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Raising Great Kids: A Comprehensive Guide to Parenting with Grace and Truth (Revised)

(Paperback - Dec 1999)
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Overview

What does it take to raise great kids? If you've read any books on parenting, conflicting opinions have probably left you feeling confused. Get tough! Show acceptance. Lay down the rules. Lighten up, already! - There's got to be a balance -- and there is. Joining their expertise with the wisdom of MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers), Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help you provide both the care and acceptance that make grace real to your child, and the firmness and discipline that give direction. Avoiding the twin extremes of permissiveness and over-control, Drs. Cloud and Townsend show how you can help your child cultivate six necessary character traits: attachment, responsibility, reality, competence, morality, and worship/spiritual life. - At last, here is an effective middle ground for raising up children who will handle life with maturity and wisdom. Raising Great Kids will help you equip your son or daughter to accept life's responsibilities, grow from its challenges, and freely and fully explore all that it has to offer.

Details

  • SKU: 9780310235491
  • UPC: 025986235499
  • SKU10: 0310235499
  • Title: Raising Great Kids: A Comprehensive Guide to Parenting with Grace and Truth
  • Qty Remaining Online: 48
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Date Published: Dec 1999
  • Edition Description: Revised
  • Pages: 240
  • Weight lbs: 0.51
  • Dimensions: 8.52" L x 5.50" W x 0.62" H
  • Features: Price on Product
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical; Topical | Family;
  • Category: FAMILY CONCERNS
  • Subject: Christian Life - General
NOTE: Related content on this page may not be applicable to all formats of this product.

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

The Goal of Parenting

A Child with Character

* * *

My friend Tony had asked me (Dr. Townsend) to dinner to talk about a family problem. After we caught up on what was new in our lives since we had last seen each other, he began talking about his recent struggles with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Halley. She was skipping school, drinking, and hanging around with a bad crowd. Tony and his wife, Denise, were working with the school, their church, and a counselor to deal with Halley's behavior.

"It must be awful. How are you handling it?" I asked Tony.

"It's been tough for all of us," Tony said. "But for me the worst part is what we've lost."

"What do you mean?"

"Remember when Halley was three or four?"

I nodded, having been friends with the family for years.

"She was the sweetest, most responsive kid you'd ever see," he said. "We were all so close. Halley wasn't perfect, but she was a good girl. Then out of the blue, this angry, lying, rebellious person seems to inhabit my daughter's body. I don't know this Halley."

I sat quietly with my friend, empathizing with his sense of loss.

Sometime later, Tony and I met again, and I asked about Halley. With a look of weary wisdom, he said, "We've all worked hard, and things are a lot better. I've learned some things about how we raised Halley. We wanted her to be good. But we weren't doing a lot about helping her have good character. That's our focus nowadays."

Tony's observation illustrates an important point about parenting. Everybody wants good kids. Good children do what they're supposed to. This is a proper and right desire. We are all to do what is good and right in God's eyes (Deuteronomy 12:28). But many good children don't grow up handling life well. They may become either not-so-good people or good-but-immature adults.

As Tony learned, the issue is not about being good, but about having good character. That is the subject of this chapter.

The Importance of Being a Parent

If you are a parent, congratulations! You are engaged in one of the most meaningful jobs in the world. Although cleaning up spilled milk and arguing about dirty rooms may seem trivial, you are doing eternally significant work: developing a little person into an adult.

God understands and supports you in this endeavor. People didn't invent parenting, God did. He is in a parent-child role with us, his people, forever. He loves us and wants to nurture and develop us. He wants us to call him by a parent name: "Father."

Being a parent is one of the most important tasks God gives anyone. Children are a blessing and a great heritage. Through parenting, humanity continues down through the centuries, our spiritual and cultural values are preserved, and the image of God is revealed in every new generation.

Parenting is a huge task. Parents shoulder the burden of being the source of life, love, and growth for their children. One of the elements of childhood is dependency. Dependency defines a child. Children look to and need parents for all those things they can't provide for themselves. Especially in the early years, the parent takes responsibility for both knowing and giving needed elements of life to the child. A dependent person (child) and a source person (parent) are at the core of the parent-child relationship.

