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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Father’s (and Single Mother's) Mandate

THE FOLLOWING EIGHT TIPS COME FROM a training course my wife and I completed last year—it is one of the best parenting courses you’ll find (in my humble opinion). These tips can easily apply for single mothers and within step-families too.

A father (or single mother with God’s help):

1. Cultivates a sense of family identity: each family is a unique entity or should be. Family traditions are important and should be created with the father’s enthusiasm. Children should be able to feel some healthy pride in being connected to their family.

2. Regularly demonstrates love for his wife: it’s critical for children to feel secure in the family home. This is initiated in the father loving his wife. In the case of single mothers, it is crucial that the kids know how much God loves Mum! This is most visible when she loves herself.

3. Understands and respects his/her child’s private world: we all have a part of us deep within which is intensely ours and God’s. ‘Open windows’ when children offer us access to their hearts are precious moments where the father and single mother should tread warily. No charging through a china shop like a bull. Trust is born and nurtured when we carefully resist re-arranging the furniture of the child’s heart.

4. Gives his/her child the freedom to fail and encouragement to try again: we all fail. Fathers should actively show their kids how they’ve failed, and that in failing we can learn a better form of eventual success. Let us not fall into the folly of causing a ‘fear of failure’ in our kids! Where the father is missing, single mums can and should compensate. Show how God continually forgives our failures.

5. Is the encourager of his/her family: both dad and single mother are the motivational forces for the family. Don’t worry, this is not an additional pressure. It’s a privilege. Doing practical things like writing warm notes of love and encouragement and placing them under the sandwich in your kids’ lunchbox is one easy thing to do. All it takes is a little forethought and planning.

6. Guards his/her tongue and tone, measuring his/her responses according to the excitement on his child’s face: this is for me a little embarrassing. I have too often responded in harsh voice and language without first looking. What we risk doing here is quenching to some extent the child’s spirit. Free are their hearts and imaginations, and certainly not as “grounded” are they as we are. Allow them their glory days. We also forget how scary we can be when we’re angry and upset.

7. Routinely embraces his/her child: as kids get into their teen years the opposite parent (mum/son and dad/daughter) can start to become more reluctant in physically embracing their growing kids. The truth is all children (including grown children) want to be embraced by their parents. Let us not stop our embraces because of fear of feeling breasts and erections etc. They’ll always be our kids. Embrace with meaning and embrace often.

8. Builds trust relationships based in God’s wisdom, not on human wisdom: there are many things that don’t stack up in our world. It is only through the vision of God’s wisdom that many of these glitches in our parenting are truly sorted out. We must remain clear on this.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Reference: Garry & Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come, Along the Virtuous Way – Growing Kids God’s Way (Happy Valley, South Australia: Growing Families Australia, 2002), p. 69-83.

Acknowledgement: to course facilitators, Stuart & Angela Klassen.

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