We all have life cycles and I wanted to take a moment to make some general comments about the life cycles of our family circle. Each season builds upon the next.
MARRIED BEFORE CHILDREN – Two becoming one. This is where husbands and wives take their generational line and merge them together as one. It is a time of deciding what things you want to pass onto your children and what things you can leave behind.
CONCEPTION – A season of great joy, often with conviction that shapes the kind of parent you will become. The “I will never _____ with my child” or “I am always going to make sure _____” are statements of adult children becoming the parents in their family line. It is a changing of the guards, so to speak. While grandparents surely still have a powerful role in the family, there is a new reigning body that makes decisions that will affect future generations one way or another.
INFANCY – This is the season of great joy. Eye contact is vital, releasing a brain chemical that continues their brain development. Oohing and ahhing over a newborn is not just ‘cute’ but impacts their future relationship with their parents. They are learning to trust and be comforted by Mom and Dad. Parents are becoming empowered as they steward what has been entrusted to them.
TODDLER – The primary role of the parent in the toddler season is to intentionally teach them #1. Obedience to your voice and #2. Self-control. A toddler left to themselves will destroy a place in a matter of moments, not because their heart is ill, but because they have little self-control, and they want what they want when they want it. Parents who have learned to train a child’s will (not break their spirit) will reap the fruit for decades. Toddlers who learn they are covered by healthy parents learn to respect other adults, including when they enter the classroom. This is not a one-time teaching but a long season on which you will be building upon.
SCHOOL AGE – The primary role of a parent during the school-age years is to teach right from wrong. We must first teach in a proactive measure in the time of peace so that we are setting our children up for success.
Example: If we have never taught our children that stealing is wrong and they pocket a cool toy from the local store, disciplining them is nothing short of punishment. We have to make note our child has an area of needed growth, and we take that as our cue that they need to be empowered and grow. We teach them what we DO want, role-play what it looks like and then enforce it. If, after doing your part, a child willfully chooses not to comply, then you can issue a consequence but not on their first offense without you doing any training first.
PRETEEN – This is where parents begin to move from keeping them safe to allowing them to explore parts of the world on their own even if it means they tumble and stumble a bit. This can be a very scary time for parents, but if you have done your part to lay the foundation of right/wrong, we have to give them room to try it on and see how both camps feel. A child who makes a mess when they are ten and learns from it is going to be grateful compared to the 24-year-old who was always told what to do and didn’t know how to make their own choices. When they chose poorly, it becomes a discussion of right/wrong and issued consequences that keep the discomfort on them (not you). A parent’s primary role is to be a judge. To gather all of the information, decide what is right (righteous) and wrong (sin), and issue consequences that help empower them to do better next time. Children are learning their consequences are becoming bigger as their choices impact more than just stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.
TEEN – This season can be super fun but also very challenging. Teen brain is a real thing. We move from setting them up for success to giving them room to manage their choices. Do they still need you? More than you will ever know. But they do not want or need a parent to treat them like a ten-year-old. They want freedom and independence. Think of Genesis 2, which states: “A man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We want to help point them in the direction one step at a time of being ready to walk out the front door and have the ingredients needed to one day lead their own family with success and bear good fruit. What they need from you is kindness, encouragement, support, and for you to continue to be their cheerleader. When they are faced with choices, be their INFLUENCER by asking questions and letting their brain exercise the ability to process and create position results. I tell my son often that the goal is to get him to stand on his own without doing it alone.
ADULT – The primary role of this season is to be their friend and treat them as your equal. While you will always be their parent, your authority over their choices is diminished (not in the spiritual realm). Cover them, keep the door open, let them walk out their own testimony, and trust that God has them.
What if you didn’t focus on eye contact as an infant, or laid down the framework of right living in the toddler years or have not been an intentional parent to teach them right from wrong? You start where you are and go from there. But we don’t use it as an excuse not to do it.