After publishing my book this summer…I’ve been on camera and at the microphone for several months, taking live questions and reviewing teen-tween parenting and family issues with a variety of TV networks, radio stations and ministries.
I always get the same question… “Dr. Mathias, what advice would you give a struggling parent?”
The answer to that is difficult to impossible to get right, as the context for each families circumstances are always changing. Struggling could be defined as the fading faith of a parent, weary to see the changes they are longing for in their kids. Struggling could be the frustration and anger they feel at the repeated failures to curb a destructive behavior or struggling can be simply feeling unsure of what to do next?
Parenting for me in a nutshell rolls up like this… “Teaching, Learning and Letting Go”.
At different stages of parenthood and development, we need to be prepared to embrace and apply the wisdom of all three ideas . It’s important to know which stage your child’s at and what level of parenting is necessary. We all understand the need to “teach” – from shoe-tying to laundry, kids need to be instructed in life skills. For tweens and teens, we teach them most by what we as parents do.
“Learning” is a vital part of any parent’s life, the ability to recognize our mistakes and then take full responsibility for them with our kids is a powerful way to grow individually and to foster new trust and respect from our loved ones. Learning is the fast path to humility and allows us as parents to stay far away from the cold insecurity of “always being right”.
The last one is for me the hardest… “Letting Go” is that moment in a parents life, when we realize our kids are needing to own their faith personally. The time when they decide to “try it on” before buying it. Letting go is critical for their own values and beliefs to firm up inside of them, the time when all we’ve taught and learned with them can be tested.
Letting Go is hard when we know the probability of our kids failing, but it’s in that very act of failing that our lessons are finally learned.
Parents, hang in there and trust to the power of our Fathers love to capture the hearts of our kids regardless of their failings and frustrations along the way. It’s our job to teach and learn and let go. May the grace and mercy of God’s Holy Spirit lead you as you determine which stage of life and learning they are in.
I can tell you this… God is faithful. He won’t fail to come for your child’s heart or for yours. Christmas and Advent are the time of year to remember how committed God was – is and will be to “breaking into” our lives with Hope and Peace and Joy.
So my advice is this; prayerfully continue on dear parent..be courageous .knowing that in the different seasons of our lives, God will provide us with unique and powerful strategies for parenting our children well…all we have to do is stay close enough to our heavenly Father to hear.