If you are reading this book, most likely you willingly chose the responsibility of becoming a parent. If this isn't true, you have certainly still accepted this responsibility. Most parents have strong values and emotions that influence them to raise kids. For example, they want to:

Create love with a spouse, which can transfer down to another generation Pass on their values to others Create a warm and caring family context Have fun with their kids Contribute something to the world

These are all good reasons for parenting. However, once you have become a parent, it can be hard to get your head above water long enough to figure out exactly what you are trying to accomplish and how you will know when you get there. Parents need a way to keep in mind the ultimate goal of parenting.

Creating an Adult

Most parents want their children to grow up. In other words, we define success not by how our children are doing today, but by what happens after they leave home. Imagine your children as adults in the following areas of life:

School. They are investing in training for life and career. Job. They are growing in career life. Dating. They are choosing people who are mature and have good values. Marriage. They have chosen a life's partner, and they are working at their marriage. Friendships. They have a close-knit group of friends who support them. Personal values and conduct. They have thought through what is important to them and live consistently with good values. Spiritual life. They are actively involved in a relationship with God.

All these help define what is a functioning adult. Adults take on the challenges of life and find their niche. They know what is important to them, and they focus on those things. They know their limits, and what they can't provide for themselves they are able to get from outside resources.

God designed your child to function independently of you. This is what is so difficult about parenting: It's the only relationship designed by God that measures success by how well it ends. You are investing in helping your child leave you. In the biblical teaching that children should leave father and mother (Genesis 2:24), the meaning of leave is "to forsake." Every mom and dad who have sacrificed for and loved a child suffer a real parent-wound when their child grows up and leaves. And yet mature parents gladly suffer this wound, because they know the benefits the child will receive from their investment.

Sadly, kids don't always grow up well. Sometimes they don't leave, and they depend on their parents far too long. At other times they leave, but they aren't prepared for adult life. They may not depend on their parents any longer, but they aren't functioning well in love or work. They are adults on the outside, but they are broken or undeveloped on the inside.

Who Is Responsible for What?

Who is responsible for your child's maturity and readiness for the world-you or your child? This important question deeply affects a parent's attitude toward a child. Answers to it fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some see the child's successes or failures in life as primarily the parent's responsibility. These parents diligently do whatever they can to help their child grow, and they feel that the child's adult years reflect on how they parented. Others see the child as taking the weight. "I did my best, and he had a choice," they say when problems arise.

We believe in the following three principles about responsibility.

1. Responsibility lies on a continuum between child and parent, and where it lies on the continuum changes over time. The child's only responsibility at the beginning of life is to need and take in the sources of life; parents have total responsibility for the child. As the child begins to assert himself, learn tasks, and become more self-sufficient, he takes more ownership of his life and the parent takes less. Around the beginning of the teen years, the parent actively begins "de-parenting," that is, exchanging a controlling role in the child's life for an influential one. By the time he reaches the late teens, the child should be taking over total responsibility for his behavior, finances, morality, and relationships.

2. Even though responsibility shifts, both parents and children still have their own unique and distinct tasks. Parents provide safety and love, and they also structure experiences to help the child mature. The child responds to these experiences, takes risks, fails, and learns lessons. Parents and children can't do each other's jobs; they must do their own. Parents who ask their child if it's okay to be a parent are in trouble. The question, "Is it all right with you if I set a curfew?" does not show parental authority. And the child who tries to take responsibility for her parents' feelings also has a problem.

3. The child must bear the ultimate responsibility for his life. No parent is perfect, and all children suffer some injuries along with the benefits they receive from their parents. Early childhood experiences are life-changing. In major ways they determine the kind of adults children grow up to be. Yet, in the end, a child will be evaluated not as much on his circumstances and environment, but on how he responded to what life handed out: Did he love? Did he practice stewardship? Did he grow, change, and forgive?

The Bible says that at the end of life we will all be called to account for the good and bad we did in life (2 Corinthians 5:10). While your child is coming to terms today with what his tasks are and are not, he always needs to be moving toward full responsibility for his life and soul.

Your Parenting Reflects Your Goals

Ironically, we often know our financial and career goals more clearly than we do our child-rearing goals. One difficulty with setting parenting goals is that kids have their own say-so and may have different ideas. In addition, parenting is so demanding that it's hard to take a long-term view. You have many fires to put out, and today's worries keep you busy enough.

