Putting it all together.

 A framework to build on.

    If you have been with me through the previous six articles of this series, you have observed that I emphasized the importance of your attitude toward the parenting job.  I have tried to stress that you should be aware of the far-reaching influence of what you do today, in these first critical years, and that you need to get started right, so you can avoid serious problems later.  You can begin now to establish the pattern that will make the difficult teen years less difficult and you can expect that generations yet unborn will be influenced to follow your lead.

1.  What are your objectives in parenting?
    The home doesn't need to be a battleground for parents; instead, it ought to be where you are most comfortable.  You should expect that your parenting efforts can make it a place where love, joy, peace and harmony are the rule, not the exception --  where you can take pride in your children and enjoy being with them.

    Your children should benefit directly from your efforts, too, of course.  Their world should become a secure one in which they know their limits and look to their parents as providers, protectors and teachers, not tyrants.  Your training can be expected to lead to harmony with their peers and, ultimately, with the one they choose as a lifetime companion.

  Your success as parents can also benefit God.  He asks only one thing of us, that is, that we honor Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.  By rearing your children in "the fear of the Lord" you will have accomplished that objective.

2.  What are the two basic elements of successful parenting over which you have control?
    A newborn that arrives on the scene is a lot like a computer that is waiting to have programs added to its memory so that it can perform tasks and react to inputs.  It comes with an operating system consisting of genes and DNA (over which you had no control) which will determine to a great extent how the child responds to the two elements of parenting that are your responsibility: instruction and example.  Every minute detail of your interaction with the infant - - holding, touching, cooing, speaking and smiling -- is essential to the unseen wiring process that's going on inside its brain.  That process will continue at an incredible rate throughout the early years, producing a unique individual, but one who will be largely a product of your instruction and example.  He will then go on to apply those learned characteristics as he interacts with the world for the rest of his life.  Your challenge, of course, is to provide the kind of teaching and example that will give him the preparation he needs to make that interaction a positive, productive, happy experience.

3.  Why is your spousal relationship so basic to your success as parents?
    In the tiny world of a very young child, parents are by far the most visible players.  They provide virtually the only illustration of inter-personal relationships the child will be exposed to (unless day-care enters the picture). You are models for the qualities that your child will emulate, such as respect, compassion, kindness, civility, marital faithfulness, etc.  It's obvious that those characteristics need to be present in your marriage when the child gets his first introduction to how humans are supposed to interact.

  Discipline, the foundation for effective instruction, is often a source of conflict between husband and wife.  Rarely is there full, enthusiastic agreement on the subject; one party will almost always tend to be more tender-hearted and permissive than the other.  That's normal and may be quite healthy.  But open disagreements that can be observed by the child are extremely counterproductive and he will quickly learn to exploit them, playing one parent against the other to his own advantage.  Parents must learn to support one another even when they don't fully agree on a particular course of action.  Try to resolve your differences in private discussion so the child isn't confused.

4.  What is the primary purpose of discipline?
    Responsible parents will understand that discipline is necessary to produce respect for their authority and, in turn, to make their instruction effective.  Children who display no respect for the authority of their parents will feel free to do as they please and ignore instructions.  Of course, this leaves parents in the role of providers and protectors only, precluding their success as productive stewards.

5.  What are the secondary benefits of good discipline?
    In addition to the basic objective of making instruction effective, discipline leads to a sense of security for the child.  Having a clear understanding of boundaries and limits to his behavior instills confidence and peace of mind.  An obvious further benefit is a reduction in stress and conflict within the family.

6.  In order to be effective, how must discipline (punishment) be administered?
    Most parents realize that punishing their child is a necessary and unavoidable part of their responsibility.  But few are able to appreciate the importance of being firm and consistent.  They fail to understand that a pattern of laxity when they feel good and harshness when they're up tight sends a confusing message to the child.  Remember that the certainty of punishment for acts of disobedience and disrespect will quickly reduce their frequency.  Don't practice "snooze alarm discipline" - - waiting till the aggravation is overpowering and then reacting with an angry swat.  Treat punishment as an act of responsibility while showing self-control, love and forgiveness. By all means, avoid continually slapping, shaking and jerking as a regular part of your interaction with your children.  This is the type of parental irresponsibility that results in violent behavior in the child and totally defeats the objective of instilling respect for your authority!

7.  What are the most important, basic principles for effective parenting?
   1. Parents must show honor and respect for God, for each other and for the child.
Make home devotionals, church participation, civility in spousal relationships and patience in training priorities in your lives.
  2. Parents should openly demonstrate love and affection for each other and for the child.
Be demonstrative in showing affection to, and in front of, your child.
   3. Parents must never tolerate disobedience or disrespect from their child.
This includes striking or talking back to the parent.  Make no exceptions.  Be firm and consistent.
   4. Never overrule your spouseís instruction.
An absolute no-no!  Parents must be seen by the child to be in full agreement.
   5. Instill respect for all authorities.
In the early years, you are the principal authorities, but when the time comes for school, uphold the authority of your childís teachers even if you don't agree with them. (See article.)
   6. By example and instruction, teach your child righteousness, justice and mercy.
Be and teach all you want your child to be.

In this brief series of articles you have been introduced to the fundamentals of a process that is much like building a house.  It begins with a solid foundation of Biblical truth and faith in the Creator who charges you with the responsibility to train your child in the way he should go.  But the short time we have spent together has allowed us to provide only a framework on which to build, to provide a consciousness of the principles that should guide parents as they mold a life that will bring honor to themselves and to God.  Fulfillment of that responsibility depends, in part, on how you face the challenges in the years ahead, but adherence to these basics will make success more certain.  Make a commitment today to build on this framework and God will bless your house for generations to come.

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Parenting 1.01 Bible-based Basics for New Parents by Gordon Rampy