How to Really Honour Your Child (Part 2)

It is not easy to be a parent today. The world as we know it has changed before our very eyes with the advent of the millennium and the rapid technological advances that have materialised subsequently. But there are parenting principles that hold true. These are 10 parenting principles I hold close to my heart:

Parenting these two boys is such a delight! This picture is a representation of their zest for life and intensity of being.

1) Recognise that every child is a gift from God. Love them for who they are not what they are.

2) Treasure every moment with them, both big and small. Surprise them with fun experiences and build memories that last a lifetime.
3) Treat every child equally. You may love them in different ways due to their different love languages, but at the end each child must know you love them with all of your heart.
4) Recognise that every child has his own strengths and weaknesses. Build on his strengths, and guide him to manage his weaknesses.
5) Love their mum. It's the most important way you can express your love for them. 
6) Do not hide how much you love them. Let them know you will always love them and be there for them. Discipline with love. 
7) Respect their choices. Guide them, but recognise that they are their own persons.
8) Teach them to differentiate between right and wrong. When we impart values to them we provide a compass that will direct them for their entire life.
9) Say sorry when you are wrong. Humility is the mark of a great man.
10) As believers, the greatest thing we can do for our kids is to gift them Jesus. He will be there for them during the times we can’t.

I have discussed the first 5 principles in a previous article. I will now talk about Principles 6 to 10.

Enjoying a happy meal with our kids.  It's so important to spend time with them and to let them know that you love them and will always be there for them.

6) Do not hide how much you love them. Let them know you will always love them and be there for them. Discipline with love.

We tell our children that we love them every single day. This could take the form of verbally saying “I love you, son.” Or it could be through acts of service, like buying their favourite foods - and telling them that you chose that specific item because you were thinking of them. And it could also be after you discipline them. You restore the relationship by telling them that you love them; and that’s why you needed to discipline them. 

Both my kids will tell you that Daddy loves them so much; and that’s why Daddy has to punish them for their acts of disobedience. They know that if Daddy doesn’t love them, that he wouldn’t bother to discipline them. When you really love your kids it does not mean that you are blinded to the mistakes of your kids. Instead, what it means is that you acknowledge that your kids did something wrong; and you punish them for what they did. But you also take into account all mitigating factors, dish out a lavish amount of grace, and then demonstrate a complete and unconditional acceptance of who they are.

In many ways, the love that we give to our children has been modelled for us by God, who gives us his agape, His unconditional love. And if we do wrong, we are disciplined by Him as necessitated by judgement and the law. But this discipline is meted out with the fullness of grace; the same grace that led God to send His only son Jesus to take our place for the punishment of all our sins.

However, we are not God; and as hard as we try, the love we give our children is unconditional only as constrained by our humanity. We still make many mistakes as parents; and as much as we try, our love for our children can never be perfect. But our children must know that at the end of the day, that we love them with all our hearts; and that we accept them unconditionally. It is this complete love and acceptance that will help our children to grow up securely; and to confidently become the men and women they are meant to be. 

The man in the mask. This is our younger son, deciding that he wanted to wear a different mask for the day. Each of our children is unique in their choices and preferences.

7) Respect their choices. Guide them, but recognise that they are their own persons.

A friend once shared with me that our children are “persons in training”. Oftentimes we forget this, treating them as younger versions of themselves who need to be fed, changed and sent to bed. The reality is that our children are developing physically, emotionally, mentally and socially each day and we need to recognise this in them. This means that we need to respect them as individuals with their own personalities, who make their own choices each day. 

When we choose to honour our children, we choose to respect their choices, even if these choices are not the same ones that we would make ourselves. And this can be in the choice of food, fashion and even taste in music.

Our kids have discovered hip hop. They recently chanced upon the hit single “Dance Monkey” by the Australian singer and songwriter Toni Watson, better known as Tones and I. And on many occasions we have observed our boys singing to the music and bopping along to its catchy tune.  At the start Sue and I were rather intrigued  by their choice of music; after all the music we normally play in the house comprises Christian contemporary music such as those from the Rend Collective or MercyMe. 

And then we got worried. Especially since there are many songs in this music genre that do not have words we believe to be edifying and wholesome. So we consulted a friend, whose kids have also recently taken a spin into the hip hop music scene. She recommended the Christian hip hop artiste Toby McKeehan, better known by his stage name TobyMac. To date we have watched more than 10 of his music videos, and our boys have grown to love his songs and enjoy his videos. The music is catchy; the videos are dramatic. For instance one video depicts a crowd attempting to burn down a building while another shows a car being blown up - just the boys’ kind of thing. And from our perspective, the lyrics are meaningful; and their underlying message is one of redemption and of the grace of God.

