The Timeless Mind of a Parent
Parenting is a process, not a one-time event. It occurs over time. Effective family shepherds have a “timeless mind” that maintains an awareness of past experiences, current behaviors, and future goals all at the same time. What have our children done in the past? What relationship have we developed through past experiences? What does their current behavior reveal about their learning from that past experience? What do we want them to learn and what character traits do we want them to develop for the future? How can we use the current experience to successfully move toward that future goal? All these questions and more pass through a parent’s mind in an instant when their child forgets to say “thank you” at an appropriate time or gets too loud in a library. With amazing agility, the family shepherd moves from the present to the past, to the future, and back to the present again—an amazing feat of mental time travel, all in an instance. Consider the timeless mind of a parent, the genius of a mental time travel.
Creating a history for tomorrow: The process of parenting provides multiple opportunities to build a history of amazing moments with our children—memory files of joy and adventure, frustration and disappointment. You and your child will share emotions ranging from ecstatic joy to deep sorrow, amazing pride to disappointing anger, and overwhelming happiness to heart wrenching sorrow. Each memory and emotion you share provides the opportunity to teach your child how to manage emotions, make wise choices, and develop intimate relationships. Children gain their sense of value and worth from their history of interactions with parents. They assess their relative worth in your eyes as they observe the energy you invest in them compared to the energy you invest in work, sports, TV, or money. What parents do today build’s their children’s memory of your love for them. This remembered history impacts your long-term effectiveness as a parent.
Back to the future: Parents, as family shepherds, keep the future in mind as well. You have probably seen a scenario like this: a mother and her preschool son are standing in the checkout line when the young boy spots a candy bar (those wily store owners, putting the candy bars by the checkout counter and right at a child’s eye level!). He asks his mother for the candy bar. When she tells him no, he begins to argue. His mother stands firm initially. But, the young boy has one more tool in his pocket. He starts to cry. Screaming, he falls to the ground, kicks his feet and shakes his tiny fists in the air. Crocodile tears begin to flow while his mother looks around in a panic. She tries to calm him, but he just screams louder. His mother doesn’t know what to do. She feels embarrassed, fearing that everyone believes her an incompetent mother because of her son’s tantrum. In desperation, she grabs the candy bar and hands it to her son. He immediately stops screaming, sniffles a few times, and then smiles as though nothing happened. What has this young boy learned for the future?
Parents have to hold the child’s future in mind. Our children will not live with us forever. They will grow up, mature, and leave home to live their own lives. So, what future vision do you have in mind for your child? After all, the actions we take today will either guide our children toward a healthy tomorrow or a miserable tomorrow. Here are some important questions to consider for your child. The answers will help shape your parenting as a family shepherd.
· What kind of adult do you want your child to become?
· What are your hopes and dreams for your child? Do you want your child to be better known as a great athlete or an honest person? A brilliant business man or a man of integrity?
· What personal characteristics do you want your child to develop?
· What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses? What impacts your child and what does not?
Take time to consider your answers to these questions because your answers will help guide your parenting.