Part 1 of a 2-Part Series
Parenting education is one of the most commonly requested counseling services, even if it is not the chief reason for seeking professional help. Children do not appear to come with instructions, and even if we feel fairly confident about parenting at the outset, uncharted territory in family life is almost guaranteed to bring questions and lead to feelings of frustration, fear, and uncertainty. In this two-part series, I offer effective parenting tips for common aspects of parenting and for all ages of children.
1) Chores in the Family
In any family, every member should contribute to the running of the household according to their age and ability. Even very young children can be taught to perform simple household duties, such as putting cat food in the cat dish or clothes in the hamper. Explain to your children that doing chores is part of being a family, and that everyone pitches in. I cannot stress enough, however, the importance of this concept being modeled consistently by parents. Do not assign a task that you are unwilling to do yourself, or that your kids have never witnessed you or your spouse doing. While a full-time working parent may do fewer chores than a non-working or part-time working parent, no parent should be entirely exempt from household chores. Do as I say, not as I do parenting breeds resentment and disrespect in children, who are often sensitive to issues of hypocrisy and fairness. Again, taking care of the family home is part of being in the family.
2) Money Matters in Parenting
Many families link monetary allowances to the completion of chores, and that is certainly one way of teaching responsibility, the value of money, and a work ethic. An effective alternative is for parents to share their money with their children by giving them an allowance because the children are part of the family and cannot work or earn a living on their own (just as a working parent shares their earnings with a non-working parent). Seen in this way, the children do not perform chores in order to be paid, but because they are part of the family and responsible to help care for the household and keep it running smoothly. This honors the children as equally important members of the family. It teaches children to participate in the work of the family for the family’s sake and because it is the right thing to do, and not just in order to get paid. Parents who pay their children an allowance for doing their household chores when they are younger often find that when the kids are older they hold their hands out to be paid when asked to do anything.
Parents, if you tithe from your income yourselves, teach your children to do the same. Children who receive an allowance or are paid to work can and should learn early on to honor God with the first-fruits of the money they receive. Show them the verses in the Bible that pertain to giving, tithing, and caring for the church and those who serve them. Talk about how the tithe is specifically used in your own church, such as to pay for utilities, maintenance, goods such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies, coffee and other refreshments, staff salaries, children’s and youth programs, and other in-house ministries, as well as outreach, missions, etc.
Saving money is another value that is good to instill early in a child’s life. A good rule of thumb is to set aside 10% of what is received. In order to make it easier for children to tithe and save, break their allowance into coins and small bills so that it is easy to divide. Use envelopes, piggy banks, or jars to store spending money, tithe money, and savings separately. Parents can open bank accounts on behalf of their children in which to deposit long-term savings. Savings money can either be saved indefinitely or else it can be used to help a child acquire high-ticket items, such as a video game system or a costly pair of jeans.
3) Your Children and Discipline
Here the “Golden Rule” applies: Do to unto others as you would have them do unto you. Parent as you would like to be parented if you were the kid. Being screamed and yelled at, or called names, is not only disrespectful and degrading, but it often deflates a child’s desire to be obedient or to please you. Furthermore, verbal and emotional abuse can break the spirit of a child, leading to depression, anxiety, and self-doubt.
In many two-parent families, one adult is the primary disciplinarian and the other the primary nurturer. Often this manifests naturally due to temperament and individual giftedness. In two-parent nuclear families, where the children are the biological product of the couple’s union, many experts agree that sharing the responsibility of discipline and nurture fosters healthier family relationships. A good cop / bad cop dichotomy can drive wedges into family relationships and lead kids to pit one parent against another. This is especially dangerous in the case of remarriages with children from previous relationships. When parents take turns in disciplining, the children are encouraged to respect both parents equally, to feel emotionally edified and safe, and to seek comfort and support from both parents.
In blended families, the situation is slightly different. Especially if the children are beyond toddlerhood at the time of remarriage, it is often advised that the biological parent be the primary deliverer of discipline to his/her own children from a previous relationship. Kids do not typically have the emotional bond with a step-parent that they do with a biological parent. Do not make the mistake of continually assigning the step-parent the role of the heavy, which typically breeds resentment in the step-children. The step-parent’s primary role is to be the friend, consultant, cheerleader, teacher, etc. and to be a role model for the step-child of what it is to be a healthy man or woman and how such a person should treat their spouse.
Avoid power struggles with your kids. Communicate your reasonable expectations clearly and respectfully, and let the rewards or consequences be the teacher. When there is an incident to reward or to allow consequences for, if need be meet behind closed doors in order to affirm what has been agreed should be done. Wait until you are calm before addressing your child.
Other facets of discipline that should be taught in the home include self-control, integrity, setting goals and working toward them, and developing the ability to delay gratification. We teach our children to brush their teeth and practice proper hygiene, to clean up after themselves, to choose healthy snacks and avoid overeating, to do their chores and homework before their free time, to go to school and complete their homework, to be considerate of others, to keep their word, to develop positive habits and routines, to meet curfews and deadlines, etc. in order to enjoy all the benefits and rewards of doing so.
How Christian Counseling Can Help You with Parenting Problems
As a Christian counselor, I am aware that parenting is an adventure full of fun, disappointment, and many surprises. When parenting gets tough, the varied and often incompatible solutions from your friends, extended family, books, the Internet, and your own personal experience of being parented may increase the difficulty of handling your situation effectively. A Christian counselor will listen compassionately to your story and view it through a Biblical lens, helping you to sort through the challenges and develop a tailor-made plan of action.
“Family,” courtesy of Pezibear, Pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “M does homework…” courtesy of Jolante van Hemert, lickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)