Writing is so helpful to me! It's how I process life, so as we wrestle with how best to parent our kids on the road, I'm going to share my thoughts in the midst of this parenting challenge. I am not an expert, and these are not all "tried and true" tips- this is me learning as we go and sharing our ideas. Please leave your own "tried and true" tips in the comments section! We need them!
First let me explain a bit more what I mean when I said sympathy in parenting yesterday: It does not mean telling a kid it's okay to sin or be disobedient. This isn't permissive parenting. Sympathy in parenting means taking a moment to try and understand why a child might be acting the way he is, to see his heart through his actions, and to come alongside him with an intention to walk with him toward the right path.
When Josh and I stood in the kitchen and just shook our heads and asked each other "What do we do with him?" the first thing that came to mind was PRAY! We've got to be praying for our kids daily, praying that God would be at work in their hearts, praying for wisdom to parent them well, praying for grace and strength to do what the Lord asks of us as parents and praying for supernatural insight into our children's hearts.
The next thing that we did was brainstorm all the possible things that could be bothering him and/or contributing to his bad attitude. We also need to ask him if there is anything bothering him, and really listen to his answer. But there are times when our kids don't know or don't have words to communicate what is going on their hearts. So we started tossing out ideas: too much family time, too much time in stores, too much screen time, too much vacation treats, too much transition, missing Uganda, missing New Jersey, too much people time, too little routine, maybe he is coming down with a cold... no wonder our kids are feeling out of sorts!
Then we come up with a plan to meet his real needs, not his whims and fancies- we don't want to nurture an attitude of entitlement or perpetuate the inclination towards self-centeredness. We do want to do all we can to help feel loved and cared for. We do want to set forth our expectations for godly living. So, we tell stories about a boy who wants fame and riches, but in the end comes to his senses and returns home (see Luke 15). We work on Scripture verses about being content. We begin to cut back on sweets and screen time, and redouble our efforts to intentionally engage the boys in healthy, fun activities. It takes a lot of effort on our part. This parenting thing isn't easily dismissed with a "Be quiet and do what I say" which only pushes his heart farther from us.
The bottom line is: I want my children to know that I am for them. I want them to grow to love the good path of the Lord and walk it with joy. And I want them to make a difference for the kingdom because they are wholly His!
Pray for us as we continue our road-trip and continue to parent on the road. We drive from Michigan to Ontario, Canada today to see precious friends we met in Uganda! This visit is such a love gift from Jesus! We head to our next ministry stop on Saturday in Pennsylvania.