I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
“When I say ‘Jump!’ — you say, ‘How high?'”
I can’t remember who told me that, but I do remember it being given as parenting advice, like that was what I should expect from my children.
Early in our parenting days, a speaker who came to our church with this parenting advice: “Children need to obey immediately, exactly, and with the proper attitude.”
Those three bullet points became a mantra in our home. Immediately. Exactly. With the proper attitude.
It didn’t leave much wiggle room for children.
If they didn’t do the thing we asked immediately, we had a problem. “Just a minute” was seen as disobedience.
If they didn’t comply exactly, we had a problem. Creativity in doing a task could be viewed as disobedience.
If a job wasn’t done with the proper attitude, we had a problem. Eye-rolling and sighs indicated improper attitude, and, therefore, disobedience. The only proper attitude was a cheerful one.
Guess what? We had a lot of problems. A parenting action plan without wiggle room doesn’t acknowledge the fact that children, by nature, are wiggly creatures.
Over the years and the course of raising eight children, I gave up on parenting advice. I decided that I needed to, for the most part, bathe everything in prayer and then follow my gut. If God was the one who placed this parenting mantle on my shoulders, surely He would guide my steps and actions.
Here’s what God (and my gut) taught me.
Parenting needs to be done with a purpose in mind. It’s so easy to react and respond to the moment, but there is always a much bigger picture. Why is it important that they do their chores? Why is it important that they show kindness? Why is it important that they ______________ and you can fill in the blank. If, at a very young age, you begin talking to them about the whys, some day they may be wise, because it will all click in their fully myelinated brains, everything mom and dad were trying to teach them. And why. And it will all make sense.
Parenting needs to be done with peace. By peace, I mean, calm, in control. Parenting done with anger and in screams becomes a spectacle. I know because I have made my share of spectacles. It’s so easy to react and respond to the moment, but a parent who stays in control of themself can also stay in control of the situation.
Parenting needs to be with patience. A lot of patience. I’m not just talking about patience with the children, but patience with yourself. You will make mistakes — just like they will. You will respond wrongly — just like they will. You will say and do things that you wish you never had — just like they will. It’s so easy to react and respond to the moment, but be patient. With everyone.
Children have short little legs which means that sometimes it takes a long time to get from point A to point B, but those baby steps are moving in a direction. It’s a direction towards adulthood and independence. It’s direction toward being a thinking, compassionate, productive part of God’s creation. It’s a direction towards becoming who God wants them to be.
Today, if I were to say “Jump” to my children, not a one would ask “how high?” They would each jump in a way unique to them, some silly, having fun, enjoying life, and other competitively and driven. Some would jump off a cliff with bungee attached, and others would jump in a pool and start swimming. Some would take it literally and jump wherever they stood, and others would take it creatively and jump into a new program of study.
Not a one would ask “how high?” and I am so thankful for that.
Jump, my children, jump. Be who God meant you to be.
This was written in response to Lisa-Jo Baker’s prompt for “Five Minute Friday“. The word was…. you guessed it, JUMP!
I jumped right in on this one and didn’t follow the rules. It took me longer than five minutes to write, and I went back and edited (a little).