Looking back, moving forward.

Over the past year I have been really challenged to consider the way I parent… teenagers will do that to you. What had once been a reliable and comfortable way of relating to my children, was now met with a prickly resistance. Their emergence into adolescence significantly changed my relationship with them, leaving me confused and a little discouraged. Confusion and discouragement are never a happy place to dwell in; it’s uncomfortable and somewhat confronting. However, this season of adjustment prompted me to reassess how I parent; self analysing why I do things the way I do.  

On one particularly difficult week, my husband quite unexpectedly discovered a book that he thought might help navigate the stormy seas. Entitled ‘With all Due Respect’, authored by Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock, it claims 40 days to a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens. While I was sceptical, I was desperate enough to attempt it. In one of the dares: Revisit your childhood, they say, “If we take a second look at our own childhoods, we can learn a lot about our current parenting.” 

It takes courage to be insightful as you think on your family history; the habits, ideals and values that you have subconsciously held, due to your upbringing. Whether our experiences were positive or negative, it’s helpful to think through why you are choosing to do things the same way, or differently. Asking yourself, “Are there generational things that need to be challenged? Are there values that are important for you to maintain? Are you afraid of being different to your parents, or are you intentionally flouting everything your parents ever did and why?” 

For some of us, childhood memories are happy ones; maybe slightly rose coloured. Our respect for our parents and the choices they made, are choices and values you may want to continue in your own family. For others, childhood memories may be of a happy home, but a difficult passage through school marked by bullies, or a learning environment that was unhelpful. For others still, home life may have been hard and school was a retreat and friends a support. There are so many aspects of our upbringing that shape the people we become, and so shape the way we parent.

Children are always asking the question “Why?”, and they never like the answer: “Because I’m the parent, that’s why!” Being intentional about parenting choices is helpful in giving an honest response to this question. It’s also helpful to parent with humility, so that when we are challenged about the choices we make, we can with great respect, reflect on why. After reflection, we may still continue to hold our views, or we may acknowledge that it’s appropriate to make some change.

Making a change in the way we approach parenting can be daunting; a real challenge. A challenge, by very nature of the word, is never easy and seldom welcomed. However, if you allow it, can be a source of great personal growth as you embrace the opportunity of trying something new. Being willing to try something new is modelling resilience. 

As a Christian, I see a challenge as something that God has allowed in his great wisdom, where he calls me to deeper trust him, knowing him more fully, and leaning on him daily to be my strength, my wisdom and my joy. Two verses of scripture that have spoken to me many times are Isaiah 55 verses 8-9 which say, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Proverbs 3 verse 5-6 say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” These verse’s remind me of how wise God is. As I humbly walk before him, and entrust all my decisions into his care, I can confidently trust that whenever I am challenged to stand firm or make a change, it is ultimately for my good, and the good of my family. 

Photo by: Damien Dempsey