Sunday, July 15, 2012

Two Sides to Parenting

Reposted for parents who are tyring to strike that balance:

I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum. I see some parents trying to be their children’s friends without being a parent, that is, an authority figure who provides discipline and guidance. On other hand, I have heard good Christians say to me that they are not a friend to their children but rather, first and foremost, a mother or a father. The emphasis in the latter case is on their authority and the insistence that they ought to be obeyed without question.

There is a problem with each of these positions. As for those parents who try to be a friend to their children without being a parent, what ends up happening is that the son or daughter doesn’t listen and hardly ever obeys them. I would go so far as to say that children under such relaxed parenting styles struggle to respect their parents. As for parents who make their authority felt, and fail to be a friend to their child, the result is that the son or daughter does not come to them with their problems. These children, especially in their adolescent years, hardly ever confide in their parents. Upon discovering this, such authoritarian parents often scratch their heads and wonder why they are the last to be told about their children's affairs.

God is both Father and friend. He disciplines and punishes. Yet, he seeks us out when we are lost, consoles us when we are despondent and builds-up when we are weak. The Lord is the Almighty who is to be feared and he is a dear friend who knows the secrets of our hearts. As such, our parenting should model His parenting as much as possible. With this template, authority and intimacy are wonderfully interwoven. When mom and dad demonstrate to their children that they are special and that no one in the world can replace them, a sense of self-worth is cultivated. Yet, in order to counter or suppress the effects of Original Sin- principally that of selfishness and self-centeredness –children need to know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. In fact, life will even continue without them. This is why our Lord reminds us to take the last seat instead of the first and to defer to others out of kindness and humility.

These two seemingly opposite values- the belief that they are special and irreplaceable and knowing, at the same time, that they are not the center of the universe – strikes that balance children need. Moreover, love and authority are two effective instruments parents can use in weeding out vice and cultivating virtue in the garden of their child’s soul. When done properly, the result is a selfless, loving and responsible adult; one who God himself will be proud of.