Yet, if someone said to you, "What is the goal of your parenting?" you might identify with some of the following approaches.

Survival. Keep things on an even keel from day to day. A financial or marital struggle, for example, may keep parents in crisis. Their goal is making it to the next day. As you would expect, the child's welfare often suffers with this approach.

Independence. Teach children to be self-sufficient. "If I can just get them grown up and living on their own, I'll settle for that," a battle-worn mom or dad might say of a teen. Teaching a child self-sufficiency has a lot of merit, yet many adults can work and support themselves but have large problems in other areas such as making friends or finding a life's partner.

Competence. Teach children to be competent. This is the hallmark of our era. To provide their children with a good background, "soccer moms and dads" exhaust themselves with sports, arts activities, and social events. Every Saturday is dedicated to a kid's games and tournaments. While kids learn valuable skills, teamwork, and socialization, they may miss out on other areas of life such as intimacy, home responsibilities, and spiritual values.

Problem Solving. Address problems as they come up. Parents work on behavioral problems, school issues, and attitude struggles. Good parents do face thousands of problems, yet some problems often hide deeper issues. An underachieving child, for example, may have developmental or family conflicts. He may be emotionally or cognitively immature. Or, he may be suffering from depression over the marriage problems of his parents. Problem solvers need to have overarching values and principles to guide them.

Morality. Teach children to be good. This was Tony's goal. He wanted his daughter Halley to grow up to be a "good person," a young woman who is pure and has good values. Yet morality is a complex attribute, as we will see later. A goal of morality alone may lead to problems with guilt, judgmentalism, or acting out.

Religious life. Most parents want God to be the center of their children's lives. We want kids who love God and follow his ways. Yet religious training that doesn't recognize the spiritual aspects of helping kids live real life is a weak goal. Many are the parents whose hearts were broken because their child learned the words of the Bible, but did not believe them in his heart or live them out in his life.

Character: The Real Goal

My friend Tony wanted his daughter to be a good kid. Good kids are a product of the real goal of parenting: mature character. When children grow up with mature character, they are able to take their place as adults in the world and function properly in all areas of life. Character growth is the main goal of child rearing. But what is character? For some, the word character brings to mind pictures of a person who has integrity, takes responsibility for her life, and stands up for the right thing. Others may see character as the child's personality-those attributes that make her unique, such as energy level, interests, and a sense of humor. Personality is a child's emotional fingerprint-there's only one like it.

People with mature character do have traits of integrity, responsibility, and courage, but we understand character in a bigger-picture way. We view character as the structures and abilities within ourselves that make up how we operate in life. In other words, character is the sum of our abilities to deal with life as God designed us to. Reality makes certain demands on us, for example, to relate to other people in good ways, to do what we say we will do, to take ownership of our own mistakes, and to solve our own problems. Our success (or failure) in meeting these demands shows our level of character development.

You may know adults who look good and perform well but have character flaws. These character flaws-a bad temper, a tendency to withdraw, or self-centeredness-rear their ugly heads over and over again to diminish that person's life experience. More often than not, these flaws began in childhood and continued on in adulthood. This is why parenting is so critical; childhood is the time when character strengths and weaknesses are laid down. We are not telling you this to scare you, but simply to point out a truth. You can make great strides in helping your child be a person of character, or you can also miss its importance and see its effects in painful ways later in life. Better the first than the second. As the Bible teaches, make the most of your opportunities because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).

Randall found out early in life that if he failed, his guilt-ridden parents would buy just about any excuse he made for his failure. They didn't want to be mean or harsh with their son. So when he brought home conduct reports and bad grades from school, Randall would complain to his folks about that unfair teacher who had it in for him. Then Mom and Dad would march to the principal's office to straighten out the bad teacher.

Randall developed a character weakness in the area of personal responsibility.

Continues.

Continues.


Chapter One

The Goal of Parenting

A Child with Character

* * *

My friend Tony had asked me (Dr. Townsend) to dinner to talk about a family problem. After we caught up on what was new in our lives since we had last seen each other, he began talking about his recent struggles with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Halley. She was skipping school, drinking, and hanging around with a bad crowd. Tony and his wife, Denise, were working with the school, their church, and a counselor to deal with Halley's behavior.

