3 Attributes Every Parent Must Balance
Children want parents. Even when they yell in anger that they do not want or need a parent, deep down every child wants parents. Not just any parent either. Children want and need two things from their parents. First, they need parents who demand respect. Parents who are strong (“My dad’s bigger than your dad”). Parents who are not overwhelmed or frightened by their anger or frustration. Parents they can look up to. Second, they need parents who love them unconditionally. Parents who accept them just as they are, pimples and all. Parents they can turn to when hurt, sad, confused, or happy. Parents who are available to comfort and nurture as well as to motivate and discipline. That makes parenting quite the balancing act. You might say that effective parents balance the paradoxical needs of grace and truth, love and limits. Here are 3 specific areas every parent needs to balance in order to provide children with thing paradoxical needs of love and limits.
- Parents balance authority with compassion. Authority without compassion becomes harsh, critical, and judgmental. It is more concerned with the rules than the person. A child who lives under authority without compassion will likely rebel. Sooner or later, they will fight against the authority. In addition, they will think more poorly about themselves; after all, “the rules are more important than me and I can’t even keep all the rules.” Ultimately, “rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” Authority balanced with compassion teaches respect and cooperation. A compassionate authority offers meaningful explanations for the rules and emphasizes that the rules are designed for the protection and long-term benefit of the people involved. The practice of compassionate authority clearly places a loving priority on the person.
- Parents balance protective guidance with the freedom to explore. Children need guidance. They lack the wisdom and experience necessary to make momentary life decisions without parental input. The area of the brain involved in thinking ahead and making complex decisions (the frontal lobe) is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. As a result, parents need to become “co-frontal lobes” with their children and teens, helping them talk through decisions and helping them consider all the possible consequences of that decision. Yes, parents need to offer protective guidance to their children. At the same time, children need room to explore. They need the opportunity to exercise their curiosity. That demands freedom, down time, even unsupervised times. It also means that our children may make mistakes during their exploration. Even then, they benefit from the freedom to learn from those mistakes. Protective guidance and freedom to explore, both offered by a parent to their child.
- Parents balance belonging with individuality. We love it when our children to engage in family activities. We long for them to remain an integral part of the family. In fact, they need to know they belong, that they have a place in our family. Children grow confident when they know they “fit in” with their family. They grow strong when they know their family sees them as an integral part of the whole family. At the same time, children are their own people. They have their own interests and abilities, their own individuality. As parents, we strive to balance family time with individual time. We work to assure our children feel a sense of belonging and security within the family. We want them to know we enjoy their presence and desire a mutual, reciprocal relationship with them. At the same time, we want to grant them the freedom to become their own person, to pursue their own interests, and to develop their own life. This means “holding them loosely” and “letting them go” as they mature. Quite the balance, to create an intimate sense of belonging with our children while “holding them loosely.”