As my sweet baby boy is quickly approaching his twos, I am remembering and having flashbacks on how difficult this season is. The struggle for independence and the constant testing of boundaries – often at the most inconvenient times – is enough to push one over the edge. For me as a single parent, it also brings to the surface the grief of being in this “alone”, and the loss of having a partner in parenting and life in general…which can make it even harder.
I am constantly being reminded and reminding myself – I am not in this alone. The Holy Spirit is my constant Helper. I pray daily for my children to be covered and protected, and for God to supernaturally make up any difference in my shortcomings, when my abilities and capacities are simply not enough. Although it has been a journey, He is also sending people to encourage and to provide some practical help as well, which is a huge answer to my prayers.
Single parents, be encouraged. The weight of responsibility in parenting in general is huge, and I know it can be even heavier as a single parent. It is helpful to remind myself that my children are not my own. They belong to God, and I have been entrusted to steward their hearts and point them to Him. They are a gift and a blessing.
James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Psalm 127 –
“Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil—for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
Happy, blessed, and fortunate is the man whose quiver is filled with them! They will not be put to shame when they speak with their adversaries [in gatherings] at the [city’s] gate.”
As I’ve shared with other areas of my life, I can tend to fall in to the anxious, striving category – feeling like it all depends on me and carrying a weight and responsibility that is not entirely mine to carry. I was so encouraged by these verses reminding me that children are such a GIFT and BLESSING from God and He is in control equipping us with what we need to care for them and enjoy them!! I found the following article almost exactly one year ago when I was in the throes of the twos with my daughter, and it was so encouraging to me both then and now – providing practical application for these Sriptures.
DISCIPLING our children is the ultimate goal – teaching and modeling the loving heart of God the Father, how to walk in intimate relationship with Him, and how to hear and obey His voice. I am convicted as I think about how I have missed the mark too many times by focusing on rules and punishment rather than on relationship.
My struggle as a single parent of young children is often feeling a loss of control since there is only one of me and I can only handle so much both physically and emotionally at any given moment. That is why I can tend to default to some of the negative parenting tactics in in the most trying moments. I forget too often that I can tap into the grace and help of the Holy Spirit, who is always ready and willing to provide the love, wisdom, patience, and whatever else is needed for each situation. We are blessed to have so many resources available and accessible to help along the way – I found the following article applicable in providing practical tips on how to focus on positive / relationship-centered parenting, so I wanted to share a few excerpts with you.
My prayer is that as we seek His guidance and choose to partner with Him, the Holy Spirit will come close to us wherever we are on our parenting journeys, and provide exactly what we need (from perspective to strength, strategy, rest, practical help and partnerships) to be able “train up our children in the way they should go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). “It” being – knowing WHO God is, walking in the fullness of relationship with Him, and fulfilling His plans and purposes for each of their lives.
Lord, help me to have Your perspective on parenting. Help me to not get so caught up in the daily details that I lose sight of the greater goal. Help me to realize that my children are a gift from you and that I have been entrusted to steward their hearts and lives and to teach them to be true disciples in your Kingdom, in Jesus’ name!
How to Use Positive Parenting
By Dr. Laura Markham
Discipline has nothing to do with punishment. Punishment is imposing something unpleasant on a person in response to behavior deemed wrong by the punisher. Discipline comes from the Latin verb to teach or guide, as does the word Disciple. Positive Discipline, therefore, is Positive Guidance. Some people also call it Gentle Guidance, to distinguish it from the more harsh training that often passes for teaching in our society. Because we all grew up with such negative associations to the word “discipline,” I prefer to use the words “Positive parenting.” That also encompasses everything we do as parents to connect with our child and support him so he’s open to our guidance.
This page gives you ten tips for practicing positive parenting at your house. If you’re wondering whether that’s a good idea, the short answer is that punishment undermines your relationship with your child, makes kids feel worse about themselves (which makes them act worse) and sabotages your child’s development of self-discipline. Isn’t your goal to help your child feel good and act better? Click here for more information on WHY positive parenting raises great kids.
Here’s how to use positive parenting, or Gentle Guidance, to raise an amazing, emotionally intelligent, child.
1. Positive parenting starts by creating a good relationship with your child, so that he responds to gentle guidance as opposed to threats and punishment. The most effective discipline strategy is having a close bond with your child. Kids who feel connected to their parents naturally want to please them.
2. Evaluate all teaching based on whether it strengthens or weakens your relationship with your child. Think Loving Guidance, not punishment. Punishment is destructive to your relationship with your child and ultimately creates more misbehavior. Loving guidance is setting limits and reinforcing expectations as necessary, but in an empathic way that helps the child focus on improving her behavior rather than on being angry at you.
