Modeling Growth As A Parent – Part 1
Did you ever hear your parents apologize to you, admit a mistake or own a shortcoming?
Did you ever say to yourself, “They will never change?”
Hopefully, you will become a “transitional” generation as you parent your children whether they are still in the nest or grown and out of the nest. An often overlooked topic within the subject of parenting is the concept of “modeling” behaviors and attitudes that your children will emulate consciously and unconsciously.
The Apostle Paul understood this concept as he told the immature Corinthian church to “imitate him as he imitated Christ (I Corinthians 11:1).” Here the Greek word for imitate is mimeo from which we derive our English word “mimic”. Most of us would feel uncomfortable saying to someone, “Just mimic me and you’ll be OK!” Yet in reality, this is really what is happening with your children. Before they even learn to speak, their brain is being programmed by imitating and responding to the faces and voices of their parents. Wow, what a huge responsibility. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that because your child cannot speak they are unaffected by your behavior.
God is not asking us as parents to model perfection. Rather, He is asking us to model healthy behaviors of fluid change, adaptation and transformation. The goal is honesty and integrity within your home so that children do not see a disparity between the private worlds of the home vs. the public facades that we all hold up in public. If there is a large gap here, the hypocrisy will drive our kids crazy and make them very angry.
There are three key ways you can grow and model an emotionally, relationally and spiritually maturing adult.
Modeling growth by CONNECTING with them.
In one survey I read, 61% of teens did not feel close with their fathers and 42% did not feel close to their mothers? Want a better life for your family? Here are four components to better connection with your kids at any age.
- Learn the art of listening. James 1 says “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. In our book How We Love, we describe in detail how to cultivate the learned skills of listening. If you learn to listen well, you will be way ahead of 90% of all parents.
- Learning your emotions. Self awareness is vital to healthy emotional development. When a parent can express feelings that come from within their soul and then risk exposing them to spouse and children, you are giving the gift that keeps on giving. They will in turn learn how to express feelings, ask to have needs met and create bonding that will affect their own marriages and parenting. If they don’t learn it from you, they will have to learn it in a therapist’s office or risk future relationship failures.
- Learning to touch, show affection and express love verbally. Adults often tell us that their parents never touched them and never told them that they loved them. What a tragedy. Yet, you will not tend to do more than you’re your parents taught you. Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher, but when fully trained will be just like his teacher.” If you don’t know how to express love very well, just learn to say aloud, “I love you” and say it several times a day to your spouse and children.
- Learning humility and forgiveness. When a parent can say they made a mistake and ask a child for an apology, what a model of growth and healthiness. Connection is deeply fostered by humble ownership, apologies and letting go of hurts. We all hurt one another. It is inevitable. The more we can take the lead by asking for forgiveness, the closer we will become.
I hope that some of these ideas help you as much as they did our family. It is important to be intentional about these things as a lifetime endeavor.
Thanks and blessings,
Milan & Kay