When a child is born, we love them so dearly. We want the best for them and not the worst. We want to guarantee that they will turn out to be healthy and loving adults someday. We want to guarantee, as much as we can by what we do, that they will learn to make the right choices and choose God.
When I was reading God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger, I appreciated his point that as parents we turn to this book or that book searching for a parenting philosophy or method that will guarantee that our kids will turn out the way we hope they will. In reality, there is no guarantee. We cannot guarantee by anything we do that our children will come to know the Lord or that they will be healthy, well balanced adults.
But, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try our best. It doesn't mean we don't need to love them well. It doesn't mean that we aren't responsible for being the best parents we can be to our children.
Let me pause and paint a picture of something that happened somewhere today. A little girl, younger than 3, went to the door to open it. The woman in the room, who was not the little girl's mother, reminded her that she was not allowed to go outside by herself. She looked back at the woman and reached up for the door handle with the look that tells an adult "I'm going to do what I want to do." The woman reminded her not to open the door and that the little girl was not in charge. The father, who happened to be present in the room, replied "Well, she makes the decisions at our house." The father had no compunction or regret in his voice. It was as if a smirk could be detected in his tone. He didn't tell her to wait. He didn't tell her to stop. He didn't even tell her not to open the door. The danger in the situation is that two days ago, this little girl climbed into her parent's car--into the driver's seat when no one knew it. Her older sister followed her with glee and smiled at the angry faces that found them where they were not supposed to be. What if the car had shifted into gear? What if it had rolled backwards into the street? Outside that door was a world where a tiny little girl could easily be run over in the street when the little girl is one who will not listen, but would rather run into the street if she pleases.
I once had a mother say to me that she didn't have the energy to discipline her daughter. My heart hurt deeply with the conviction that we have to do what our children need us to do. We need to be their parents--even if there are times when one parent isn't present for one reason or another. There is no justifiable excuse for us to check out and abdicate our responsibility as our child's parent. There are enough times we get distracted on accident--we need to be careful not to check out on purpose.
We need to be our child's parent. It is important for them and for us.
The seven choices Ms. Smiley talks about are choosing to be the parent, to be a role model, to be present, to be an encourager, to discipline in love, to allow failure and success, and to pray. This would be a great parenting book for the parents of a little one. It will give them a good balanced view of parenting and what our job as parents is. It really covers all the bases of caring for the spiritual and emotional well being of your child. The What to Expect Series really covers how to care for the physical well being of your child. I would dare say that a child's spiritual and emotional well being are just as important if not often more so.
Ms. Smiley takes a very strong stance that parents are the parents--not the children. It is up to the parents to be do their job and teach, love, and care for their children. Parents need to build a relationship with their children, spend time with them, listen, be genuinely present in their lives, and discipline them. They shouldn't let their children do whatever they want. I believe that Ms. Smiley would have walked up to that dad in the story at the beginning and told him that he is the parent and that his child is the child. A child is not ready to be the parent--if they were, he or she would be the parent instead.
Ms. Smiley has a very straight forward way of writing. It's like reading a book by SuperNanny except with a lot of grace and God's love in the mix. I appreciated her anecdotes and stories. If you feel discouraged and find yourself checking out and wanting to escape from being a parent--this book would give you a good kickstart. Which happens to be what I need today, so I better get off this blog and get to my children!