For those who have been following along in the series, you know we have focused on the following: building a firm foundation on Christ and the Gospel; marriage setting the tone for the home; the values of a home filled with emotional safety and joy; the language of marriage; and the theological (and subsequent practical applications) of joy in marriage. As we shift our focus from marriage to parenting, we will keep the same principles in mind that have been previously discussed throughout this series.
At first glance, some might bristle at this post’s title. After all, aren’t parents supposed to be the ones in authority? Don’t we need to be firm, especially in discipline? The answer: Yes. But please don’t be mistaken- this is not an either-or situation! Kids need authoritative parents. That is, parents who are nurturing, supportive, responsive, and firm. Both firmness and support are needed, and one without the other spells disaster. Firm parenting without a sense of love and support will lead to rebellion; lax parenting with a high degree of support and responsiveness will lead to entitlement and a lack of self-control. While this post focuses on the parental attitude of humility and respect in creating an environment of emotional safety, please know that this safety is also created when parents firmly set and hold to rules and their subsequent consequences.
Just as within marriage, an attitude of humility and respect is of the utmost importance in our relationships with our kids. This is the attitude needed to create an environment of emotional safety and joy! Remember, emotional safety is the comfort and security experienced in a trusted relationship; it is feeling safe from attack and ridicule and is the fuel for collaboration and connection.
Let’s first turn our attention to the attitude of humility within the parent-child relationship. Previously, we stated that true humility is non-threatening and invites security and trust. It is the attitude described of Christ in Philippians 2:5-8 whereby he humbled himself as a servant. How then, do we as parents demonstrate this attitude of humility? While this could be an entire book unto itself, today we will examine 3 practical ways:
- Cooperation. Whether our children are 3 or 16, we can demonstrate humility by asking for their help and input. Of course, by doing this we are also teaching them practical skills and critical thinking skills. Yet, something more is communicated: their help, as well as their thoughts and opinions, are of value to us. When kids know that their thoughts matter- when they feel their voices have been heard- this greatly enhances their sense of confidence and security in general and deepens their trust and connection with us in particular. It also lets our kids know that we don’t always have all of the answers and that we too need help- even as an adult. By asking for their help, we model that it’s okay to not know everything and that it’s good and wise to ask others for assistance. After all, the only way we can model humility is to be humble ourselves!
As we go about our daily tasks, let’s be intentional in seeking opportunities to ask for our children’s help- even with tasks we could do ourselves. And with discretion and appropriate boundaries, let’s (at times) ask our kids for their input concerning problems or stressors we may be facing. After they have helped or shared with us, let’s express our humility and gratitude by thanking them for their time, efforts, and ideas.
- Apologize. Few things in life require more humility than offering an apology. To admit our mistakes, faults, and wrongs does not come naturally to us! Rather, we prefer to hang on to the bitter end, preserving the last bit of our pride. But as the book of Proverbs reminds us, pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Furthermore, Proverbs also teaches that a fool does what is right in his own eyes (Proverbs 12:15). Certainly, hanging on to our pride is foolish- especially when it costs us peace and connection in our relationships.
In light of these truths, we are left without excuse: when the situation requires it, we need to apologize. As sinners, we will sin in every relationship we have. If you’re a parent reading this, you no doubt know the depths to which this is true in the parent-child relationship. And so, when we blow it as parents- when we lose our cool, use harsh words and tones, or fail to keep our word- our first recourse should be to apologize.
Our apologies should be sincere, taking full responsibility for our actions and words, without placing blame on the child. An effective apology also recognizes the emotion and hurt experienced by the one we have wronged. Such apologies model humility as well as the proper way to apologize. As example-setters, if we apologize well, our kids will be equipped to do likewise. Most importantly, our apologies will lead to greater trust and safety within the relationship.
- Curiosity. In our prideful attitudes, we assume we know it all. But a humble attitude makes the opposite assumption- that we have much to learn. And when it comes to our kids, we will always be learning! While we may (and do!) know much about our kids’ strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, and demeanors, we cannot truly know everything about them. This is why it’s so important that as parents, we stay curious.
Being a curious parent means holding a genuine interest in what our kids think and feel. It means caring about how they see themselves and how they interpret the world around them. To be sure, these kinds of conversations take intentionality and time on our part. But when we invest in these conversations- when we ask questions and attentively listen to their responses- we build connection.
With humility, let’s be mindful to engage our kids in meaningful conversation. Whether about school, world events, their interests, or friends, we can ask questions without assuming we already know their answers. One last encouragement: if you haven’t already, please consider making topics related to faith and the Bible a regular part of your conversations. This is a fantastic way for both you and your child(ren) to grow in your walk with God and in your relationship with one another.