"It must be awful. How are you handling it?" I asked Tony.

"It's been tough for all of us," Tony said. "But for me the worst part is what we've lost."

"What do you mean?"

"Remember when Halley was three or four?"

I nodded, having been friends with the family for years.

"She was the sweetest, most responsive kid you'd ever see," he said. "We were all so close. Halley wasn't perfect, but she was a good girl. Then out of the blue, this angry, lying, rebellious person seems to inhabit my daughter's body. I don't know this Halley."

I sat quietly with my friend, empathizing with his sense of loss.

Sometime later, Tony and I met again, and I asked about Halley. With a look of weary wisdom, he said, "We've all worked hard, and things are a lot better. I've learned some things about how we raised Halley. We wanted her to be good. But we weren't doing a lot about helping her have good character. That's our focus nowadays."

Tony's observation illustrates an important point about parenting. Everybody wants good kids. Good children do what they're supposed to. This is a proper and right desire. We are all to do what is good and right in God's eyes (Deuteronomy 12:28). But many good children don't grow up handling life well. They may become either not-so-good people or good-but-immature adults.

As Tony learned, the issue is not about being good, but about having good character. That is the subject of this chapter.

The Importance of Being a Parent

If you are a parent, congratulations! You are engaged in one of the most meaningful jobs in the world. Although cleaning up spilled milk and arguing about dirty rooms may seem trivial, you are doing eternally significant work: developing a little person into an adult.

God understands and supports you in this endeavor. People didn't invent parenting, God did. He is in a parent-child role with us, his people, forever. He loves us and wants to nurture and develop us. He wants us to call him by a parent name: "Father."

Being a parent is one of the most important tasks God gives anyone. Children are a blessing and a great heritage. Through parenting, humanity continues down through the centuries, our spiritual and cultural values are preserved, and the image of God is revealed in every new generation.

Parenting is a huge task. Parents shoulder the burden of being the source of life, love, and growth for their children. One of the elements of childhood is dependency. Dependency defines a child. Children look to and need parents for all those things they can't provide for themselves. Especially in the early years, the parent takes responsibility for both knowing and giving needed elements of life to the child. A dependent person (child) and a source person (parent) are at the core of the parent-child relationship.

If you are reading this book, most likely you willingly chose the responsibility of becoming a parent. If this isn't true, you have certainly still accepted this responsibility. Most parents have strong values and emotions that influence them to raise kids. For example, they want to:

Create love with a spouse, which can transfer down to another generation Pass on their values to others Create a warm and caring family context Have fun with their kids Contribute something to the world

These are all good reasons for parenting. However, once you have become a parent, it can be hard to get your head above water long enough to figure out exactly what you are trying to accomplish and how you will know when you get there. Parents need a way to keep in mind the ultimate goal of parenting.

Creating an Adult

Most parents want their children to grow up. In other words, we define success not by how our children are doing today, but by what happens after they leave home. Imagine your children as adults in the following areas of life:

School. They are investing in training for life and career. Job. They are growing in career life. Dating. They are choosing people who are mature and have good values. Marriage. They have chosen a life's partner, and they are working at their marriage. Friendships. They have a close-knit group of friends who support them. Personal values and conduct. They have thought through what is important to them and live consistently with good values. Spiritual life. They are actively involved in a relationship with God.

All these help define what is a functioning adult. Adults take on the challenges of life and find their niche. They know what is important to them, and they focus on those things. They know their limits, and what they can't provide for themselves they are able to get from outside resources.

God designed your child to function independently of you. This is what is so difficult about parenting: It's the only relationship designed by God that measures success by how well it ends. You are investing in helping your child leave you. In the biblical teaching that children should leave father and mother (Genesis 2:24), the meaning of leave is "to forsake." Every mom and dad who have sacrificed for and loved a child suffer a real parent-wound when their child grows up and leaves. And yet mature parents gladly suffer this wound, because they know the benefits the child will receive from their investment.

Sadly, kids don't always grow up well. Sometimes they don't leave, and they depend on their parents far too long. At other times they leave, but they aren't prepared for adult life. They may not depend on their parents any longer, but they aren't functioning well in love or work. They are adults on the outside, but they are broken or undeveloped on the inside.

