When you have a baby, there is unimaginable joy. It’s hard to understand how much a mom or dad loves their child. But, we have to be careful to not put conditions on that love as they grow older. There are hindrances that can pop up to giving your kids unconditional love.
Hindrances to Unconditional Love
There are four hindrances to giving your kids unconditional love that can completely derail your relationships:
Unmet expectations – This might be in the form of your needs you feel like your child should meet or performance metrics that your child isn’t living up to.
Fear of rejection or rebellion – Don’t let the fear of being pushed away keep you from loving your kids.
Not knowing your children – Learn how each of your children best receives love. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a great resource for discovering your child’s preferences for receiving love.
Your past relationship with your parents – It’s easy to follow in the footsteps of our parents’ parenting style. If you didn’t have a good relationship with your parents, you still have the opportunity to change your legacy.
Kids want the affirmation of their parents. If they don’t get that affirmation from you, they will look for it somewhere else. We all have a deep need to be loved and receive love. Ask the Lord where He wants you to change so you can better give unconditional love to your children.
My father-in-law is an architect. Years ago, when my kids were little, I was in his office looking at the artwork on the walls. It was a collection of buildings that he had designed. One, in particular, caught my eye. It was a building designed on the side of a mountain with metal posts going into the ground. As I talked to him about it, I learned about foundations and what it takes to know how to build in a situation like this. His answer: the soil. You have to know the soil. It’s the same with your kids. To build a strong foundation of relationship with them you have to know their soil and how to best build on that soil.
God created your child to be a masterpiece, as we’ve already discussed in this series. It’s up to you to learn about the soil of each of their hearts to help build a strong foundation in them. You have to become an expert on your child. What gets them excited? What lifts them up? What drives them to tears? Each of your children is different so it’s important to adjust your approach so you do not wound the sensitive one but also get through to the strong child.
In this 4th episode in a series about Parenting Beyond the Rules, let’s dive into what it takes to build trust with our kids.
Foundation of Trust
Charles Feltman, a trust expert, broke trust down into four areas: sincerity, reliability, competence, and care.
Sincerity: Our children need to know that we’re sincere. They need to know that we say what we mean and mean what we say. Words matter.
Reliability: Do you keep your promises? Our kids need to know that we are reliable. When you say I’ll be there in 5 minutes, do you show up?
Competence: Competence means that you have the skills to do what you say you’re going to do. If you don’t have the needed skills, you have to be honest and tell your kids that you’re going to figure it out together.
Care: Showing your kids that you care means having their best interest at heart. People are generally selfish. The Lord tells us to esteem others higher than ourselves.
These things work together to establish trust at the foundation of relationship with your kids. This helps them know that they can count on us.
There are three things you can actively use to develop trust with your kids:
Time – Quality time together doing things that are intentional.
Grace – An atmosphere of grace changes the temperature of your home and sets the stage for forgiveness.
Repentance – Mistakes will be made along the way so learn to say I’m sorry.
Building a strong foundation of relationship requires good communication. We have to clearly articulate, which requires thought and being a little slower to speak sometimes. Our kids need to hear our dreams, hopes, and goals as a family. We are relational at our core – first with the Lord and then with others. We want to create families that don’t just survive until the kids turn 18, but rather families that have beautiful, rich relationships as the kids become adults!
Did you get a parenting manual when your child was handed to you? Sometimes it feels like it would have been easier if we had been given a guide or some 3-step formula when they were born. Instead, you’re searching the internet for quick tips and hacks to get you through the current parenting struggle. Sometimes the picture gets blurry… but God is not done with the story!
Maybe you’re currently looking at a picture of life and of your child that isn’t quite what you thought it would look like back when they were little. Maybe your teen is rebellious. Maybe you have a child who is simply ignoring you. Maybe you’ve thrown up your hands and declared, “It is what it is!” That may be true, but only for this moment. God created that masterpiece in the making and He is not done yet!
What can you do in the meantime?
Different Parenting Styles
As you child grows and changes, you also have to grow and change. I mention these five major parenting styles in the Parenting by the Rules. Consider where you fit and how you can change to meet the needs of each of your children.
Authortative – This type of parent is typically seen as the most effective and helpful to a child. They are flexible and fair. They try to listen and communication without overreacting. This type of parenting tends to be more predictable and is full of grace, understanding, forgiveness, kindness, and unconditional love. They teach their kids that they can accomplish great things if they are willing to work hard and put their mind to it.
Permissive – This parent is easy going. Kids might call them pushovers. There are fewer rules. They focus on peace and harmony to avoid conflict. These parents believe their kids will figure things out, but this hands-off approach can make kids feel less loved because the parent is too disengaged.
Helicopter – This style of parenting is a blend between authoritative and permissive. They see the need for boundaries and rules to keep chaos at bay, but try to give more freedom. Unfortunately, fear and anxiety often define these parents. While well-intentioned with the requirements of constant check-ins, these parents must remember teach the why along the way.
Hovering – These parents are more intrusive than the helicopter parent. At the first sign of trouble, they sweep in for the rescue. There’s a fine line between rescuing and letting your kids figure things out. It’s important for these parents to ask God for wisdom and discernment.
