While raising my children (while traveling the world to train other people’s children), I often confused setting and enforcing rules (cut your hair, button your blouse, memorize Bible passages, make your bed, etc.) with affirming, encouraging, and listening. Later in life, I did a lot of retrospection to try to figure out why many teenagers seem to resent their parents’ form of discipline-based parenting. I came to the conclusion that affirming character and personal value in children is as important as enforcing rules of conduct. I also realized that a lot of parents think that the best way to guide and train children to be responsible adults is to define and enforce rules that set children apart from “those other kinds of kids.”
Certainly, rules of conduct are very important, otherwise children simply grow up believing that they can do as they please and still “turn out right.” Human passions, drives, and urges are too powerful to let children determine for themselves what is appropriate and what is inappropriate behavior; pressure from peers, media, and educators will shape children who are not guided, affirmed, and disciplined by parents to live above reproach. Left alone to decide what is right or wrong disarms children, shaping them to drift along in life experimenting with feelings, emotions, hormones, socializing, and texting. Such drifting can result in disaster! Children “left to themselves” bring reproach to their parents.
However, a balance is needed. Primary emphasis on obedience to rules without affirmation of value, encouragement in pursuit of dreams, training to assume responsibility, and listening attentively, can (and often does) result in rebellion, resentment, and frustration….and fragmented families. The challenge for parents is to make deliberate effort to parent with purpose to affirm their children’s sense of personal worth while growing up to exercise self-discipline in their uniqueness as singers, writers, mechanics, home makers, ranchers, soldiers, policemen, or engineers. The wonderful truth is that all children are created to be the persons whom God designed them to be.
Along the way to adulthood, children will make mistakes in judgement and behavior. So do we all! Fortunately, God gives us second chances to “get it right.” That is why wise parents look beyond immediate childhood behavior to discover motives, reasons, and why children do what they do, and then take positive action to guide them toward noble character. A part of that process is that parents listen, encourage, admonish when appropriate, and diligently and lovingly guide children past their poor decisions. That guidance requires that the children never be made to feel less than God’s children of worth and value. Children are much more apt to accept correction and guidance from parents who demonstrate love, affirmation, and kindness while guiding their children to embrace rules of conduct.
Unfortunately, children turned over to the state for guidance, training, and formal education are restricted in application of needed parental influence to resist negative peer pressure and secular education that tends to shape students to be politically correct, conform to culture through consensus mentality, and accept classroom and textbook “slanted content” about God, capitalism, employment skills, and family values. Parents who homeschool have opportunity to offset negative cultural pressure, while affirming and training their children in values that really matter.