One of the most helpful questions an adult can ask is:
"Would I treat another adult the way I'm treating this child? Would I react to another adult this way, to their face?"
A lot of adults I've observed seem to have quite a bit of ranch hand experience: They treat kids like cattle to be prodded and herded.
Children and teens ought to find in us a place of refuge: No matter how bad a day we're having, or whether we've "Told them a hundred times" to pick up their clothes. What matters is the child's perception of how well we're treating them.
Can children have faulty perceptions and misunderstand our intentions? Of course. But notice how we often rationalize our responses to kids:
- "But I'm correcting them out of love."
- "Even if I react harshly, of course they know I still love them."
This doesn't mean the child is experiencing love.
What the child is experiencing vs. what you're intending
What they're experiencing from us will often be more telling that what we were intending. Meaning well is not always the same as loving well. Adults often get away with addressing kids in a way they'd never address another adult, their own clients, or coworker.
Our need for respect can be over-rated.
Worse, when an adult believes, "I am the Adult!" with a capital "A," they've just given themselves permission to shame a child. That Adult's need for respect often happens at the expense of the child. It degenerates from a healthy sense of the adult's authority into a narcissistic demand for the child to meet their need for respect. Shouldn't we be going to God for the affirmation and respect we need, rather than demanding it from kids?
Parenting with grace
We have the power of a new heart to offer our kids a wildly gracious love - Remembering that is half the battle. You do love your kids...It just takes a little re-aligning of our responses to them to make a big difference in how they perceive our love.