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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to Really Honour your Children

"I don't want Daddy!" yelled the 4-year-old boy. "Mummy! I need you!" he cried.

As if to add salt to the injury, his 2-year-old brother echoed: "Go away, Daddy! Don't change me!"

It was a Saturday afternoon. One of those days.

We had just come back from a lovely time at the park. The sun was not too hot, there was a gentle breeze, the kids had a great picnic and a good walking workout. There was however one problem; both needed to sleep and were extremely grouchy.
Enjoying a picnic in the park - the calm before the storm.
There had been tantrums; many of them. Both boys were fussing and arguing over what music to listen to in the car, who to hold their hand in the carpark, and what clothes to change into after coming home. 

Daddy and Mummy were exhausted; and Daddy was all ready to give both boys a huge spanking for their lack of obedience and total lack of respect. After all, Daddy had been the one providing for their every need. Daddy had been caring for them all these years since they were babies. Daddy deserved some respect, and boys who are badly behaved deserved to be punished.

Just as Daddy was about to raise his voice for the umpteenth time that day, he suddenly remembered what he had learnt while watching a recent parenting video, The Parenting Children Course, by Nicky and Sila Lee. "The family should be a place of fun," recalled Daddy, and he realised that the current situation was far from "fun" for the kids.

"Very well," said Daddy in a nonchalant manner. "E. Since you don't want to be changed, I think you want to be tickled instead!" 


And Daddy lunged for the stomach of the 2-year-old, sending the toddler into spasms of laughter. Turning to the 4-year-old, Daddy stared sternly at him.


"Z. You really don't want Daddy? Well, I want you!"


As quickly as he finished his sentence, Daddy launched a surprise attack at the torso of the 4-year-old, and the ferocity of the "finger strike" sent the little boy into prolonged giggles. At this point, the 2-year-old chose to conduct a sneak attack on Daddy, finding a vantage point just behind his father's back, and unleashing his entire weight as he engaged in a spectacular free fall manoeuvre onto his Daddy.


By this time, all tension had left the room, and the children were thoroughly enjoying a fun time of roughhousing with Daddy.

The boys enjoying one of their "fun" moments when they're not fighting.
We have recently been having many tough moments with our children. This is not to say that we don't enjoy times with them, but there have been many changes in the boys' day-to-day routines, and this has significantly affected their sense of security, their mood and definitely their behaviour. Our own patterns of work and the intensity of the workday have also had an impact on our emotions and hence our behaviour towards the children. Needless to say, when anxious children encounter tense parents, there is no doubt that sparks will fly.

So we fall back on the dreaded "D" word, and hide behind it as the panacea to all our problems. "Our children have been unruly. They need to be disciplined," we proclaim. Turning to our kids, we chant our all-too-familiar mantra: "If you don't listen to Daddy and Mummy, we will spank you!" All manner of protest is drowned out as we mete out our punishment with an iron hand. "Our children need to obey us," we declare. "After all, aren't we their parents and know better than them?"


Then there are the times when we have outings with other parents and their seemingly "perfect" children. We turn to our kids with frustration in our eyes and ask, "How come both of you cannot sit still during dinner? Can't you learn from Kor Kor X and Jie Jie Y?" And the inner voice within us sounds out its thunderous refrain, "Both of you children have behaved so badly; this must reflect terribly on us. We must truly be the worst parents in the world!"


What if there is a solution to resolve the escalating acrimony between parent and child? What if there is an alternative method of getting your child to obey you without having to resort to physical punishment? What if parent and child both learnt to honour each other?

When members of a family honour each other, there is much harmony!
I am in the process of writing a book on the importance of honour in the family. One of the key ideas I'm learning is that when we parent, we need to love our children in a genuine manner. The other important concept I'm learning is the strong relationship between love and honour:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)

When the great apostle Paul wrote this passage, he was talking about the importance of Christian love. He stressed the importance of genuine love, one that stems from goodness rather than evil. In the manner, we are instructed to love each other in the way brothers do. Honour then, is an outflow of love. We are called to “outdo” each other in the showing of honour. But we are not supposed to be boastful or proud while “outdoing” one another in the showing of honour. 

How do we really honour our children? The first step is to be humble about our parenting.

As a father, I know that the male ego can sometimes dominate our actions. The competitive streak in me yearns to get the better of my children; the bottom line being that I'm older and far more experienced that my child, and as such I must win the battles I have with him. But I'm learning that parenting should not be about winning. It should be about what's best for our children. Sometimes it helps to simply take one step back and consider the best way forward; of course this is easier said than done when we are mired in the pits of competition and strife. But if we can humble ourselves and admit that we were wrong; that could be the first step towards a change in the home situation.
There's so much we can be teaching our children if we choose not to
"fight" with them in wars that have no victors.
The second way to honour our children is to enjoy their company as we would that of a friend.

As parents, sometimes we can get entrenched in fixed parent-child roles when we confront their negative behaviours. We get upset when our kids refuse to obey our instructions, which results in us raising our voices and threatening punishment. This has a reciprocal effect on our children, who dig in their heels and continue to resist our instruction. But if we instead choose to engage them as a friend would - to use persuasion to get them to carry out the task - sometimes the results can be very different. I have been experimenting with their approach over the past few days, and it has been interesting to observe that my children do seem to be more compliant than they were previously.
Sharing "fun" moments with the children at the park.
The third aspect of honouring our children lies in persisting in our pursuit of what is good.

There are so many different books on parenting, and each of them presents a different approach to help us make sense of this crazy role that we have landed ourselves with. I believe that there are many ways to pursue our parenting. However, in our pursuit of knowledge, may be always preserve our moral compass. Right and wrong must be things that we continue to believe in and persist in teaching our children. As parents, Sue and I may have different nuances in our parenting styles and techniques, but we are in one accord in our parenting - our children must know God and we desire for them to conform to His will above all.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  

May we never seek to outdo our children in anything but in the demonstration of honour!

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