I facilitated the discussion on this topic in a diocesan women’s conference on Saturday, 2nd July, 2016. It really provided a guide to the mothers on how to develop effective parenting skills. Excerpts of the message are provided below.
Introduction: Marital relationship should be prioritised because husbands and wives are covenant partners and a good relationship between them will create the enabling environment to build a healthy parenting relationship. Parenting in an atmosphere of marital squabbles is usually very frustrating.
Mothers deserve commendation because in their attempts to support their husbands, they combine the parenting role with their career and other domestic duties. However, it is regrettable that their efforts seem not to be yielding the desired results going by the spate of indiscipline, delinquency and corruption in our society.
The required changes and improvements in parenting approaches were the focus of the discussion. Hence the purpose of the talk was to learn how healthy parenting relationships will help reduce this stubbornness. The message thrust was that discipline is achieved in children without stress if parenting relationship is healthy.
- Definition of healthy parenting relationship.
- Hallmarks of a healthy parenting relationship.
- Symptoms and consequences of an unhealthy parenting relationship.
- Self-appraisal and interactive session.
Definition A healthy parenting relationship is one in which the parent is sufficiently close to continuously provide support towards the physical, mental, spiritual and social development of the child in an atmosphere of love, until the child is released into a disciplined adult life. In situations where parenting is effectively done, the foundation of this relationship is so strong that it is never severed even in the child’s adult life. It manifests deeper love and maturity as the child gets older. This should be the desire of every parent!
Hallmarks of a Healthy Parenting Relationship
- Divine heart-to-heart closeness with God in between: Children hear their parents and understand even the non-verbal communication and the words spoken in whispers. This closeness creates an enabling environment for effective transfer of faith, family values and other godly virtues through every word, action or inaction of parents as they relate with their children. Parents create time to hold family devotion and share testimonies and folk tales with their children.
It is recommended that God must be at the center of this relationship for godliness and discipline to prevail. The fear of God is a great driver of discipline in the lives of parents and their children. The bible story of how Joseph effectively resisted the demand for sexual immorality made by Potipher’s wife depicts the effectiveness of the fear of God when children are tempted. Examples of parenting relationships in the bible with God in between are Job and his children (Job 1: 4-5), and Jesus and his parents (Luke 2:41-52). Job was not distracted by his many children. His had each of them in his heart and offered burnt offerings for each of them.
Where parents achieve closeness with their children without the presence of God, indiscipline and stubbornness are inculcated. The case of Herodias and her daughter in Mark 6:14-28 is an example of a close parenting relationship that was unhealthy because it lacked godliness. In this kind of relationship, a common way of transferring wrong parental values is through the use of children in accomplishing revenge missions. Herodias used her small daughter to accomplish the murder of John the Baptist. Hatred-building discussions and comments are common. The result is that wrong values are transferred to the children, which predisposes them to indiscipline, disobedience, wrong results and regrets.
- Unending mutual love between parents and their children: In a healthy parenting relationship, love is reciprocated. This love drives obedience and discipline without the stress of threats and punishment. With the right skill, parents achieve this love through godly closeness (Rom 5:5), and commitment to the parenting duty. Parenting challenges such as delinquency would always put this love to test. It should get stronger with every parenting difficulty it surmounts. Love does not end (1 Cor. 13:8).
It is not one-sided as in the case of David and his son Absalom. David’s relationship with Absalom manifested the symptoms of ill-health because David loved his son Absalom, but he could not get Absalom to reciprocate this love. Theirs was a case where poor parenting relationship ended up with the death of the child.
- Unending support to enable children grow up in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man (Luke 2:52):
- Mentally: Children should attend good schools and be properly followed up. Engaging them in logical conversations makes them wiser, while shouting them down and other forms of aggression stupefies them.
- Physically: Feeding, clothing and housing should be prioritized by parents so that children will grow well and be healthy.
- Spiritually: Parents should be conscious that children, being human, are prone to sin (Job 1:5 & Romans 7:24-25). Children, therefore need redemption from the slavery to sin and its dreadful consequences. The fear of God keeps the consciences of children alive to think and act rightly (Genesis 39:9).
- Socially: Parents should raise children who would obtain mercy and favour with whomever they relate with by teaching them sacrificial giving in love. The experience of Moses in Exodus 2:15-21 illustrates how this kind of giving out of love resulted in favourabe outcomes.
- Discipline is achieved as a way life (Jer.35:1-14): The Rechabites achieved discipline and obedience as a way of life. This kind of achievement is encouraged by the following factors:
- Favourable outcomes would reinforce right actions naturally.
- Parents in healthy parenting relationships are motivational in approach, and also apply rewards to encourage right actions. This will provide support and sustain the gradual development and maturity of children.
- Sibling love and affinity: Job’s children in Job1:4 manifested love and affinity.
- Indiscipline is not tolerated: Parents are role models of the discipline they want to achieve in their children.
- Whenever indiscipline or disobedience is suspected, parents should prayerfully hear from the child through a ‘demand for explanation’. Mary the mother of Jesus applied this skill when Jesus was found in the temple after he had been missing for three days. Demand for explanation opens up a conversation for clearer understanding of the child’s thoughts and actions, and clearer explanation of issues and instructions by parents.
- When necessary, correction should be made the proper way. A guide on how to do this was provided in our post of 12th June 2016, titled Minimising Siblings’ Rivalry: the Parent’s Role.
- Rebuke should be given when it is necessary. Rebuke is very effective in a healthy parenting relationship because of the absence of the common pollutants to the right atmosphere of discipline. The pollutants were discussed in our reflections post of 7th January 2016, titled Pollutants to the Right Atmosphere of Discipline.
- The rod is not spared (2 Samuel 7:14-15): The rod hangs at the back of every sinner. It does not necessarily mean cane. In the context of parenting, is the harsh reality of wrong actions without parental protective influence. For instance, allowing a child who failed a class to repeat the class without influencing his or her promotion to the next class. Parents are required not to spare the rod. Reference should be made to our post titled The Right Approach to Getting it Right with Discipline in Children on 12th December, 2015 for wider understanding on this.
Symptoms and Consequences of Unhealthy Parenting Relationship.
- Parents make complaints to people who will intervene between them and their children.
- Delinquency in children is common.
- Love turns sour and hatred overrides it.
- Lack of progress in the family.
- Children may take to the streets.
- God’s punishment on the children and their parents.
- Poor academic performance.
- Extreme forms of sibling rivalry.
- Aggressive and ineffective parenting approach.
- Hatred for parents. Some children are even reluctant to relate with their parents or care for them even when they get old.
Self-appraisal and Interactive Session
Questions and comments were taken and the mothers were told that that they would surely obtain the kind of positive result that would gradually and steadily reduce their recourse to flogging if they embrace the effective parenting skills.
Conclusion If the health of any parenting relationship is put on a scale we will find a stretch of values from negative to positive. On the positive extreme is the lovely, happy, firm, righteous relationship where the child is raised with discipline as a way of life right from infancy. Here, parenting is done with so much proficiency that a child will willingly choose to live a disciplined life where the whip, cane and all forms of corporal punishment do not find a place. On the negative extreme are parenting relationships that would break up completely with the child living on the streets without any form of parental guide.
The desire of every parent should therefore be to establish and nurture a love-driven and close parenting relationship which would be the platform on which discipline and godliness would be inculcated without unnecessary aggression and anxiety.
Uchenna N. Nduka