By Jake Wiskerchen
Okay, I admit it, the title is a bit extreme. Maybe I should add a subhead that reads, "just ask anyone who has advice for you about your children."
Long before I had my own child I had wonderful theories on parenting taught to me by other people. I employed these with great zest and vigor in my counseling sessions and, to my pleasant surprise, I received positive reviews. For approximately seven years I did this, imparting wisdom and advice, giving feedback and reflecting from a position of “expertise,” while admitting openly all along that I was certainly no expert.
Time and again during my sessions with these families, the response from clients was overwhelmingly favorable. Parents, grandparents, and even children proclaimed that I “must be an amazing dad” and I will certainly “have great children” because my feedback was so (apparently) awesome. Little did they know that all I was doing was regurgitating time-honored beliefs found not only in ancient scriptures but also in modern literature. None of it was based on my own experience, because after all, I had no children of my own.
Then it happened: my first child was born.
To my relief, for the past 14 months I have found that the concepts I had been preaching for three-quarters of a decade ring true. Now, who knows if they will continue into adolescence, because my only barometer so far has been working with other people’s children. The early returns are looking good, but parenting is SO much scarier with one’s own child, yet SO much easier when discussing others' children.
What I have found so far – and I am likely to update this in later years – is that those old beliefs still hold true, despite the circumstances. No matter how time marches, the 4 Cs of Parenting (Conte, 2009) ring true. Regardless of religion, treating thy neighbor as thyself (Luke 6:31) carries authority. And irrespective of worldview, forgiveness is an attribute of the strong (Gandhi). These beliefs sometimes never get taught to families though, and in those cases, the families can maintain misery and chaos across many generations. Whatever is modeled for the children, those children will inevitably adopt and pass down to their children, and so forth. It is hardly hopeless, however.
My invitation is that if you find yourself trapped in unpleasant or undesirable behavior, stop. Even for a moment, just stop. Then ask yourself: what am I modeling for my children? A belief exists in many parts of the world that says, “All you will ever need exists within you,” which means that all the wisdom every printed is merely a reflection of stuff you already know. Chances are good that no matter what theories, classes, or education you have experienced, the kindness and love you know exist in your heart are what need to be displayed. If you want healthy, righteous children, be healthy and righteous yourself.
So tap into what you already possess and be a shining light for your children. You don’t need an expert’s advice, all you need is what you already have, which is love. And hey, that makes parenting pretty easy.