Even though the mistakes our children make are glaring us in the face, we also know that each of our children has certain attributes that make them wonderful, individual, and precious to us. Charitable parents focus more on those good, productive attributes than on the negative mistakes their children make daily.
Each week I answer peoples’ parenting questions on my weekly support group call. The majority of the time the questions submitted about lying, disobedience, attitude problems, tantrums, etc. are prefaced with statements like these:
“William is such a sweet boy. He always helps clean up without any complaining and loves his family so much, but he has a problem with…”
“I really enjoy my little angel, Larren. She’s so kind to everyone, except her…”
“Jared and Tyson are the best of friends. But they aren’t kind to…”
These statements are charitable. The parents are considering the whole person when they’re analyzing the troubling childhood behavior problem they’re trying to solve.
Occasionally, a frazzled parent will corner me at a conference I’m speaking at and tell me the intricate story of multiple behavior and relationship problems they’re dealing with. My heart goes out to these parents who don’t seem to have any hope left for a happy, united relationship with their child/children. Some of these families aren’t just battling the selfish behaviors they see, but they’re also battling the dark, negative feelings they have toward their children. They know they shouldn’t feel that way about their child, but after so much work and feeling so much abuse from their child, they start to only see failure; their failure and the child’s failure.
Even when parents are helping their children work through the toughest of behaviors, it’s possible to still have hope and acceptance of the child. When parents have an optimistic, hopeful, loving, accepting countenance, they’re practicing charitable parenting.
What Charitable Parents Do
Charitable parents carry a tone with them that makes everything okay, even when problems with disobedience, lying, or familial discord must be solved. This tone is based upon a bigger picture view of family and relationships. Each child is seen as a whole person with strengths and value first, and with mistakes and trouble spots that need attention second.
Charitable parents don’t focus on their children’s weaknesses, but instead on their potential abilities and strengths. In order to have this larger view of the value of a person, the parent acknowledges the child’s eternal value to God. Our loving Creator gently leads us and teaches through the moments of our lives, even when some of that teaching and leading requires correcting. He knows we each have greater abilities than we immediately see in ourselves and others. We must trust in that to be charitable parents.
Charitable parents are constant. They love and understand no matter what the situation is.
Charitable parents keep the mistakes and bad decisions separate from the person who made them. These parents know that life is a journey and mistakes will happen. Mistakes, even deliberate bad decisions, don’t ruin a person’s value or potential. When parents keep that frame of mind, their children, no matter the age, feel free to improve, instead of feeling stuck in a label.
Charitable parents praise the good things they see. They praise good efforts and progress, instead of waiting for perfection. In fact, parents should praise their child’s efforts more often than corrections are required. Since a parent shouldn’t be inconsistent with their corrections, they need to deliberately think of praising more.
Charitable parents take time to listen to their children. For children to open up to parents, the parents must create an environment that teaches that skill first. Family meetings and communication skills — like the skill to disagree appropriately — are a few ways parents can establish a habit of understanding and listening to the thoughts of their children.
Most children don’t open up to their parents because they assume their parents will not understand, or will think bad of them, based on prior bad parent behavior. Parents can successfully open the communication door by deliberately talking about past bad behavior and establishing new communication patterns as a family.
Charitable parents focus more on the condition of their own heart and improving their own behaviors than they focus on fixing the behaviors of the children. True charity requires honest thought and action. Many parents want their children to change behaviors but don’t want to acknowledge their own flawed communication habits. Charitable parents put their greatest effort on self-improvement and self-analysis. This is the essence of charity.
To have charity is to love no matter the problem, no matter the behavior, no matter the condition of the heart being loved. That is charity. This charity can only happen through self-government.
Learn more about ways to improve parent and child self-government here.