Who Is Responsible for What?

Who is responsible for your child's maturity and readiness for the world-you or your child? This important question deeply affects a parent's attitude toward a child. Answers to it fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some see the child's successes or failures in life as primarily the parent's responsibility. These parents diligently do whatever they can to help their child grow, and they feel that the child's adult years reflect on how they parented. Others see the child as taking the weight. "I did my best, and he had a choice," they say when problems arise.

We believe in the following three principles about responsibility.

1. Responsibility lies on a continuum between child and parent, and where it lies on the continuum changes over time. The child's only responsibility at the beginning of life is to need and take in the sources of life; parents have total responsibility for the child. As the child begins to assert himself, learn tasks, and become more self-sufficient, he takes more ownership of his life and the parent takes less. Around the beginning of the teen years, the parent actively begins "de-parenting," that is, exchanging a controlling role in the child's life for an influential one. By the time he reaches the late teens, the child should be taking over total responsibility for his behavior, finances, morality, and relationships.

2. Even though responsibility shifts, both parents and children still have their own unique and distinct tasks. Parents provide safety and love, and they also structure experiences to help the child mature. The child responds to these experiences, takes risks, fails, and learns lessons. Parents and children can't do each other's jobs; they must do their own. Parents who ask their child if it's okay to be a parent are in trouble. The question, "Is it all right with you if I set a curfew?" does not show parental authority. And the child who tries to take responsibility for her parents' feelings also has a problem.

3. The child must bear the ultimate responsibility for his life. No parent is perfect, and all children suffer some injuries along with the benefits they receive from their parents. Early childhood experiences are life-changing. In major ways they determine the kind of adults children grow up to be. Yet, in the end, a child will be evaluated not as much on his circumstances and environment, but on how he responded to what life handed out: Did he love? Did he practice stewardship? Did he grow, change, and forgive?

The Bible says that at the end of life we will all be called to account for the good and bad we did in life (2 Corinthians 5:10). While your child is coming to terms today with what his tasks are and are not, he always needs to be moving toward full responsibility for his life and soul.

Your Parenting Reflects Your Goals

Ironically, we often know our financial and career goals more clearly than we do our child-rearing goals. One difficulty with setting parenting goals is that kids have their own say-so and may have different ideas. In addition, parenting is so demanding that it's hard to take a long-term view. You have many fires to put out, and today's worries keep you busy enough.

Yet, if someone said to you, "What is the goal of your parenting?" you might identify with some of the following approaches.

Survival. Keep things on an even keel from day to day. A financial or marital struggle, for example, may keep parents in crisis. Their goal is making it to the next day. As you would expect, the child's welfare often suffers with this approach.

Independence. Teach children to be self-sufficient. "If I can just get them grown up and living on their own, I'll settle for that," a battle-worn mom or dad might say of a teen. Teaching a child self-sufficiency has a lot of merit, yet many adults can work and support themselves but have large problems in other areas such as making friends or finding a life's partner.

Competence. Teach children to be competent. This is the hallmark of our era. To provide their children with a good background, "soccer moms and dads" exhaust themselves with sports, arts activities, and social events. Every Saturday is dedicated to a kid's games and tournaments. While kids learn valuable skills, teamwork, and socialization, they may miss out on other areas of life such as intimacy, home responsibilities, and spiritual values.

Problem Solving. Address problems as they come up. Parents work on behavioral problems, school issues, and attitude struggles. Good parents do face thousands of problems, yet some problems often hide deeper issues. An underachieving child, for example, may have developmental or family conflicts. He may be emotionally or cognitively immature. Or, he may be suffering from depression over the marriage problems of his parents. Problem solvers need to have overarching values and principles to guide them.

Morality. Teach children to be good. This was Tony's goal. He wanted his daughter Halley to grow up to be a "good person," a young woman who is pure and has good values. Yet morality is a complex attribute, as we will see later. A goal of morality alone may lead to problems with guilt, judgmentalism, or acting out.

Religious life. Most parents want God to be the center of their children's lives. We want kids who love God and follow his ways. Yet religious training that doesn't recognize the spiritual aspects of helping kids live real life is a weak goal. Many are the parents whose hearts were broken because their child learned the words of the Bible, but did not believe them in his heart or live them out in his life.

