I’ve probably said this before about this book (and I’ll probably say it again): this chapter gets down to where I’m living. Sometimes I feel like I have this parenting thing figured out (you can laugh in a minute), but because I err on the side of being too authoritarian, I also fear sometimes that I demand obedience but also manage to alienate my children because of my parenting style. In other words, I know how to raise obedient and respectful (etc.) children, but sometimes I get the why all wrong. This chapter is the why, or maybe I should say it’s a better how that keeps the why in mind:
We may succeed in raising children who follow our instructions, yet without our sympathy they may not choose to follow our hearts. It’s not that hard to force a change in outward behavior; it takes much more, though, to change a heart. Sympathy is the key that lets me into my child’s heart. (138)
I love that Sally addresses personality in this chapter because this is something I’ve struggled with as my children have gotten older. I also think it takes a great amount of discernment to tell the difference between personality issues and disobedience. I try very hard to see the positive side of each of my childrens’ personality quirks–we all have them, and what is our greatest weakness can also be our greatest strength. It’s not easy, though, especially in day-to-day living. Sally says it well:
The first step to showing sympathy to your child is to accept and affirm the unique personality that God has given him or her. Believe it or not, God did not give your child that personality just to help you grow! He gave it because he has a purpose for that child to fulfill, and he needs your child’s personality strengths. God did not make a mistake in giving your child his or her personality, so don’t make the mistake of being critical of it. Learn to appreciate God’s handiwork in each of your children. (139)
I’m still working on this. I think I’m pretty good at Sally’s second point, which is believing in your child’s potential. I do this, and I also try to point out to them their strengths. Where it becomes difficult in the day-to-day is actually following through with them on the playing out of their strenghts. For instance, one of my girls is a big dreamer and planner. She would undertake two or three big projects a week, if I would let her. I usually rein her in, though, because the thought of getting involved in a big craft project or a big fundraising project (those are her two big areas of interest) is completely overwhelming to me at this stage of life. I have a hard time figuring out how to let her “spread her personality wings,” as Sally puts it, without wearing myself out in the process. I’d really like some practical advice about this.
Sally has given me a whole lot to think about and work toward in this chapter.
I’m very interested in reading Henry Clay Trumbull’s Hints on Child Training now since she cites it as her favorite book on Christian parenting. I think I’m going to add it to my Kindle collection (it’s only 99 cents right now!) and read it. . . eventually.
(Am I the only one who didn’t know that Trumbull, a leader in the Sunday School movement, was Elisabeth Elliot’s grandfather? I learned a lot in this chapter!) I also started reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish last month. I only got through about the first chapter, but much of what they say reminds me of what Sally says. (This is not a wholesale endorsement of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen; I’ve only read one chapter, remember.) I like Sally’s explanation here, too, though:
Lest I leave the wrong impression, let me emphasize that sympathy is not just an emotional exercise of making your children feel good about you or themselves. It is how you think about your children all the time. The “I’m the parent, that’s why” approach is necessary occasionally, but I have to be careful not to maintain that attitude. That kind of authoritarian parent doesn’t reach my children’s hearts. Most of the time my children don’t need strong correction; rather, they need loving direction, and that is where sympathy comes into play. (142)
Here are a few verses that come to mind when I think about being a sympathetic parent.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:14 ESV)
[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13: 6,7 ESV, emphasis mine)
I want to be a representative of Jesus to my children, and while I know I fail daily, it’s what I strive toward. May God help me to grow in this every day.
What did you glean from this chapter?
I am blogging through Seasons of a Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson this summer for my second annual Homeschooling Mothers’ Bookclub. You can read more about it here. Won’t you consider joining us? Here’s the link-up schedule:
- Monday, July 8–Spring, chapters 1-3
- Monday, July 22–Summer, chapter 4-6
- Monday, August 5–Fall, chapters 7-9
- Monday, August 19–Winter, chapters 10-12
- Monday, August 26–final thoughts (Notice this is one week after the last post, not two.)
- chapter 1 scripture art journal entry
- chapter 1: “Celebrating Life”
- chapter 2: “Changing My Will”
- chapter 3: “Beside Still Waters”
- chapter 4: ”Building Your House”
- chapter 5: ”Planning to Live”
- chapters 4 and 5 scripture art journaling
- chapter 6: “Surprised by Joy”