Parenting: It’s About YOUR Family Values.
Our baby group began in the hospital.
Four of us delivered beautiful babies within a couple days of each other, and met as we waddled down the corridors, pushing our babies in their clear bassinettes. We discovered that we lived close to each other, and decided to meet up. We each brought a friend to our first meeting, and continued to gather regularly to support, laugh and cry together.
We shared our problems with breastfeeding: some had no milk and some had too much. Some had sleep, others had little. We excitedly phoned each other when our babies cut their first teeth, and rolled over for the first time – Well everybody else phoned when their baby rolled over. Our baby rolled over off the side of the bed, landing on her head – with both of us watching. So our excited phone-call was to the doctor!
Then, the babies began to walk. From then on, they proceeded to ‘explore’ or ‘get into mischief’ – depending on which school of thought we came from. Out came the virtual daggers that ripped each other’s views of parenting into shreds. Some were in favour of smacking while others were opposed to it. Some had schedules for sleeping times, while others had baby-led regimes.
Out of our regard for each other, we celebrated a combined first birthday, and officially ended our group. We recognised that our views differed enough to become a barrier to our friendship if we continued to meet up under the same circumstances.
Our ‘babies’ are now well into their twenties. All of them are beautiful, healthy, loving young adults – despite their parents’ different approaches to parenting. Occasionally we bump into the other parents and we share what our young adults are up to. We are still friends – probably because we chose to focus on things other than the behaviour of each other’s children.
We all wanted to do our very best for our families. But unfortunately, that was often framed in a very black and white viewpoint – certainly one that was clouded by lack of sleep, childhood illnesses, current hypotheses on child-rearing and the different backgrounds and beliefs of each of our families.
That initial experience of parenting groups was enough to make me seek friendships and mentoring outside of a focus on children. Perhaps I subconsciously recognised that other parents of children the same age as mine were caught up in the same boat as me. So I maintained friendships with older, more experienced parents through craft groups and bible studies. Through informal discussions, I found their objective views were much more helpful. Perhaps the most encouraging message they gave me was that they had survived.
At one stage, a group of older members of our congregation organised a parenting course presented by Ross Campbell, author of ‘How to really love your child’ and Gary Chapman, author of ‘The Five Love Languages’. The course was great and the kids had a good time too. They were fed pizza and cared for while we learnt to enjoy our kids…and really love them in a way they could understand. These days, we try to encourage and mentor parents as we were encouraged and mentored.
We recognise that there is a whole world full of different parenting philosophies and practices today. Each family is different from every other family. So we encourage families to note and treasure those differences.
Some families have found it useful to make their own Family Values Ladder. Parents each make a list of what is important to them such as: education, trust, sharing, honesty, God-loving. Then they share their ideas and together prioritise them according to what they believe to be most important to their family. It’s useful to involve the kids in this process. Just a word of caution: Taking your teens to the local KFC to do this activity while their friends are working a shift behind the counter is not a good idea…Don’t ask me how I know that!
Together with your partner, work out which values you hold to most strongly, and write them on a ladder such as this.
‘Family Values Ladders’ help keep family ‘challenges’ in perspective. For example, if ‘kindness’ is high on the family value ladder, while ‘keeping up with fashion’ is further down the ladder, mum and dad might choose to focus on encouraging kindness in their family, rather than arguing with their children about which t-shirt they should wear.
These days I encourage all parents to attend courses, read books, watch dvds or television programmes that teach about child development and relationships. There are some words of caution I usually give:
- Parenting courses, parenting groups and parenting advice that is useful should leave you with a feeling of ‘I can do that’, no matter how well (or not) you have been doing.
- Good parenting courses should back-up other good parenting courses
- If some advice you hear is contrary to what others are saying, check it out! Find out the evidence and the original source of the information and compare it.
- If your heart is telling you that something is not right, ask yourself, “Is this showing love, and does it practice respect for all concerned?’
- Ask questions! Don’t take any advice as ‘gospel’ without questioning it – and especially, check out the context of biblical references if they are quoted.
Perhaps the wisest words of advice we’ve ever received are from Ian Grant, author of ‘Growing Great Families!’ *
‘If you’re having fun being a parent you’re probably doing it about right!’