It is an enigma that parenthood can provide such an extreme spectrum of emotions. One moment our children elevate us so high we have to look down to see heaven when at other times we become so frustrated with them that we hardly care to admit we actually brought them into this world or chose them to be a part of our family. Parents will always be older and wiser…right? Then why is this calling of parenthood so scary? Is it even possible to raise good children anymore?
My life mentor, my mom, Marliss – mother of six, told me often, “Melissa, you do not have to teach your children to be naughty, that comes quite naturally to them. You must train them up in the way they should go – to do good, to make right choices, to do the things you ask them to do in a way that is honoring to God. You cannot let your kids call the shots and remember that mistakes are part of the journey!”
Leonard Sax, physician, psychologist and author, believes that if we want our children to be virtuous, we must teach them virtue. Children are not going to develop into individuals who have strong morals, self-confidence and sweet spirits without hours, weeks, months and years of teaching them how to live virtuous lives. This means not allowing your young children to decide what is best for them. Sure they will have choices but they also need to be held accountable.
Now this does not mean that you have to rule with an iron thumb…in fact, it is quite the opposite. Sometimes parents believe that they are helping their young children by stepping back and letting their kids decide on things that they are not yet ready to make decisions about. Our children (often literally) are screaming for guidance and direction because even at some level are cognizant that they are not ready to make some of the decisions that they are being confronted with. A very important concept that my dad, Al, modeled for me even at a young age was to tell us kids ‘yes’ as often as he could so that when he had to say ‘no’, we knew that he really meant it.
Reflecting back on my childhood, my brothers and sisters and I had very few rules that stand out in my mind because somehow my parents instilled in us a desire to want to obey, respect and please them simply because we did not want to disappoint them. How does that happen?
Well, we knew our parents loved each other and us no matter what. From the time we woke up in the morning until it was time to go to bed, they were purposefully and proactively pouring into us their expectations of what they believed God had called them to do in raising their children. I am completely blessed by the incredible parents God gave me. In turn, I wanted to raise my own children in the same way so I would get the same response from my kids that my parents got from me.
It doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional parenting to raise virtuous children. It’s not easy and it won’t always be fun…but it will be worth it. Ephesians 6:1-4
– Melissa (Witt) Phillips