Let’s get practical!
In my last couple of blogs, I focused on two very important tools that lead to a deeper relationship with your child. Time and listening. These are important steps in parenting; a good relationship with your child is what will lead them to WANT to please you. A strong parent/child bond lays the foundation for success and is of lifetime importance. That said, it is only the tip of the iceberg as far as true parenting goes. Being close to our children is wonderful and important and can be the greatest part of parenting. Unfortunately, our children are imperfect and are not yet ready to go into the world on their own. They are selfish and shortsighted. They make some strange choices and often can be quite cruel. As much as we want our children to be happy in the moment, our primary job is to raise them into God-loving, productive adults. This means that we cannot be their friend. We must remain their parent.
This does not mean that we have to give up that closeness, it just means that, until they are grown (all the way, not just teens no matter how “mature” they seem to be), we cannot mistake that relationship for friendship.
I love how the Message Bible interprets Proverbs 29:15 “Wise discipline imparts wisdom; spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents.” Though in today’s world, not only can they be an embarrassment, they can be in danger. Danger of drugs, premarital sex, and ideas that will draw them far from the arms of the Father.
And Proverbs 23: 13-14 (NIRV) powerfully states: “Don’t hold back correction from a child. If you correct them, they won’t die. So correct them. Then you will save them from death.”
Our kids need us to be parents. A parent who teaches, corrects, encourages, and disciplines. An effective tool to begin in the implementation of this important job is the instructional routine or IR. It has been used as a method in classroom mathematics for years: “Instructional routines are specific and repeatable designs for learning that support both the teacher and students in the classroom... enabling all students to engage more fully in learning opportunities while building crucial mathematical thinking habits.” (Kelemanik, Lucenta, & Creighton, 2016). Use of the Instructional Routine in Biblical Parenting is very much the same idea. It is a formula for interaction that is practiced and utilized every time we, as a parent, have a request for our children. Because our children know what to expect and because we know when and how to approach them, each interaction is more likely to be productive and less likely to end up in conflict. The result of this is increased relationship and productivity leading to a smoother family life. The IR is for day to day life; we have further tools for when things get “off-track”. However, the IR establishes healthy and productive habits for a more peaceful family life.
Overview of the IR: Each step has an expectation for the parent as well as for the child.
1. Parents solidify the relationship with their child regularly which results in a child being willing to be receptive when called. This also entails a parent going to the child for a request as much as possible and making some kind of connection. This can be as simple as a touch on the shoulder or making eye contact. The child is always ready to be called.
2. Parents consider their timing. This means that if I child is in the middle of a school assignment or activity with friends or something else important to them, the parent takes that account and may choose another time to approach the child. The child is ready at all times for instruction.
3. The parent makes their request firmly and clearly using words like: “you need to… now”. A parent needs to avoid “I’d like you to” or “it would be nice if you.”. The child says “ok, mom”, “ok, dad”, or “you bet”.
4. Parents wait expectantly. This may mean you’re checking in with them to see if it’s done, but it needs to be with an excited expectation instead of with frustration or anger. Disappointment can be expressed if the time expectation isn’t met, but even then, it needs to be tempered with the expectation that it will be done. “I’m disappointed the task I requested from you is not finished yet but I’m sure that means it will be done even better than it would have if you’d done it quickly”. The child’s part in this step is to do the task as if on a mission.
5. This final step is the only one where the child does the first portion. The child or teen reports back that they have finished the request and the parent inspects. This last step for the parent is the most difficult but also the most vital. Many parents struggle with the follow-through of inspection. If we don’t inspect, though, it is unlikely that the child, over time, will put much effort into the task knowing that it is unlikely they will be found out. Skipping this part also destroys any continuity you are trying to establish.
In coaching, we would cover each of these steps in detail according to your situation and the needs of your people over several weeks. Every child is different and every situation is different but with time and practice, even teens can benefit from this routine. Though the personalities are unique, the structure remains the same.
It is tempting to be our child's friend instead of their parent. It's easier in the short term and a lot more fun. However, without proper parenting, a child will become an angry adult: entitled, selfish, and unable to handle the difficulties and realities of the world around them. They will believe that all authority should be their friend and not know how to function in a world where that simply true. As a parent, it is our duty and calling to prepare our children for the world. To teach, to encourage, and to discipline. Without this loving instruction from us, they simply do not stand a chance in the real world. They will have plenty of friends in this life that will be good for them and if we are one of them, we cheat them of the parenting they need and deserve. A parent acting primarily as a friend is truly the worst friend a kid could ever have!