Character: The Real Goal

My friend Tony wanted his daughter to be a good kid. Good kids are a product of the real goal of parenting: mature character. When children grow up with mature character, they are able to take their place as adults in the world and function properly in all areas of life. Character growth is the main goal of child rearing. But what is character? For some, the word character brings to mind pictures of a person who has integrity, takes responsibility for her life, and stands up for the right thing. Others may see character as the child's personality-those attributes that make her unique, such as energy level, interests, and a sense of humor. Personality is a child's emotional fingerprint-there's only one like it.

People with mature character do have traits of integrity, responsibility, and courage, but we understand character in a bigger-picture way. We view character as the structures and abilities within ourselves that make up how we operate in life. In other words, character is the sum of our abilities to deal with life as God designed us to. Reality makes certain demands on us, for example, to relate to other people in good ways, to do what we say we will do, to take ownership of our own mistakes, and to solve our own problems. Our success (or failure) in meeting these demands shows our level of character development.

You may know adults who look good and perform well but have character flaws. These character flaws-a bad temper, a tendency to withdraw, or self-centeredness-rear their ugly heads over and over again to diminish that person's life experience. More often than not, these flaws began in childhood and continued on in adulthood. This is why parenting is so critical; childhood is the time when character strengths and weaknesses are laid down. We are not telling you this to scare you, but simply to point out a truth. You can make great strides in helping your child be a person of character, or you can also miss its importance and see its effects in painful ways later in life. Better the first than the second. As the Bible teaches, make the most of your opportunities because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).

Randall found out early in life that if he failed, his guilt-ridden parents would buy just about any excuse he made for his failure. They didn't want to be mean or harsh with their son. So when he brought home conduct reports and bad grades from school, Randall would complain to his folks about that unfair teacher who had it in for him. Then Mom and Dad would march to the principal's office to straighten out the bad teacher.

Randall developed a character weakness in the area of personal responsibility.

Continues.

Excerpt


Chapter One

The Goal of Parenting

A Child with Character

* * *

My friend Tony had asked me (Dr. Townsend) to dinner to talk about a family problem. After we caught up on what was new in our lives since we had last seen each other, he began talking about his recent struggles with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Halley. She was skipping school, drinking, and hanging around with a bad crowd. Tony and his wife, Denise, were working with the school, their church, and a counselor to deal with Halley's behavior.

"It must be awful. How are you handling it?" I asked Tony.

"It's been tough for all of us," Tony said. "But for me the worst part is what we've lost."

"What do you mean?"

"Remember when Halley was three or four?"

I nodded, having been friends with the family for years.

"She was the sweetest, most responsive kid you'd ever see," he said. "We were all so close. Halley wasn't perfect, but she was a good girl. Then out of the blue, this angry, lying, rebellious person seems to inhabit my daughter's body. I don't know this Halley."

I sat quietly with my friend, empathizing with his sense of loss.

Sometime later, Tony and I met again, and I asked about Halley. With a look of weary wisdom, he said, "We've all worked hard, and things are a lot better. I've learned some things about how we raised Halley. We wanted her to be good . But we weren't doing a lot about helping her have good character . That's our focus nowadays."

Tony's observation illustrates an important point about parenting. Everybody wants good kids. Good children do what they're supposed to. This is a proper and right desire. We are all to do what is good and right in God's eyes (Deuteronomy 12:28). But many good children don't grow up handling life well. They may become either not-so-good people or good-but-immature adults.

As Tony learned, the issue is not about being good, but about having good character. That is the subject of this chapter.

The Importance of Being a Parent

If you are a parent, congratulations! You are engaged in one of the most meaningful jobs in the world. Although cleaning up spilled milk and arguing about dirty rooms may seem trivial, you are doing eternally significant work: developing a little person into an adult.

God understands and supports you in this endeavor. People didn't invent parenting, God did. He is in a parent-child role with us, his people, forever. He loves us and wants to nurture and develop us. He wants us to call him by a parent name: "Father."

Being a parent is one of the most important tasks God gives anyone. Children are a blessing and a great heritage. Through parenting, humanity continues down through the centuries, our spiritual and cultural values are preserved, and the image of God is revealed in every new generation.