3. Start all correction by reaffirming the connection.
• Stoop down to her level and look her in the eye: “You are mad but no biting!”
• Pick her up: “You wish you could play longer but it’s time for bed.”
• Make loving eye contact: “You are so upset right now.”
• Put your hand on her shoulder: “You’re scared to tell me about the cookie.”
4. Don’t hesitate to set limits as necessary, but set them with empathy. Of course you need to enforce your rules. But you can also acknowledge her perspective. When kids feel understood, they’re more able to accept our limits.
• “You’re very very mad and hurt, but we don’t bite. Let’s use your words to tell your brother how you feel.”
• “You wish you could play longer, but it’s bedtime. I know that makes you sad.”
• “You don’t want Mommy to say No, but the answer is No. We don’t say ‘Shut Up’ to each other, but it’s ok to be sad and mad.”
• “You are scared, but we always tell the truth to each other.”
5. In any situation posing physical danger, intervene immediately to set limits, but simultaneously connect by empathizing. “The rule is no hitting, even though she made you really mad by teasing like that. Let’s sit down and talk about this.”
6. Defiance is a relationship problem. If your child does not accept your direction (“I don’t care what you say, you can’t make me!”), it’s always an indication that the relationship is not strong enough to support the teaching. This happens to all of us from time to time. At that point, stop and think about how to strengthen the relationship, not how to make the child “mind.” Turning the situation into a power struggle will just deepen the rift between you.
7. Avoid Timeouts. They create more misbehavior. Timeouts, while infinitely better than hitting, are just another version of punishment by banishment and humiliation. They leave kids alone to manage their tangled-up emotions, so they undermine emotional intelligence. They erode, rather than strengthen, your relationship with your child. They set up a power struggle. And they only work while you’re bigger. They’re a more humane form of bullying than physical discipline. Click here for more information on why Timeouts don’t work.
8. Consequences teach the wrong lesson if you’re involved in creating them. On the face of it, Consequences make sense: The child does (or doesn’t do) something, and learns from the consequences. Which, when it happens naturally, can be a terrific learning experience. But most of the time, parents engineer the consequences, and enforce the time out, so that any child can explain to you that consequences are actually punishment. Click here for more information on why Consequences don’t work.
If the parent is not involved in the consequences (for instance, if they don’t study and flunk their test, or they don’t brush and get a cavity) — and if you can handle the bad result — kids can learn a lot from suffering the consequences of their actions. Of course, you don’t want it to happen more than once, or their self image becomes that of a person who flunks test and gets cavities, and they have learned an unintended lesson. My own view is that it works better, if possible, for them to skip such lessons, but as a last ditch strategy, we all certainly learn from letting things go wrong.
Unfortunately, most kids whose parents use “consequences” as punishment don’t think of them as the natural result of their own actions (“I forgot my lunch today so I was hungry”), but as the threats they hear through their parents’ clenched teeth: “If I have to stop this car and come back there, there will be CONSEQUENCES!!” If parents are in charge of consequences, then the consequences aren’t the natural result of the child’s actions, but simply punishment.
To the degree that Consequences are seen as punishment by kids — and they almost always are — they are not as effective as positive discipline to encourage good behavior. Using them on your kids should be considered a last result and a signal that you need to come up with another strategy.
9. Kids will do almost anything we request if we make the request with a loving heart. Find a way to say YES instead of NO even while you set your limit. “YES, it’s time to clean up, and YES I will help you and YES we can leave your tower up and YES you can growl about it and YES if we hurry we can read an extra story and YES we can make this fun and YES I adore you and YES how did I get so lucky to be your parent? YES!” Your child will respond with the generosity of spirit that matches yours.
10. How you treat your child is how she will learn to treat herself. If you’re harsh with her, she’ll be harsh with herself. If you’re loving with her while firm about setting appropriate limits, she’ll develop the ability to set firm but loving limits on her own behavior.
Harsh discipline and punishment, ironically, interfere with the child’s ability to develop self discipline. The problem with internalizing harshness isn’t just that it makes for unhappy kids and, eventually, unhappy adults, it’s that it doesn’t work. Kids who are given discipline that is not loving never learn to manage themselves constructively.
To the degree that we’re harsh with ourselves because of the way we were parented, we respond to it by rebelling (how many times do we cheat on our diets?) or martyring ourselves (trying hard to be good girls and boys but building up resentment and lashing out at those we love, or not giving ourselves a break and ultimately breaking down.)
To the degree that we can accept our own loving guidance because we’ve learned from our parents to treat ourselves that way, we are able to set goals and use our self-discipline to attain them. Ultimately, loving guidance and positive parenting result in the child’s developing the holy grail toward which all child-raising is aimed: the child’s own self-discipline.