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How to be your Child's Friend

This generation of children is certainly different. They challenge parental authority and mock at our disciplinary methods. We must remember we are heading towards the days of Sodom and Gomorrah and the best protection for our children is to keep them
bound to us by cords of love. Do not be bitter against them and earn their enmity. Here are a few hints to become your child's friend.

Thrash down your ideals for the child. Enthusiastic and idealistic parents have an image of their child as Miss Universe! They settle too early what their child should be and when the child sways this way or that they are in an agony. Our dreams should not be forced on children. We should not mould them too early and curb their natural potential. I know of a mother who saw a world famous missionary in her five year old daughter; with the result, at every mischief or misbehaviour she broke down. She took the rod whenever the child disappointed her dreams and ultimately earned the hatred of the child. Whenever the parents left the house the child would beam with delight. Don't squeeze the child into your own mould. Try to discover their natural abilities and tastes and channelise them towards God. Accept the child's inabilities. Don't goad him towards a goal which he perhaps cannot achieve.

See the child as a child. Do not expect perfection or adult maturity. A child is a child. He will play pranks, disobey, tell lies, speak the bad words he learnt in school and so on. Don't immediately beat him black and blue and leave the impression of a hostile world. Perfectionist parents are a nightmare to the children. Sit and explain lovingly to him what he has done and make him understand God is displeased with sin. God's commandments are better than our commands. It is quick and powerful and definitely a better foundation for his future. Make it clear to him that if he repeats he will be punished. Remember your own childhood days. It came to me as a revelation when one day I was complaining to my mother about my daughter. My quickwitted mother replied, "Oh, she is much better than what your were." When I deal with my child I try to recollect how I lied to my parents for fear, how angry, touchy and  unloving I was, and so I handle her gently than by a sudden burst of anger. Never beat your child in anger. Plan the punishment and do it calmly. Differentiate between mischief and sin. Sin must be explained, warned and punished. But mischief need not be  so severely treated. We tend to punish our children for small pranks especially in the presence of others. That will make it more difficult for the child to develop a concept about sin. Mischief, when repeated in spite of warnings becomes disobedience of course and hence sin.

Be firm in disciplining. When you instruct your child and are sure he has understood it, if he does not carry it out (for no reason) be sure to give him the prescribed punishment. Don't lose your patience in the meanwhile and be disturbed. Many of us, in order to avoid the beating, stretch the ordeal to shoutings and threatenings, losing our temper in the bargain. Don't waste years in floppy disciplinary methods. Disciplining gives the child a sense of security of the home. At the same time don't go by the law. Be flexible reasonably.

Don't hold a grudge. Don't carry over your anger till night. Learn to be natural after punishing a child and show love. We can see the beautiful parental qualities in Paul. "We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cares for her children ... we  loved you so much... As a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you" (1 Thess 2:7, 8,11). You can clearly see that love outweighs strictness. Be careful not to tilt to the other side. Never yell at your child and get irritated when he yells back. If there is a misunderstanding, sit and listen first and then talk it over with him.

Understand the child. Don't be shocked when your 10 or 11 year old keeps talking about sex. Don't react violently and give him a feeling that sex is horrible. Let him talk and express himself freely. Then give him gentle answers, explanations and  corrections. The child needs a parent at home rather than a preacher! Let him have the confidence that you will always listen to his problems, be it sex or anything. Let him take you to be the person who will clear his doubts frankly and truthfully.

Don't cheat the child. Don't tell him lies. This generation will pooh pooh at your stork-and-baby stories. Give information suitable for his age. They hear all kinds of stuff in school. Your child knows more than what you think he knows. His world is full of boys and girls who teach him the wrong things. Be the first to teach him the right things. Make a surprise visit to the school or playground or his friend's house now and then without acting like James Bond! Keep up your promises. Don't threaten him of a doctor with a needle, everytime you want to have things done!

Play with the child. It is part of parenthood. The best compliment I ever had from my daughter was when she hugged me and said, "Oh mommy, you are the best mommy in the whole world. No other mommy plays like you!" I believe every mother should become the best mother in the whole world for her child. Play with your child and stop feeling guilty of "wasting" time.

Listen to the child. Even if she talks nonsense! Don't be knitting or reading as she talks. Show interest in his topic. Take him out frequently for a walk. The child must have free time with the parents to express himself freely. Give him the freedom to even correct you. Don't flare up when he criticises you. Take time to think about it, analyse it and if it is true accept it.
Humble yourself. Don't avoid asking pardon. I know of a couple who when their bright son came home and told them he didn't do the examination well, were blind with rage and beat him. But when the results came he stood second in the class. They were flabbergasted. But not knowing how to accept their folly, they beat  him again demanding why he did not come first! (Though secretly they were sorry). This is very bad. No parent is experienced. No child is a textbook description. All parents learn only after the first child arrives and all parents make mistakes. Let your  child know you are human.

Reward the child as much as you punish him.A child who studies well, helps at home, obeys promptly must be rewarded. Even a word of commendation will boost up his morale.

Don't compare the child with other children and give him a complex. Each child is different. Recognise one's weakness and be considerate in that area. Do not show partiality between children. They may become lifetime enemies like Esau and Jacob. Do not
criticize them in front of others (especially their friends) and put them to shame. Children are very sensitive. Treat them with respect. Don't let the child down at critical moments when he has miserably failed and nothing can be done about it. Don't  take
advantage of the fact that he has no other place to go and thrash him about with words and deeds to humiliate him. Build him up for a better future. Remember the prodigal's father!

Don't give all that the child demands. Be bold enough to say "No." Don't be afraid of offending him. In bringing up children, always have their future in mind instead of looking and acting for immediate relief. It is better that a child is brought up in humble means though you may be rich. He will be more fit to  face the world that way. Teach them the value of money. Do not allow them to waste food or material.

Pray for the child. Pray with him regularly. Mothers brought their children to be blessed by Jesus. Job sent for them and sanctified them rising up early in the morning "regularly." Let us hold our children always before the throne of grace to be blessed
of the Lord. Atleast once a week pray with each child apart from family prayer. 

Bring up the child in godly ways. I remember my father's wet eyes as he prayed for me. I remember my mother sitting by my bedside pleading. "Have you searched your heart today, Shanthi girl?" The greatest service she did me was to train my conscience. My parents did not choose the things for me. They taught me to  choose the right things in life so I can stand on my own feet. The virtuous mother opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise  up and call her blessed! 

We are commanded to teach God's laws to our children. "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Dt 6:7). Teach them truthfulness, honesty, self-control,  punctuality and all Christian virtues. Be an example to them. They imbibe our good and bad qualities alike. Mothers are admonished to love their children (Tit 2:4). Fathers are not to exasperate their children but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Train them to rise up early, pray and  read the Bible everyday. Ask a few questions in the read portion and explain it simply. Help them memorise verses. As they grow up teach them to pray for more things.

Finally and primarily, trust God. Hold on to His promises. Don't think you can accomplish everything by the rod. Request God to play His part. Otherwise He will not interfere in what you think is your own business. One day I fell prostrate at God's feet  and confessed my utter failure. I begged Him to take over and do something. When God came into the picture miracles started happening. God did not give us children to lose them to the devil. Hence it is never God's will for a child to go astray. His perfect will is Acts 16:31, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved — you and your household." Read Genesis 7:1 also. Wipe off your tears, cooperate with God, and see the salvation of your children.

"He will turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to their parents" (Mal 4:6).



   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com