by Keith Hinson, M.Div.
Maintain exemplary self-care, self-control and relational boundaries that are informed and guided by the fiercely extravagant love that your Father God has for you, His child. Always meet your child respectfully at her/his level of needs with your ears, your eyes, your arms, your time, your words, and a full heart. Don’t expect your child to meet you at your need level.
Habitually attune yourself to your child’s emotional state and empathize with your child’s distress.
Redeem your mistakes and repair your mis-attunements by humbly acknowledging your failures when they happen and making the appropriate amends.
Assure your child that his/her distress can be coped with, dealt with, and tolerated without the child feeling rejected or banished. Your child needs to know, “It’s okay and safe to feel and express my feelings.”
See your child as an intentional person; strive to discover beneath her/his behavior the independent emotions, desires, needs, and beliefs that are rational and purposeful to your child. Let your child know that you want to understand and honor his/her internal experiences as valid even when actions are inappropriate.
Be quick to listen first with calm respect, and then respond reasonably, patiently, kindly, and firmly.
Control your child’s behavior only in ways that are needed for the safety and benefit of the child. Make it your practice whenever possible to relinquish control to your child, appropriate to her/his age and development.
Offer your child lots of choices, because most of what he/she learns is from the results of his/her choices (not from your rational arguments, or lectures, or punishments).
Make sure the choices you offer are consistent with your own self-care and ability to function well.
Play with your child. Have fun; be creative and expansive with her/him.
Encourage your child’s natural curiosity and exploration about everything, look for the teachable moments, and feed his/her hunger to learn. You have a wealth of knowledge and experience to give away. Share the personal stories of your own failures and growth experiences.
Give your child structure and consistency while maintaining a flexibility that always prioritizes respect for the worth of persons and the importance of loving relationships.
Demonstrate genuine interest in what your child finds important and interesting. Be an encouraging participant in your child’s life.
Hold your hands open, perpetually willing to lose and let go of who your child has been and your expectations of who your child could or should be, in order to embrace who your child is.
Always trust God for the results, regardless of current evidence or emotions.
Empower and inspire your child to mature in her/his competence to become a loving, faithful, and wise person by the influence of your own example as one striving humbly and honestly to learn the arts of love, faith, and wisdom in all your relationships.
“It may sound strange to speak of the relationship between parents and children in terms of hospitality. But it belongs to the center of the Christian message that children are not properties to own and rule over, but gifts to cherish and care for. Our children are our most important guests, who enter into our home, ask for careful attention, stay for a while, and then leave to follow their own way.” Henri Nouwen