A father who came to psychologist Michael Anderson’s office for counseling illustrates the shift in thinking many moms and dads need to make.
The father said, “In the last 90 days, my daughter has completely changed. She’ll do anything her friends tell her to do. She’s smoking. She’s drinking. She’s shoplifting.”
Michael asked him, “What was she like 90 days ago?”
The father said, “She was an A-student. She was in the church youth group. She’d do anything we told her to do.”
That last phrase caught Michael’s ear. He said, “It sounds like the only thing that’s changed is who she’s listening to.”
What Michael was communicating to this father was that his daughter had never been encouraged to develop her identity or to think for herself – only to follow instructions. When she stopped listening to mom and dad and started listening to her friends instead, it looked like a radical change was underway.
The objective of parenting is to launch your children into the world, ready to maintain healthy relationships and to handle the rigors of the adult world all on their own. But the process of helping your child get there can be counterintuitive.
When you see a well-behaved child, do you think, “Wow, those parents are doing a great job”? That perception may or may not be accurate. The child could be behaving out of strong inner character. Or his obedience could only be a thin veneer. Discipline is only truly fruitful if it helps children develop self-discipline.
How do you do that? A great place to start is to say what you mean and mean what you say. That bit of advice may sound cliché at first, but colleagues Michael Anderson and Dr. Tim Johanson say the proof is all around us that this strategy is effective.
A lack of follow-through is common to moms and dads who try too hard to protect their children from struggle and the discomfort it causes. When your child makes bad decisions, it’s your job to make sure his or her life functions radically different than when they’re making good decisions. That’s how they learn. Paul teaches us that very principle in the book of Romans (5:3-5). Pain helps build character when you properly channel it.
If your parenting isn’t producing the character in your child you’ve expected, it’s time to get creative by approaching your parenting from a new perspective.
We’ll fully unpack this concept with Michael Anderson and Dr. Tim Johanson on our Focus on the Family broadcast “Rethinking Your Parenting Strategies.” It will offer simple, practical strategies you’ll be able to start using immediately to teach and train your kids and to help prepare them for adulthood.
Michael is a licensed psychologist, and Tim is a pediatrician. Both of these men have spent decades studying the way kids grow and learn, and they have some very interesting and out-of-the-box ideas that may very well transform your parenting.