When my (Mark Maulding) kids were growing up, I used to tell my wife, Ellen, “Let’s enjoy our kids and not be in a hurry for them to get older.” In other words, we wanted to soak in the moment with our children. Certainly, we experienced times of joy, exhaustion, and sorrow. But, in the midst of it all, we made it our goal to live in the moment and enjoy the process.
Yet, the parenting process requires a different approach depending on what stage you are experiencing with each of your children. There are three stages that can be described as Control, Convictions, and Counselor. In each stage, though, parents need to depend on Christ for wisdom and turn to older grace-filled parents who can mentor them. Let’s look at the three stages in more detail:
Parenting Stage #1 – Control
When children are infants until around age 11, parents have to make a lot of decisions for them. Little kids don’t have the emotional or intellectual ability to do this without us. Of course, even as they are moving towards age 11, we can begin teaching them about making wise, good decisions. There is also a place for giving them opportunities to do so.
Parenting Stage #2 – Conviction
From about age 12 through high school, parenting shifts more into a time of helping kids develop convictions about God, themselves, and life. It’s counterproductive to force anything on our kids. But, we should share our views on important matters, such as our walk with Jesus, dating decisions, learning to be responsible, personal integrity, spending money, and more.
Stage 2 can definitely be a challenging time. Some teens may be very compliant and go through this period with no problems. Others seem to become an alien from another planet, and parents wonder who took over their child’s body! Our kids may voice doubts about God and their faith. But, taking time to listen and talk it through together will help. Just don’t freak out if it happens, because questions are better than apathy.
Parenting Stage #3 – Counselor
Stage #3 begins when kids graduate from high school and head towards living on their own, whether through a job or at college. From time forward, parents primarily become counselors. We must be very careful to avoid regressing back to the control stage. In fact, some parents sadly try to stay in the control stage, even after their adult child is married.
Being a counselor is when parents continue to guide children into making more of their own decisions. We have input, of course, especially if they want to do something like go to a college or buy a home that costs more than you or they can afford. In general, though, the parenting role is meant to help kids learn how to pray, seek God for wisdom, and make their own decisions.
What stage are you experiencing with your kids? Please don’t take these stages and turn them into hard and fast periods. We all need to be led by the Holy Spirit, and there will be some crossover in each period. Most importantly, though, trust God to guide your children through you. As our heavenly Father, He’s the best parent ever!
Does parenting your kids sometimes feel more like a struggle than a pleasure? Click on a button below for details about our family counseling services or attend our life-transforming Grace Life Conference: