I fell asleep last night with peace in my heart and a bit of pride for the fact that my son was smiling as he kissed me goodnight, even though he had been crying when we first laid down to say our bedtime prayers. I mean, I knew the Holy Spirit had a lot to do with his change in demeanor, especially following our heartfelt intercession, but yeah, a lot of me felt good for myself too. I felt like a good mom. Which was awesome, since I feel like I fail at it on the daily!
A large majority of the commentary you’ll see about parenting teens and preteens champions tough love. It states that kids today need to toughen up, that they need more discipline, and that they need to face the harsh realities of this world so they can be high-functioning, productive adults. I get it. I am a Gen-X’er, after all. A latch key kid. The generation that had zero hand-holding while we transversed the neighborhood or woods without supervision. I’m tough! I also thank God I’m alive when I think back at the stupid stuff I did that almost got me killed, that my parents were clueless about. But alas, this isn’t a blog about the pros and/or cons of helicopter parenting. It’s about being a good parent. So what is that exactly?
Yes, it’s discipline. It’s teaching your children to respect authority, to listen, and to learn from their mistakes. To work hard earn their reward. It’s provision and meeting their physical needs. Yet, it’s so much more. If I had to sum it up with one word it would be pretty easy. I’d base it upon the best role model father I know. God, My Father. So, who is God?
God is so many attributes rolled into one, but the one that stands out to me as His daughter is love. And that’s what I thought of last night after holding my twelve year old.
The Lord said, “it matters to you because it matters to him. That’s how I love you.”
My son had been working for days on a digital art project, and as he neared completion his program screamed for more storage capacity. In a rush to delete the unwanted stuff and make room, he accidentally deleted his project. He had not saved it. It was gone forever. Even The Cloud couldn’t help. He tried to put on a brave face, but I could tell he was disappointed to have lost all that time and effort because of a mistake.
I was at a crossroads. I could say, “I bet you learned your lesson about hitting save!”
I could state what was obvious to me. “It’s just a drawing. Get over it! Do another!”
Or, I could walk in the fruits of the Spirit, the model my Father in Heaven gave through His Son. Patience, kindness, gentleness, love. I could allow him to cry, to let it out. I could hold him, listen, offer advice, and love him through the disappointment that was a big deal to him at the time.
Or, I could post a picture of him crying and upload it to Facebook, talking about how this generation needs to grow a backbone, learn responsibility, and work hard for the things they want!
Maybe I’m being a little over the top with my particular scenario, but sadly I see pretty similar stuff a bit too often for my taste. I see it over and over, these posts where a mom shames their child publicly on social media, toting the virtues of making your kid learn the hard way. I just don’t believe that’s the way.
A majority of the time it is parents who claim Christianity as a basis of their life that are the promoters of tough love, but I don’t see that Christ walked that way. God certainly isn’t up there punishing us for our missteps. He allows us to fall to the consequences of our own stupid actions, but He never puts us to shame. That’s the other guy. He’s the one who forgives us, the Dad who picks us up, kisses the booboo, and holds us tight, counting our tears. He’s the one who took all our mistakes on His own back, paying for them in blood, and certainly didn’t put ‘em up on a sign in the public square to get likes and shares from the angels.
When your child messes up, you can lovingly guide them to the truth, the consequences of their actions, and the way back to the goal at hand, or you can let them learn their lesson on their own. Sadly, years down the road, the lesson they may have learned is a skewed version of what a father/mother should be. They’ll carry that version into many aspects of their life, such as how they see the Father Heart of God, how they parent themselves, and how they deal with shame and self-doubt when they fail as an adult.
I want my children to learn grace! I want them to know loving kindness, compassion, mercy, and confidence that they can move forward in imperfection, growing as they go. They can learn from mistakes (because they will, without an “I told you so”), but not feel like those mistakes define them. But most of all, I want to model the love I see in Him. And I just don’t think social media shaming is it.