being an admirable ‘fashionista’ so you can gain the right to become their fashion police. It works! Gist with them, don’t be a grumpy old judge. In some cases where you may have to deal immediately with a wrong notion, choose a most suitable way to pass your message across without coming on as being overly critical or condemning. Understand that their world is so different from your growing-up days. In case you made mistakes in your youth, be courageous enough to share the experience(s) with them. Please, be interested in their adventurous world thereby giving your children a reason to be comfortable around you.
As mentioned earlier, be their buddy but do not water down your authority. You have to set your boundaries and stick to them. With time, they will learn to trust and respect you more. Imagine being a parent whose child can tell you just about anything or have one who considers the consequences of his actions so he does not misrepresent his family! That is an incredible achievement in this day and age. With the explosive effects of social media and pop culture on our youth, and the adverse influence of violence, cultism, promiscuity, homosexuality and the fame and fortune race, you cannot afford to relate with your sons or daughters from a distance. You need to know them personally and individually. You are not just daddy and mummy, you are their friend, their superman and wonder woman, the ideal adult figure- their role model. Choose to be intentional.
Perhaps, in the past, parents paid attention to their children during their teenage years but today, it is crucial you catch them young! If you are doing what you are meant to do as a parent, you will be able to discern or identify various traits or habits you may need to encourage or curb quickly from their early years. Schools won’t be the only ones making these observations but would only serve as some form of confirmation to issues requiring applause or immediate attention.
Many families deeply want to do more than they offer their babies but the challenges and demands of our fast paced world do not seem to help matters at all. Utterly true but, it should never be an excuse to leave their psychological and socio-emotional wellbeing to chance. An expensive education, highly qualified teachers and reliable nannies are great aides but the onus remains on parents to do the needful. Even a poor background is not enough reason to let your children fall by the way side. You have a choice like everyone else. Ben Carson, Pastor E. A. Adeboye and the likes made it against all odds, so can yours. Be intentional. Be diligent. Catch them young!
The importance of a good relationship can never be overemphasized. Researches indicate that the most important parental strategy is to be involved in your child’s life. Positively involved that is. Spend time with them. Never trade presents for presence. Such an approach promotes a dangerous relationship of becoming familiar strangers, which is no relationship at all and where there is no relationship, expect anything. Gifts are good but talking is better. The outcomes differ.
Your relationship with your child is so important because it opens a healthy line of communication between father and son, mother and daughter and vice versa. This invariable helps you to know who Theodore is, what he watches, the company he keeps, even the center of their discussions, his interests, where he goes and what his peers consider a ‘normal’ code of dressing. You will easily gain access to their 411 code (teenage secret texting or communication terms meant to confuse parents).
The more involved you are, the more you will be able to keep up open lines of communication about tough issues and play vital roles during those evil times of peer pressure. The bond you build fosters trust and helps keep their conscience alive!
In spite of the choking burden of adult and family life, find a way to be present and active in your child’s life today, so he will have enough reason to be rewardingly present in yours when you are old and unable to influence his choices or lifestyle. I say this because with the way their minds are being reoriented, a time may come when we will have old people’s homes where the future ‘civilized’ Nigerian would send or abandon their aging parents. Your latter days need to be spent in peace and not in turmoil or regrets. Now is the time to get it right. For every time you leave that child, at the mercy of a home staff, dependable on the nature of the boy, he may see you as selfish or uncaring. Every time you aggressively turn down his requests to have certain trendy things, you are wicked and he would blame you for any form of insecurities he may suffer. I am not saying you should concede to his every request but if you must decline, you owe your child a genuine explanation spoken with love and respect. Calmly, make him understand the reason for your decision or action. Growling does nothing but worsen the child’s misconception or ill feelings towards you.
The question however is, is love enough? Can you handle the challenges of parenting millennias effectively with mere human intellect and resources? Judging from what society is producing today, there has got to be better options out there.
Relying on the originator of familyhood I believe, remains our only guarantee. He alone knows who each child truly is and what to do with them. There are times when we will surely be at our wits ends. When such times come, what do we do, who do we run to? There is and would always be a limit to human wisdom; when even sound godly counsel from experienced parents or pastors won’t suffice. A time and season when some families feel so helpless and the situation begins to scream the obvious at them- it’s between you and us, Lord! We are alone in this, help us, we are clueless!
Scriptures remains the only consistent and reliable child development theory. It is effective! Carefully put together by the author of parenthood Himself- Abba Father. Anyone who follows it cannot go wrong. The bible has given rules for grooming our children and it is expected of us to take God’s coaching seriously by abiding in HIs dependable word. He is the Ultimate Teacher and Wisest Counselor. He has instructed you and I to train up a child in the way he should go, that foolishness is bound in the heart of children but the rod of correction will drive it far from them because sparing the rod ‘will’ spoil the child. He who said children should honor their parents also commanded us not to provoke them to wrath. Are we abiding in His Word? Have you taken time to ponder upon the deep meanings of each verse? Do we realize ‘the rod’ does not necessarily mean to whip? There are profound revelations and wisdom in them and they are offered to us free of charge!
God who placed priority on love knows the importance of building healthy family relationships.
Little wonder Joseph’s constraints and response to temptation and pressure. His love for God kept him from taking the bait even when he might have thought of the possibility of getting away with the crime. Joseph simply couldn’t bring himself to offend God. He chose the hard way. That is what a bonded family can ignite in their children- integrity.
Should in case the child falls, well, the testimony of Jesus’ impact in the lives of His disciples helps us to learn that though the righteous may fall seven times, he will surely rise again. His influence on them was so strong that it took the grace of God to restore Peter to service because the guilt of his betrayal nearly crushed him. Only a relationship with someone can cause you such grief. The same could be said of David, the man after God’s heart. David loved The LORD! Yet, he erred. His error tore at him so deeply, he ‘never’ repeated the act again. He repented whole heartedly and the bible made no mention of such incidence again.
Friends, the world is in dire need of world changers; stable-minded children who are comfortable in their own skin and are not easily swayed by what the world terms as ‘cool’ or ‘normal’; boys and girls who have been groomed to stand and overcome today’s vices; God’s little battle axes who have been ‘fed’ and armed early with the word; children who would grow up to become men and women of purpose.
Eph 5: 3-8, 1Thes 4: 3-7, Pr 7:1-7, Heb 13: 4-5, Pr 31:1- 5, Pr 28:13-14, Pr 6: 32, Matt 5: 27-30,
1Peter 2:11-12, 1Cor10:12, Rm 13:14
So, does it mean if we do as the bible instructs, we will be free from headaches and heart aches? Of course not; life itself is a battlefield. The example of Judas Iscariot simply tells parents to be prepared should in case there is at least one unanticipated situation. Do not cast blame on his peers. True, bad influences abound but leave them. They are everywhere. Focus on your child. Feed your lamb. Scripture encourages us to hold on to God, the author and finisher of our faith. Your children have great destinies to fulfill and we need Jesus’ help all the way.
Come down to their level and more importantly be a shining example of godliness and contentment; responsibility, integrity and love.
You can read more of Omolara E. Gbadamosi’s Christian related articles on www.facebook.com/lampdivine.