Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bonjour, mon ami! - Parenting around the World installment #2

Continuing my "Parenting around the World" series, installment two takes a look at the French and their parenting tendencies. Once again, this is not a blanket statement about any culture, but I believe we all can learn a little something from each other. Here is a quote from Janine DiGiovanni, a mother living in France, who recently talked about the parenting techniques of some French mothers she has seen. Its an interesting contrast. What do you think?

"It all starts from the cradle. In Britain, new mothers read the gentle and loving Penelope Leach; in America, they read the classic Dr Spock. But in France, mothers read one of the gurus of French child development, Fran├žoises Dolto. Dolto was an authoritarian who believed that children should be separate from their parents and live their own lives.
"Dr Spock would be too lovey-dovey for a French parent," laughs Thompson, who adds that this all filters down to the educational system. "In France, it is not about blossoming. It's about the transmission of knowledge."
Which is not altogether a bad thing if you have spent time in America and observed the phenomenon of spoilt-rotten American children. I will never forget my husband's horror when some visiting Upper-West-Siders I barely knew arrived at one of our dinner parties with their uninvited nine-year-old son.
That would have been fine; except that Seth was one of these precocious Manhattan kids who had to sit at the table with adults. He completely took over the evening, interrupting adults' conversations, and - to the delight of his besotted parents - performed a 10-minute hip-hop routine between courses.
In France, that would simply never have happened. The child would have been paraded out to say bonsoir, peck cheeks, and then scurry back to his or her room to read or study.
"Children in France are seen, but not heard," says one American friend, Katherine, who is a mother of two. "Except on the playground, where the parents don't get involved and then it becomes Lord of the Flies."'

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Uh,Oh Elizabeth...its the big one!


There are many times that we as parents make mistakes, but there seems to be that big one...
The one that we all do from time to time that plagues our kids across america: We try to over-protect them instead of walking with them through the ups and downs of life.  Now don't get me wrong, if we see a pond full of crocodiles, then yeah, I expect that we would kind of steer our kids clear of it.  However, to swoop in and be superman or superwoman all the time and not let our kids taste defeat, discouragement, or disappointment on an appropriate level, could being upon some significant rammifications.  Here is a great piece from an article written by Josh Harris at joshharris.com, talking about this issue.  Thanks Scott Todd for putting this article out there!

"Relationships between parents and teens are weakest in control-oriented homes. Bev and I treated our children as if they were "projects." The more they became projects, the less we had significant relationship. The less we had relationship, the more we lost their hearts. Without their hearts, the less we were able to influence them or their values. We regularly spent hour coaching and admonishing them during the teen years, not realizing that without their hearts, the best we could do was make more rules and devise new consequences. The consequences affected the outside, but not the inside.
Our Story
When my oldest son was almost 16 we let him get his first job washing dishes at a restaurant managed by a Christian friend of ours. As diehard shelterers we wrestled with whether or not our son was ready to enter the world's workforce. We knew we couldn't shelter him forever, and so finally concluded that he should be old enough to send into the world two nights a week. What we didn't realize was that he would be working with drug-using, tattooed, partiers, and our Christian friend was never scheduled to work our son's shift.
Within a month it became apparent that our son's new work associates were having an effect on him. He came home one evening and asked, "Dad, can I dye my hair blue?" After my wife was finally able to peal me off the ceiling, I laid into him, reminding him whose son he was, and that I would not have people at church telling their children not to be like the pastor's son. I explained that just because he wanted to use washable dye, it didn't make me any happier. (Note that my intense reaction had to do with "outward appearances" and the impact on me.)
Of course, my wife and I immediately began to evaluate whether we had made a mistake by letting him take the job. After an intense discussion we decided to coach him more carefully and let him keep his job.
Two months later he came home from work and asked me if he could pierce his ear. Again, my wife had to peal me off the ceiling. He thought it might be okay since he wanted a cross earring -- like I was supposed to be happy, because it would be a "sanctified" piercing. If that wasn't enough, he also wanted to get a tattoo! But it was going to be okay, because it would be a Christian tattoo!
As I was looking back on this experience several years later, something my son said shortly after he started his job kept coming back to me. When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said "They like me!" As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me - my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration - in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did. We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn't good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn't be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us.
The reason our son wanted to adorn himself like his work associates, was because they accepted him for who he was. He wanted to fit in with those who made him feel significant. He wanted to be like those who gave him a sense of identity. The problem wasn't one that could be solved by extended sheltering - he could have been sheltered until he was 30 and he still would have been vulnerable. The problem was that we had sent our son into the world insecure in who he was. He went into the world with a hole in his heart that God had wanted to fill through his parents.
Whether believer or unbeliever, those young people who are least tempted to follow the crowd are those who are secure in themselves and don't need the approval of others. The Bible calls insecurity the fear of man - it is allowing other's opinions of us to affect our values and choices.
The Solution
In the Bible we see that people obeyed God for two reasons - fear and love. King David sang of his love for God (Ps 18:1; 116:1; 119:159) and he also sang of the fear of God (Ps 2:11; 22:25; 33:8). God wants His followers to be drawn to Him out of love (Jer 31:3), and that's why it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). But He also wants us to be kept on the path by fear of His authority (Luke 12:5; 1 Pet 2:17). That's why He told the Israelites He wanted both their fear and their love; "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut 10:12). With our children, it should be the same.
Those who have the most power to influence our hearts are those to whom we are drawn: those who succeed with our values (which is what a hero is), those who can benefit us, those who make us feel valuable, and those who have earned our respect.
If our children grow up motivated only by fear of consequence, they will eventually get away with what they can whenever we are not around (Eph 6:6). If we have their hearts they will seek to honor us whether we are present or not, and their hearts will remain open to our influence.
I refer you to the apostle Paul who modeled this approach to leadership perfectly, "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love..." (Phile 1:8-9a). Paul's pattern with the churches suggests he understood that appeals to love were more powerful than commands and threats.
Conclusion
I am convinced that the most contagious parenting is living a heartfelt faith before your children. Fruitful interaction is not about what you do to your young people, but who you are with them. It's about having a real faith in God, and expressing it in a real relationship with a real person--not about methods and self-working principles. God intends that the side-effect of loving Jesus and enjoying the grace of the gospel will be that all people--including our children--will be touched by the Savior in us. I pray in Jesus' name that as you read these words you will experience the grace of God in a fresh and new way."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Parenting around the world - Episode 1

