I'm not saying it was Nancy Lanza's fault. No mom should be loaded down with the burden of guilt over a heinous crime committed by her adult child, especially one who was among the victims. And I've not read or heard anything that would make me suspect this mom's parenting skills or love for her disturbed child.
This post is not about casting blame.
But, in light of the recent mass murder of children in a public elementary school situated in an idyllic community by a 20-year old gunman, most every parent must surely speculate, "Could my child do that? What if my child were to do that? Oh my Lord, how do I raise children who I can be assured would never take another life, much less 26?"
I don't have the answers to those unspoken, eerie, unsettling questions. But I do offer a simple list, compiled by my husband for a recent MOPS presentation, that at least suggests a few sound pointers for doing what we can to raise stable, functioning, healthy children...children who contribute well to their world, rather than take from it.
These are not promises or guarantees. These are not fail proof formulas. But in a day when we've witnessed too many children, teenagers, and young adults garner weapons, plot mass shootings, and carry out evil destruction, we parents are surely craving a few sound suggestions for avoiding having our own kids' names in the headlines in infamy. God alone must do the rest. But we all want to know how we can do our part.
And so I offer a few things to think about, sweet parents. But above all, know that you do not parent alone. It can be a daunting task, a risky one even. But you have a Father in Heaven who longs for you to enlist His help, His wisdom, and His intervention. Cling to Him and be courageous.
Suggestions for Helping Your Child Cope with the Stresses of Life:
- Stay engaged. Keep up with your child daily. Ask questions and persist in getting answers. Provide a safe place to share feelings. Create a sense of belonging and acceptance in your home, in your family. And don't just do this for the first 5, 10 or even 15 years of your child's life. Dig your heels in during those years of teenage angst and young adulthood. Parent for the long haul.
- Don't give your child everything they want. Your child needs your time, not another video game or DVD. Giving your child everything they want provides a false sense of entitlement. Help your child develop realistic expectations of what they really need and should have.
- Do not try to be your child's best friend too soon. Remain the parent throughout the rearing years, even into young adulthood, to an appropriately gradually diminishing degree. Children, including teenagers, need a parent. They crave structure, discipline and safety, even if they don't articulate those needs to you.
- Live a life of faith before your child. Tell them they are valuable and precious to God and to you. Encourage them to talk to God and share their needs with Him. Let them know how God provides for your family's needs. And model peace and contentment with God and His blessings before them. They need to see a genuine faith, however, not pretense.
- Allow your child to fail. Failure is a fact of life. You can't completely protect your child from it. Learning how to deal with failure early in life helps your child learn how to cope and grow from his disappointments. This skill also helps them deal with larger failures which have greater consequences in the future. In other words, it is better to learn about the consequences and emotions of failure when your lemonade stand flops rather than still needing to learn these things later on when you are laid off from the job which supports your family. When your child fails, comfort him, listen to him, and help him "rise again," but resist the temptation to "fix" his failure or to pretend his failure is really someone else's fault.
- Encourage time spent with other children. Be patient when squabbles arise and help your child work through them. Friendships are valuable resources in life, but we must learn early on how to navigate the rough patches with our friends: how to make up, forgive, get along, sacrifice, share, etc.
- Celebrate milestones in life. Make each celebration an opportunity to show how proud you are of your child's achievement or success. But watch out for establishing unrealistic expectations. Most days we all just get by, get along, complete our work satisfactorily, and go to bed knowing we've done our best. Teach your child to celebrate those days, too.
- Never give up. Your preschooler will grow up, but she will always be your child. Don't give up on your child when she becomes a teenager and her perception of you changes. Hang in there with all you've got. The gift of an adult child's friendship is worth the wait.
- Seek help when needed. Are you concerned about your child? Are red flags waving? Contact a trained Christian counselor. There is no shame in seeking help. Receiving help early may spare shame and remorse later.
Like I said, I lifted these suggestions from my husband James Harms' notes. But I think he's a pretty wise guy!
And listen, I repeat. I'm not casting blame on Nancy Lanza for her son's heinous act. These suggestions are simply offered as a few basic pegs to hang our parenting hopes on. While I know we've all grieved for the many parents who lost sweet, innocent children this past Friday in Connecticut; I know we parents also watch the news about the killers of these frequent killings with shock and concern. We don't want to be the ones who raise the next infamous gunman. And while these incidents are still fairly rare, we know the images and opportunities our children face today do not help our plight as parents, but only make the job tougher.
Pray, fellow parents. The most important thing we can do is pray for our children and for ourselves as their parents.
Labels: courage, Navigating Motherhood, parenting