Passive Parenting: This was something that hit me over the head this week. One of those parenting things you know, but as you see it in your own life, your own kids, it just whacks you upside the head and you’re so convicted!
I was down on the floor playing with the kids earlier this week, and for starters you should know, they are not siblings, but they have been together their whole lives and act like brother and sister (for those that didn’t read my intro post, I babysit a little boy during the week that is the same age as our daughter). They fight ALL. DAY. LONG. Over toys. Over the cat. Over food. Over shoes and socks. Over which seat on the couch is theirs. Over which color of play-doh they get. It’s all day!
Since they were old enough able to play together, I have been pretty on top of them to be sure no one gets hurt and that they aren’t getting away with, and learning, bad behavior. But recently, I’ve started to step back a little bit more to see if they can figure it out on their own. We spend a lot of time talking about being gentle and nice, no hitting, sharing and taking turns, and obviously, they aren’t even two yet, so I know I have a long road to go, but I wanted to see how they handled it without me being RIGHT on top of them.
Well, you can imagine how that went. Someone took a toy or pushed someone else, someone reacted in a flash with hitting or screaming, or tears, and the bad reaction was instantaneous. And you know what? It was a slap in my face. A certain amount of it is just toddlers being toddlers, I understand that, but in my eagerness to use every moment as a teachable one, I’m afraid that I jumped on the situations so quickly when they were little that they have learned some of those rash reactions from me.
As soon as I realized it, I knew I had to change. Since that moment, I have been trying to take a minute to focus first, then get down on their level, and with a much calmer voice, tell them whatever they did was wrong, talk about it and punish if necessary, but all with a much calmer reaction. I can already see that everything is much more even keel and the situations are less explosive. I haven’t sacrificed the “teachable-ness” of the moment, just the volatility of it.
See, what I forgot was that we are creating the world as our kids know it, moment by moment, day by day, reaction by reaction. They are learning about life, emotions, and normal behavior by what we DO, not only by what we say. It really is amazing how much they pick up just by watching! We are inactively building a foundation for their lives — what do we want it to be built on? Anger? Frustration? Anxiety? What are we showing them?
Are we flustered, hectic and always busy? Always rushing and quick to react? Are we always on our phones, watching TV or surrounded by noise? Are we always down on ourselves, talking badly about our looks or bodies? Are we too important to be kind to the cashier at the grocery store, or to our elderly neighbor? Are we so self absorbed that we never reach out to help someone else? Do say we are Christians, but confine God to only an hour on Sunday mornings?
We are writing a draft. We are given an amazing honor in showing our kids the kind of world we live in, believe in, and hope for. We get to write the draft on their perception, feelings and character – it is ultimately God who will do the editing of it — thank goodness! – but we are able to introduce our kids to the way the world works and that is such a special opportunity to give the future the gift of some pretty amazing people.
Let’s show our kids a world full of beauty; show them the limitless capacity of dreams, and then show them the value of hard work to reach those dreams. Show them how to use their God-given creativity and imagination to open up a beautiful world all their own. Show them its ok to be silly and to put the to-do list down for some spontaneous quality time. Show them that money doesn’t rule the world, love does. Show them that you trust that God is in control, not you, and show them that you believe He is alive and working and listening to us. Show them that people are worthy of grace, love, respect and empathy. Show them how to be calm, cool and collected and practice self-control in all situations. Show them how to care for themselves, so that they can care for others. Show them how to listen well and ask the right questions and appreciate the value of a deep conversation. Show them how to live well.
I am sometimes blown away by the responsibility of it all, but it really just comes down to this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Love God, and love others — all the rest will follow. Let’s go raise some awesome people!