Our world is more hectic than ever. With the digital revolution comes an increasingly dangerous level of expectation in many different areas of our lives – not least when it comes to parenting.
You are never more than a few clicks away from an article on being a perfect parent, how to achieve more at work, or even on becoming a “better” follower of Jesus. It can be incredibly overwhelming.
Our striving to be perfect is killing us spiritually and is an incredibly unhealthy expectation to put on our kids. Perfection just isn’t possible!
Here’s a more realistic approach that will have a better impact on your well-being, including some benefits of family counseling services.
Balancing Family Roles and Demands
Really, much of parenting is about being able to block out the noise of external expectation and having the ability to reject the pressure of other parents. Put God at the very center of your family life. Learn to seek his face and immerse yourself in the Bible.
Most importantly, demonstrate this to your kids; show them that your relationship with God is a lofty priority in your life. Speak to your children about how the Lord is working in your life.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” – Deuteronomy 28:18-21
The Priority of Marriage
Second only to our relationship with the Lord, our marriages should be the highest priority in our lives. We must protect it with everything we have. By means of a marriage that is both loving and stable, we have the opportunity to affect the generations to come. We must nurture our children and model a healthy relationship for them so that they can thrive in their own relationships.
The stability of marriage goes down through the generations and is influenced by the parents and how they teach their kids what a stable and secure marriage looks like. Put time and energy into having a God-centered marriage and you will see the positive effect ripple through the next generations of your family.
There are a few ways you can begin to model a healthy marriage to your children:
- Touch base with your spouse on a daily basis and make sure that your children are taught not to interrupt this time.
- Set up date nights on a regular schedule so that you can get away and enjoy each other’s company.
- Schedule regular weekend getaways with your husband or wife in order to give you time to relax with each other and recharge.
Setting Key Boundaries
Place boundaries around that which is dearest to your family. Organize some time with your family – use technology to do this if necessary. But also arrange times that are free of tech. Perhaps you could develop an evening when everyone in the house puts their phones in a basket to encourage personal interaction with one another.
Be intentional about discussing with your spouse the number of activities that occupy your children’s time. Relate this decision to your kids to ensure they understand the importance of being an integral part of family life and encourage them to choose their activities themselves.
David Elkind, a psychologist at Tufts University and author of The Hurried Child helpfully explains, “Kids who have been trained to be tennis stars, skating stars, or pianists, and who haven’t been allowed to express other parts of themselves, may feel empty in adolescence – just as a businessman who succeeds in the outside world, to the neglect of his inside world, starts to feel empty.”
He urges parents not to put an unhealthy pressure on their kids to be involved in clubs or sports teams. Kids should not be overstretched unnecessarily and should be taught to manage their own time responsibly.
Boundaries are important for children. Knowing what the limits and expectations are allows them to relax within these clearly-defined lines.
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” – Proverbs 1:8-9
Be sure to set social media boundaries with your kids. Of course, social media can be useful and fun, but it can also inspire comparison and a tendency to become vain and obsessed with your looks.
In turn, this can contribute to latent discontent and frustration with our lives. The solution? You have to stop measuring your life against that of someone else. Social media is nothing more than a “highlights reel” and should not be taken as the exact life that person is leading.
Set clear limits regarding social media for your children. Discuss it’s proper use with them. Talk to your spouse about your own guidelines for a proper and acceptable level of contact with people outside your marriage.
Make sure that you and your spouse know each other’s passwords and be transparent with one another. This will help build trust between the two of you.
Be sure to set boundaries in relation to your self-care. Taking care of yourself will enable you to love and take care of others in a much healthier way. Your care for your own children can only be fully expressed if you are taking care of yourself.
Show your kids that you practice self-care by doing a few of these key things:
- Eat healthy foods
- Intentionally spend time alone
- Nurture your relationship with the Lord
- Spend time with your own friends
- Spend quality time with your spouse
Avoiding “Helicopter” Parenting
Over-intense parenting not good for neither children nor parents. Focusing too heavily on a child can make them feel extremely anxious and pressured. It may lead to your child feeling as if they are carrying your burdens of expectation.
Plus, your relentless focus on your child may result in your marriage suffering, as you are devoting all your time to the development and achievements of your kids.
Don’t let your love for your kids get in the way of your personal relationship with God. There is time for both, but you must be wise in how you manage your daily routine.
In his fantastic book, Screamfree Parenting, author Hal Runkel urges parents to think about whether it is the parent or the child that suffers if the child has made a foolish choice. He suggests that parents let their children learn from their mistakes. This is an important element of a child’s development.
“Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from making bad decisions.” – Anonymous
Parents should also try hard not to do anything that their kids are perfectly capable of doing for themselves. Parents must let their children learn. If they have refused to do it themselves, it would be wrong for you to clean your child’s room for them.
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If you clean it for them, you have just taught your child that disobedience is acceptable and that you will cover for them. They may start to take advantage of this and refuse to do things more often!
Don’t let your child think you will always take care of their stuff if they refuse to do it. As they grow up, your kids must learn to take responsibility for their own lives. They must not assume you will always be there to bail them out.
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
Author Meg Meeker, M.D. identifies five key signs of overparenting:
- Your child calls you every time they have a problem.
- Your child is incapable of handling any level of disappointment.
- Your child is lazy.
- You ever do your child’s homework for them.
- You spend several hours each week on the internet searching for the perfect school, or the very best and most expensive organic food for your child.
“Parents, focus on the big things. The rest will fall into place.” – Meg Meeker
Engaging in comparison is a central element of overparenting. You have to stop comparing your child and your parenting to others. All of this comparison can bring on anxiety and discontent. Take a hiatus from Facebook, Instagram, etc., which often lead us to contrast our lives with others.
In her recent Business Boutique podcast, Christy Wright detailed four safeguards against parenting guilt:
- Avoid the martyr syndrome. It’s not all about you.
- Affirm that you are doing the right thing. Parenthood is important work. The time you invest in your children and spouse is also vital. Plus, time spent with God is absolutely critical.
- Give yourself more grace. Children don’t need or want parents that are perfect. They need parents who are who are there for them no matter what. Kids also need stable parents who take ample time to have fun and who work on their marriage together.
- Let the kids see that you love being a parent. Remember the Scripture: “Children are a blessing from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psalm 127:3). Are you a parent who reflects this truth?
How Family Counseling Services Can Help
Are you struggling to live a balanced life? You may feel as if you are just about keeping your head above water, and that the unstructured chaos of family life has caused disarray in your marriage, your family, and your relationship with God. If so, there is good news — professional Christian family counseling services can help you re-establish balance and boundaries in your life.
In turn, you will start to learn how to live a more fulfilling family life and will experience a newfound freedom as you relish in the incredible gift of marriage, family, and faith.
“Love You More,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Out for a Stroll,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Screen time,” courtesy of Annie Spratt, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Contemplating Scripture,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License