Research suggests that parents who embrace an authoritative parenting style (as opposed to authoritarian, overly permissive, or neglectful) styles are more likely to raise independent, self-reliant, socially intelligent kids. In fact, issues such as substance abuse, poor emotional regulation, or low self-esteem are more commonly seen in other parenting styles.
Authoritative parents somehow manage to strike the perfect balance between discipline and grace. They help their children learn how to solve problems, set clear rules, and establish open avenues of communication. They are clear about what they expect from their children, but they are also flexible when they need to be, and they are understanding when their child makes mistakes.
Balance Rules with Responsiveness
One way to be as kind as you are merciful is to set the house rules you deem necessary, while also being very responsive to your child’s needs. Being responsive involves responding with warmth and acceptance to their feelings, needs, and interests. It also embraces sensitivity to how they are feeling. Having rules only becomes a problem when they are too strict and too numerous, and when they are backed by coldness, a lack of care, and neglect of a child’s inner state of mind.
Demonstrate the Behavior You Wish Your Kids to Adopt
In addition to being responsive, be an excellent role model for the values you wish to instill in your kids. If you feel like you could use a little inspiration, then brush up on top films about Christian grace and compassion. These include Taken by Grace (a movie about how one family has their faith tested), Woodlawn (about finding unity in the face of conflict), and End of the Spear (an emotionally-packed film about the power of forgiveness).
All these films show characters responding in a way that rises above hatred, anger, and retaliation. Many have positive role models that you can keep in mind when tension is high and you want to ensure you don’t lose your cool.
Being Clear but Flexible
Rules should have no room for misunderstanding, and they should have consequences. Important house rules include “Do your homework before your leisure time every afternoon, “ “Respectful communication is to be used always,” and “Honesty is expected.” These are all rules that lay out exactly what parents expect. There should also be consequences for breaking them.
For instance, a child who skips out on homework repeatedly might be given less time to do something they enjoy, or lose other privileges. Where does grace come into the picture? In flexibility. For instance, if your child misses a homework task once because they were busy helping someone in need, or caring for a sibling, it makes sense to let it slide. However, if a child is blatantly breaking rules, with no good reason for it, then consequences are vital.
What Do Fair Consequences Look Like?
A fair consequence for breaking the rules should be tied to the original behavior and be specific and measurable in time. For instance, if your child is unkind to a sibling, when things have calmed down, you can state that there will be consequences. For instance, they may have to wash the dishes, put money in a can for swearing, or hang the laundry. They should also know the specific time frame in which you expect them to complete the task.
Communicate With Your Child Frequently
Christian parents can set a good example with their children by being open and generous with their time—especially when kids need to get something off their chest. Parents who are too quick to jump in a give advice or correct their child too often for what they do or say, may be perceived as judgmental and this may lead their children to greater reluctance to share their worries and doubts.
Sometimes, your child may admit to doing something wrong or saying something hurtful to others. Parents can exercise mercy by inviting their child to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, instead of criticizing their child or making them feel worse than they already do.
When parents are in a conflict with their child, they can make it a point to be open, active listeners and to really try to understand the reasons behind their child’s thoughts and emotions. Finally, instead of focusing on the child (using “You” language, which puts a child on the defensive) they can use “I” language. For instance, “When you come home late, I feel worried. I don’t know what is happening to you, and I feel anxious and scared. That is why I set curfews for you kids.”
Allow Natural Consequences to Happen
As a loving parent, your instinct may be to rush in to fix your child’s problem, but doing so will prevent them from experiencing the magnificent growth that can arise out of “failure.” For instance, if your child doesn’t prepare well for a test, then the logical consequence is that they should fail. If they don’t train hard enough, then they may not make the football team. Asking a coach or teacher for leeway may result in a short-term benefit, but it will stop your child from learning the importance of taking accountability for their mistakes, solving their own problems, and feeling on cloud nine when they do better next time.
Rules are vital when it comes to raising independent, resilient kids who know how to solve problems and who own their actions. However, ensuring rules are kept should involve a wise blend of authority and mercy. Flexibility is also vital; no two problems and occasions are ever the same, so keep your child’s emotions into account when they behave in a way that may disappoint you.
~ Written by Jackie Edwards