Parenting is a huge task. Parents shoulder the burden of being the source of life, love, and growth for their children. One of the elements of childhood is dependency . Dependency defines a child. Children look to and need parents for all those things they can't provide for themselves. Especially in the early years, the parent takes responsibility for both knowing and giving needed elements of life to the child. A dependent person (child) and a source person (parent) are at the core of the parent-child relationship.

If you are reading this book, most likely you willingly chose the responsibility of becoming a parent. If this isn't true, you have certainly still accepted this responsibility. Most parents have strong values and emotions that influence them to raise kids. For example, they want to:

Create love with a spouse, which can transfer down to another generation Pass on their values to others Create a warm and caring family context Have fun with their kids Contribute something to the world

These are all good reasons for parenting. However, once you have become a parent, it can be hard to get your head above water long enough to figure out exactly what you are trying to accomplish and how you will know when you get there. Parents need a way to keep in mind the ultimate goal of parenting.

Creating an Adult

Most parents want their children to grow up. In other words, we define success not by how our children are doing today, but by what happens after they leave home. Imagine your children as adults in the following areas of life:

School.They are investing in training for life and career. Job.They are growing in career life. Dating.They are choosing people who are mature and have good values. Marriage.They have chosen a life's partner, and they are working at their marriage. Friendships.They have a close-knit group of friends who support them. Personal values and conduct.They have thought through what is important to them and live consistently with good values. Spiritual life.They are actively involved in a relationship with God.

All these help define what is a functioning adult. Adults take on the challenges of life and find their niche. They know what is important to them, and they focus on those things. They know their limits, and what they can't provide for themselves they are able to get from outside resources.

God designed your child to function independently of you. This is what is so difficult about parenting: It's the only relationship designed by God that measures success by how well it ends. You are investing in helping your child leave you. In the biblical teaching that children should leave father and mother (Genesis 2:24), the meaning of leaveis "to forsake." Every mom and dad who have sacrificed for and loved a child suffer a real parent-wound when their child grows up and leaves. And yet mature parents gladly suffer this wound, because they know the benefits the child will receive from their investment.

Sadly, kids don't always grow up well. Sometimes they don't leave, and they depend on their parents far too long. At other times they leave, but they aren't prepared for adult life. They may not depend on their parents any longer, but they aren't functioning well in love or work. They are adults on the outside, but they are broken or undeveloped on the inside.

Who Is Responsible for What?

Who is responsible for your child's maturity and readiness for the world-you or your child? This important question deeply affects a parent's attitude toward a child. Answers to it fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some see the child's successes or failures in life as primarily the parent's responsibility. These parents diligently do whatever they can to help their child grow, and they feel that the child's adult years reflect on how they parented. Others see the child as taking the weight. "I did my best, and he had a choice," they say when problems arise.

We believe in the following three principles about responsibility.

1. Responsibility lies on a continuum between child and parent, and where it lies on the continuum changes over time. The child's only responsibility at the beginning of life is to need and take in the sources of life; parents have total responsibility for the child. As the child begins to assert himself, learn tasks, and become more self-sufficient, he takes more ownership of his life and the parent takes less. Around the beginning of the teen years, the parent actively begins "de-parenting," that is, exchanging a controlling role in the child's life for an influential one. By the time he reaches the late teens, the child should be taking over total responsibility for his behavior, finances, morality, and relationships.

2. Even though responsibility shifts, both parents and children still have their own unique and distinct tasks. Parents provide safety and love, and they also structure experiences to help the child mature. The child responds to these experiences, takes risks, fails, and learns lessons. Parents and children can't do each other's jobs; they must do their own. Parents who ask their child if it's okay to be a parent are in trouble. The question, "Is it all right with you if I set a curfew?" does not show parental authority. And the child who tries to take responsibility for her parents' feelings also has a problem.

3. The child must bear the ultimate responsibility for his life. No parent is perfect, and all children suffer some injuries along with the benefits they receive from their parents. Early childhood experiences are life-changing. In major ways they determine the kind of adults children grow up to be. Yet, in the end, a child will be evaluated not as much on his circumstances and environment, but on how he responded to what life handed out: Did he love? Did he practice stewardship? Did he grow, change, and forgive?

