In an Undignified World
Changing dirty diapers, wiping mashed bananas from the walls, and crawling along the cracker-dusted floor like a crocodile with your preschooler probably doesn’t seem very dignified. But consider a different idea of what it means to parent with dignity, and how that approach can positive impact your children’s lives. The dictionary defines dignity as “the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed.” How does dignity impact the lives of us as parents? For me personally it means:
- I strive to be worthy of mothering my children. I want to raise children who feel worthy of love and respect and give those things to others.
- I am honored to be a mother. I want to use that honor to instill a sense of honor in my children so that they honor others, themselves, and their faith.
- I hold my children with esteem. I want them to treat others with esteemed regard.
Neither the recent tirade of a daughter who complained in great detail on a social media page about her parents and her life or the reaction of her father who shot her laptop and posted that video and his own rant online seem to contain much dignity. But these things rarely come to a breaking point over one instance, and emphasize the idea that dignified parenting needs to begin when our children are infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, instead of waiting until they explode with an online rant on their social media pages.
A book by Mac Bledsoe entitled Parenting with Dignity: The Early Years, intends to give parents the tools they need to build the foundation for a lifetime of families filled worthiness, honor, and esteem for each other. The ideas behind the book is simple in words, but for some reason much harder for parents today to put into action.
- There are no shortcuts in parenting. If you want to develop specific characteristics and behaviors in your children, you must be willing to make the efforts and take the time to teach them.
- “You do not build smooth roads, you teach them to negotiate rough terrain.”
- You have to be proactive and develop a parenting plan, and stop just reacting to your child’s behaviors.
Bledsoe writes that these important parenting methods are best supported by 5 rules for parents of children ages 2-6 years of age (but which are valuable to all parents).
- Tell your kids what you want them to do! Explain the desired behaviors in ways your kids can understand and demonstrate for them what you mean.
- Criticize the behavior, not the person. Correcting children is a necessary component of parenting, but it is important to distinguish between admonishing the act and demeaning the child.
- Don’t assume they learned it: repeat it! Make sure that you give your children time to practice – everything from tying shoes to getting dressed in the morning.
- What they say to themselves is what counts. Bledsoe reiterates this point by writing “Self-motivation is the only true motivation.” Empowering our children to be positive thinkers will give them the strength to be patient and persevere when faced with challenges.
- Send a constant message of love. Love comes in many forms, and our children all have their own needs and preferences for receiving love. We can love our children with words, actions (like playing their favorite game with them), by listening to them, and by being present in their everyday lives.
Images of the parent who shot his daughter’s laptop and ranted about her online keep flashing through my mind. I get the frustration, I understand the emotions, but I can’t reconcile the approach with the net result. Just like spanking, the immediate result of “shock discipline” might be reached, but the long-term implications are rarely positive.
I guess in a strange way I can thank that California father for sharing his discipline worldwide for it reaffirmed for me that while our children make mistakes, our reactions to those mistakes are so much more important. I want to parent with dignity. It is not always easy, especially as I venture down the tumultuous teenage road, but it is worth it.