I am going to begin a series of interesting parenting practice articles from the world.  These are things that I have compiled through reading, listening and watching programs dealing with parenting.  What I find interesting is that across the board, cultures from around the world find value not only in the children, but also in those who are in relationship with the child...everyone.  I hope you enjoy reading these and maybe they will spark some discussion and/or ideas!  Here's the first one:

In the Asian culture, a common postpartum behavior is for the new mom to go to bed for a month while everyone pampers her. Here is a great piece from http://www.media.wiley.com/...

"Family members, and sometimes neighbors, take over cooking and cleaning; when the baby needs to be fed, they bring a freshly changed infant to the mother.
In China, this practice is called zuo yuezi (sitting through the month). The woman must stay in bed behind closed windows, cover her head, and take many precautions to insure that she not damage her ability to produce breast milk."

Gives a new perspective on "It takes a village to raise a child," huh?

School again?

This Labor Day weekend made me realize something about parenting.  No one is born with a innate sense of parenting.  We may think we are or we may say that its "natural", but I have learned that a lot of our parenting abilities come from life experience and trial and error...lots of error.

My 5 year old is learning to ride her bike without training wheels and she asked me to help her.  I, of course, said sure!  Being dad, I felt like this is one of my duties. 

We lasted 10 minutes and I was at my breaking point!

I thought, "What is up with this kid?"..."Why can't she just get her balance?"..."Wonder what's for dinner?"

I then thought back to my own bike riding experiences.  When I first got on a bike in my friend Adam Betz's backyard, fell down countless numbers of times, but eventually got up on the bike and rode it shakily down the driveway and back...

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I DON'T KNOW HOW TO TEACH MY CHILD TO RIDE A BIKE BECAUSE NO ONE TAUGHT ME!

I couldn't believe it.  The picture on TV of the dad watching his child pedal away with pride in his eyes never, ever happened to me.  I came home that day with scrapes and bruises, but I knew how to ride a bike.  Dad was working his fingers to the bone to provide for us.  However, I didn't have the skills to teach what I had learned on my own.  I immediately did what most all of you would have done...

I went to the internet and googled, "teach your child to ride a bike."

Reading Matthew 6:8 this morning was put in a whole new perspective after this experience,

"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Really?  Didn't I need to know how to help my child ride a bike 24 hours ago, Lord?  But then I thought, "maybe this isn't about me.  Maybe its about my child."  She looked at me with disappointment when she couldn't get it and, thank the Lord, I looked at her and simply replied, "Don't worry about it, honey.  We'll get it done."

That's what she needed and that's what I needed to learn.  All we have as parents are our instincts.  But we have so much more when we allow God to work in our lives.  During those frustrating times, when we don't have the answers, more times than not, a simple word or listening ear is all that is required to reach our children.

Just goes to prove that class is never out for us as parents...God is constantly putting us through school again, and again, and again...enjoy the ride.