The Bible says that at the end of life we will all be called to account for the good and bad we did in life (2 Corinthians 5:10). While your child is coming to terms today with what his tasks are and are not, he always needs to be moving toward full responsibility for his life and soul.

Your Parenting Reflects Your Goals

Ironically, we often know our financial and career goals more clearly than we do our child-rearing goals. One difficulty with setting parenting goals is that kids have their own say-so and may have different ideas. In addition, parenting is so demanding that it's hard to take a long-term view. You have many fires to put out, and today's worries keep you busy enough.

Yet, if someone said to you, "What is the goal of your parenting?" you might identify with some of the following approaches.

Survival.Keep things on an even keel from day to day. A financial or marital struggle, for example, may keep parents in crisis. Their goal is making it to the next day. As you would expect, the child's welfare often suffers with this approach.

Independence.Teach children to be self-sufficient. "If I can just get them grown up and living on their own, I'll settle for that," a battle-worn mom or dad might say of a teen. Teaching a child self-sufficiency has a lot of merit, yet many adults can work and support themselves but have large problems in other areas such as making friends or finding a life's partner.

Competence.Teach children to be competent. This is the hallmark of our era. To provide their children with a good background, "soccer moms and dads" exhaust themselves with sports, arts activities, and social events. Every Saturday is dedicated to a kid's games and tournaments. While kids learn valuable skills, teamwork, and socialization, they may miss out on other areas of life such as intimacy, home responsibilities, and spiritual values.

Problem Solving.Address problems as they come up. Parents work on behavioral problems, school issues, and attitude struggles. Good parents do face thousands of problems, yet some problems often hide deeper issues. An underachieving child, for example, may have developmental or family conflicts. He may be emotionally or cognitively immature. Or, he may be suffering from depression over the marriage problems of his parents. Problem solvers need to have overarching values and principles to guide them.

Morality.Teach children to be good. This was Tony's goal. He wanted his daughter Halley to grow up to be a "good person," a young woman who is pure and has good values. Yet morality is a complex attribute, as we will see later. A goal of morality alone may lead to problems with guilt, judgmentalism, or acting out.

Religious life.Most parents want God to be the center of their children's lives. We want kids who love God and follow his ways. Yet religious training that doesn't recognize the spiritual aspects of helping kids live real life is a weak goal. Many are the parents whose hearts were broken because their child learned the words of the Bible, but did not believe them in his heart or live them out in his life.

Character: The Real Goal

My friend Tony wanted his daughter to be a good kid. Good kids are a product of the real goal of parenting: mature character . When children grow up with mature character, they are able to take their place as adults in the world and function properly in all areas of life. Character growth is the main goal of child rearing. But what is character? For some, the word characterbrings to mind pictures of a person who has integrity, takes responsibility for her life, and stands up for the right thing. Others may see character as the child's personality-those attributes that make her unique, such as energy level, interests, and a sense of humor. Personality is a child's emotional fingerprint-there's only one like it.

People with mature character do have traits of integrity, responsibility, and courage, but we understand character in a bigger-picture way. We view character as the structures and abilities within ourselves that make up how we operate in life. In other words, character is the sum of our abilities to deal with life as God designed us to . Reality makes certain demands on us, for example, to relate to other people in good ways, to do what we say we will do, to take ownership of our own mistakes, and to solve our own problems. Our success (or failure) in meeting these demands shows our level of character development.

You may know adults who look good and perform well but have character flaws. These character flaws-a bad temper, a tendency to withdraw, or self-centeredness-rear their ugly heads over and over again to diminish that person's life experience. More often than not, these flaws began in childhood and continued on in adulthood. This is why parenting is so critical; childhood is the time when character strengths and weaknesses are laid down. We are not telling you this to scare you, but simply to point out a truth. You can make great strides in helping your child be a person of character, or you can also miss its importance and see its effects in painful ways later in life. Better the first than the second. As the Bible teaches, make the most of your opportunities because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).

Randall found out early in life that if he failed, his guilt-ridden parents would buy just about any excuse he made for his failure. They didn't want to be mean or harsh with their son. So when he brought home conduct reports and bad grades from school, Randall would complain to his folks about that unfair teacher who had it in for him. Then Mom and Dad would march to the principal's office to straighten out the bad teacher.

Randall developed a character weakness in the area of personal responsibility.

Continues.

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