We respect our children. And we guide them to make good choices. 

The relationship matters. Children observe us all the time, and our kids' perspectives on right and wrong are heavily influenced by our own moral standard.

8) Teach them to differentiate between right and wrong. When we impart values to them we provide a compass that will direct them for their entire life.

Morality is a value that is often neglected in today’s postmodern world. In a culture that enthrones relativity and the absence of absolutes, it is often easy to neglect morality and all it encompasses. But parenting is not about easy decisions. It’s about choosing to be counter-cultural even when the mainstream may not be congruent with what one believes. As such we need to teach our children the difference between right and wrong.

Henry Cloud’s seminal book on Boundaries has shaped much of my life philosophy, and this is something I have inculcated in my parenting. Cloud’s underlining premise is that boundaries exist for the purpose of keeping the good in while making sure that the bad remains out. This applies directly to the idea of teaching our kids the difference between right and wrong. To this end, we need to set firm and clear boundaries. For instance, when our children disobey us, we have to be firm when we discipline them, conveying the idea that their actions were wrong and not acceptable. And this involves keeping to our principles even though it may be easier to given in to the kids when they act up and throw major tantrums. 

Teaching a child the difference between right and wrong goes beyond that; for instance walking back to pay for a meal even when the restaurant had forgotten to collect payment. Or returning to apologise to someone when we realise that we had made a mistake and had offended him or her with our words. Our children pick up on the little things that we do, and these become embedded as their sense of what is right and what is wrong. These values of moral integrity then become the compass that guides them for the rest of their lives.

Our "Spider Boy". Both our kids are exuberant and passionate in all that they do. 

9) Say sorry when you are wrong. Humility is the mark of a great man.

I have always shared tongue-in-cheek that “confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation”. Actually the truth goes further than that. When we say sorry and admit that we are wrong, it releases a deep sense of relief to our conscience. But more than that, it demonstrates that we are capable of recognising our humanity and being circumspect of who we are as a person. 

In the context of a parent-child relationship, saying sorry is so important. Children are always expected to apologise for the numerous mistakes that they make. And because they are kids,  who are “persons-in-training”, the propensity to make mistakes is high. However as adults we are definitely not without our faults. If we adopt a double-standard and refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings to our kids, we are indirectly telling them that mistakes are only made by children, and that when you become an adult, that you can get away with your mistakes without apologising. Conversely, when we say sorry to our kids, and go the extra step of asking for their forgiveness, we are acknowledging that Daddy and Mummy are only human, and that it is ok to make mistakes. For it is by learning from our mistakes that we grow in our humanity; and our kids learn this from a young age. 

A story has been told of a ship captain who received an incoming radio transmission which ordered him to move his vessel. Upon inquiry, he realised that the requesting party was a private. The captain refused to comply, instead asking the junior soldier to move his ship. The reply startled the captain, and he immediately chose to obey. “Sir, this is the lighthouse. You need to move your ship at once or else there will be a collision.”

There is no need to head for a collision course with our children. We need to recognise that despite their age, that there may be times when they are right and we are wrong. Recognising and admitting our mistakes is a way to respect them as individuals, while at the same time reinforcing the moral compass in their lives.

Christmas. A reminder of Jesus and how He came to earth and died for our sins.

10) As believers, the greatest thing we can do for our kids is to gift them Jesus. He will be there for them during the times we can’t.

There are only two things that last forever - the Word of God and the souls of men. And the common denominator is Jesus. The Book of John states that Jesus is the living Word of God. And through Jesus’s death on the cross, our souls can be saved if we choose to accept Him as our Lord and our Saviour. 

As believers, the best thing we can do is to teach our children about Jesus and provide them with the opportunity to personally choose Jesus as their Saviour. When our kids make that important decision for themselves, they choose to live an eternal life. And this is the greatest gift we can ever give to them as parents. It is imperative for us to teach them about God and His Word not only with our words, but also through our hearts and with our hands. Our children need to witness for themselves that God is real for us. And they need to learn that they can go to Him for all of their needs. So when the time comes for us to leave our kids, they will continue to lead lives of meaning. And most importantly, our kids will learn to love God, to love others, and to love themselves. Nothing else matters.

As we enter into the season of Advent, we await the coming of Jesus. And we guide our children so that they will always seek Jesus in each and every season of their lives.

This is an article in 2 parts, with the first part discussing Principles 1 to 5 found here. It is intended to be one of my chapters in an upcoming book on honour.

You can also read my article on How to Really Love Your Spouse here.

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