Six A’s of Parenting

Josh McDowell, in The Disconnected Generation, gives six ways to treat children that are crucial to effective parenting. These six points are not daily actions, but attitudes. They represent how we can effectively relate to our children; and, these points of relating become absolutely essential to raising emotionally and spiritually healthy children. I want to share these six attitudes with you because I believe they truly can make each of us a better parent.

     ·         Affirmation. Children need affirmation. They need parents who will rejoice with them when they rejoice and mourn with them when they mourn. Doing so validates their feelings and communicates that we value them. As parents we will find that listening to and understanding our children’s feelings allows us to connect with them. After we connect in this way, we are in a better position to address their concerns, teach values, and encourage appropriate decision making.

·         Acceptance. Children need to know that we accept them…unconditionally, just as they are. We accept our children based on who they are, not based on performance. Children feel secure when they know we accept them for who they are, not whether they perform well, succeed, or become like us. Ultimately, acceptance gives children a secure base from which they can explore the world.

·         Appreciation. Children blossom when they know their parents appreciate them. Parents can express appreciation for their children in private or in public, in written word or in spoken word, with physical gestures or a simple wink. When we appreciate our children, they gain a sense of significance and come to know that their efforts make a difference. Take note that acceptance needs to precede appreciation. In fact, appreciation without complete and unconditional acceptance is manipulation. So, practice accepting your children as they are…appreciate them for the “natural bent” of who they are. Also, make sure to appreciate their effort more than their accomplishments.

·         Affection. Children crave affection. Loving words and appropriate touch communicates affection to our children. It informs them that they are worth loving; that they are lovable. If parents do not provide loving words and affectionate touch, children will seek it elsewhere, often “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Demonstrate affection in your marriage as well as toward your children. The affection that children see modeled in your marriage gives them a sense of security in the family. It also sets an example of godly, loving affection they can emulate in their lives.

·         Availability. Children need parents who remain available to them—emotionally, mentally, and physically. When parents value their children enough to remain available to them, children gain a sense of importance. Remaining available to our children takes time. In fact, Josh McDowell notes that children spell love “T-I-M-E.” Show your children how much you love them by remaining available to talk with them, play with them, give them a hug, listen to them, or just “hang out” with them on a regular basis.   

·         Accountability. Parents also hold children accountable. By holding children accountable, we give them a sense of responsibility. We hold our children accountable for their actions and their words. We hold them accountable to completing tasks that support the family (chores). We hold them accountable to expectations and living by the values we cherish. At the same time, we balance rules with relationships. Rules and accountability without relationships leads to rebellion. Relationships without rules, on the other hand, lead to irresponsibility. Healthy accountability provides both rules and relationship.

As you practice these six A’s of parenting, you will find your children grow in maturity. They will become responsible young people who value other people’s opinions and rights as much as their own. You will have the joy of seeing them practice loving boundaries with themselves and others.

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