Q. My husband and I have different ideas about how to parent our children. We know we must work together on parenting or the children will play us against each other. Can you give us ideas to guide us in our parenting?
A. There are many excellent parenting books as well as some parenting courses which are helpful. One book with sound ideas is The Seven Worst Things Good Parents Do by John C. Friel, Ph.D. and Linda D. Friel, M.A. The authors say that obviously there are much worse things parents can do such as abusing or neglecting their children. They chose the title because so many parents thought they were doing a good job because they weren’t torturing their children.
Here is their list of the seven worst things good parents do with a brief comment about each one. Some of the things on their list may surprise you.
1. Baby your child. Do you do everything for your child? Do you give your child constant attention? Do you give in to keep your child happy? Children who are babied may never learn to think and do for themselves. They will be ill equipped for the struggles of life.
2. Put your marriage last. Your marriage must have priority. This doesn’t mean you neglect your children. They do need time and attention. But parents need at least a few minutes on a daily basis to talk privately, to connect with each other. A regular night out together is also important. Children who are always the focus of attention have difficulty leaving home and have no idea of what a healthy marriage looks like.
3. Push your child into too many activities. Many parents and children in today’s world are over scheduled. If life feels like a treadmill to you, it may feel that way to your child as well. We need unscheduled time to relax and be with each other.
4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life. We all need time to be alone with ourselves and time to meditate or pray. This benefits us as well as enhancing all our relationships. The authors say that “parents who are sincerely humble, grateful and prayerful ... produce children who are much the same.”
5. Be your child’s best friend. There needs to be a clear but flexible boundary between parents and their children. When the boundary is weak or missing the result is chaos, with no one in charge. When the boundary is rigid children are unable to connect with their parents.
6. Fail to give your child structure. Children learn internal control of their impulses by first experiencing external control. Parents teach their children to delay gratification by a few clear, consistent rules. As they grow they internalize these rules. They learn self control.
7. Expect your child to fulfill your dreams. Teens need to follow their own dreams as they move into adulthood. They may not pick the career you wanted for them, they may make mistakes, and they may question your values. Parents must let go little by little. Teens will make it into successful adulthood if they have some freedom to struggle and choose their way. Parents need to provide enough structure that children develop their own internal rudders but not so much that they can’t grow up.
8. I would add one more very worst thing. Give your children no teaching about God, no experience in a church and no knowledge of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Children need to be exposed and taught the great truths of our faith. They need to be raised in a church community where others can mentor, teach and befriend them. There is so much they learn in a church – they learn they are loved, they learn moral and ethical values, they learn it is better to give than to receive. Most importantly they learn all about Jesus and will likely choose to be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.“ Proverbs 22:6