Lawnmower – This mom or dad is going to make sure their child has every opportunity on a paved path. They don’t believe that anyone else has their child’s best interest in mind. They are well-meaning, but they are likely to quickly step in to talk to teachers or coaches to argue on their child’s behalf.
Every parenting style has its strengths and weaknesses. We as the parents have to adjust to the child we have, not the child we’re trying to make them into. If the picture gets blurry, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at how you’re parenting a particular child and adjust. Only God knows your child’s heart, so you have to focus on building a strong relationship with them. Give them a strong foundation by modeling Biblical principles that govern your decision-making.
Ask yourself and the Lord these questions:
What do I need to change?
When do I need to change?
When do I need to hold firm?
When do I need to press pause?
When do I need to let my responsible child have more freedom?
Always remember that your child has a calling on their life; a plan and a purpose from God. It’s up to you to help them discover that!
The purpose when I started writing Parenting Beyond the Rules was to talk about the principles that we’re trying to instill into our kids as we’re raising them: Discipline, kindness, sharing, honesty, trustworthiness, etc. But, it is so easy to get confused and think that this parenting thing is all about the rules. If you break a rule, then here’s the consequence. It is so much more than that!
As I wrote the book and it went through the editing process, the message changed along the way. The cover of the book so perfectly illustrates what the book really turned out to be. The paint brushes and the strokes of paint show how it’s really about how your children are each a masterpiece in the making. Your kids are not all the same. We’re not making assembly line parts!
I talk a lot about parenting the child you have. I teach that you need to adjust and pivot, but remember that kids also need routines and reliability. They need you to be a steady anchor in their lives. As much as it might seem easier, the masterpiece you are helping shape is not color by number. I learned how different kids can be as I raised my kids. I can point to one who was extremely artistic and another on the opposite side who was a fact-checking STEM kid.
Creating a Masterpiece
God is the architect of your children. He formed them but He’s asking you to add skills and knowledge. He wants you to help them discover their callings and their uniquenesses. Here are some ways that you can guide your children and build relationships with them:
Tell your kids their stories. Share stories from the times they won’t or can’t remember for themselves.
Have conversations. You’re building relationships that will stand the test of time. You’re building a family legacy!
Pray for your children by name. Pray with them. Let them know you’re praying for them.
Paint broad strokes of forgiveness. Ask your kids for forgiveness. I live by the motto forgiveness requested, forgiveness granted. Live this out with your kids.
Paint pictures of possibilities. Tell them what’s possible. Tell them where they are going. Tell them why.
I challenge you to think outside the rules. Pivot and adjust as needed to meet the unique need of your children!
I’ve made mistakes in my parenting journey. Plenty of mistakes! I didn’t do it all right and I don’t have all of the answers. If I were to go back and start this process all over again, I would just make different mistakes because imperfect parents can’t parent perfectly. And your kids are imperfect too. In this series of podcast episodes centered on the themes from my book Parenting Beyond the Rules, I want to help you see how you can parent beyond the rules.
Why I Wrote Parenting Beyond the Rules
About the time that my youngest was graduating from high school, I started to ask the Lord what I was to do with the next season of my life. I share the story in the book about a meeting I had with my daughter and two graphic designers about starting a new company. In the midst of this, I felt God nudging me to write a book. I sat on that idea for a long time because I didn’t know how to write a book, get an agent, or work with a publisher. Well, after this meeting, my daughter pointed out that I’d done a lot of really cool things in my life BC (before children), but she went on to say, “Look at us kids. Look at what you and Daddy built.” She continued to tell me how this was now my season to pour into others. It was time to help other moms and dads navigate the seasons of life.
Now I’m a Grandma!
Life has changed a lot since that conversation. I’ve spoken to thousands and thousands about homeschooling, parenting, and strengths. I finally wrote that book, which became Parentings Beyond the Rules. And now, my babies are having babies. I’ve become a grandma and I’m pouring this knowledge and experience back into my own kids. My daughter said to me the other day, “Mom, look at our family!”
So, I felt like this is a good time to go through Parenting Beyond the Rules here on Equipped To Be. If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to grab a copy on Amazon or wherever you buy books. Grab a copy for a friend. Get together with a small group and read it together.
We Need Rules
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
We need laws and rules. Not having those things in place causes chaos, confusion, strife, and misunderstanding. Boundaries bring order, but there comes a point when we have to adjust them. Early on, you’re teaching your kids how to obey. As they grow, your rules, limits, and boundaries have to change as your kids grow and change. This doesn’t mean we are wishy-washy or the rules change by the day. It means bringing your kids along in the conversation. We can’t arbitrarily make rules.
Your children are a masterpiece in the making. God is the master architect while we and our kids are the work in progress. Every masterpiece looks a little different. It’s not like painting by numbers! How you raise one kid is not exactly how you should raise another. Each of your children has unique gifts, strengths, and talents. And you have the opportunity to help them discover what those are!
Through this podcast series and my book, I hope that you find ways to connect with your kids. I pray that you build stronger relationships and give each of your children what they need to become a masterpiece!