This week I have been reflecting on my parenting style and how it may be affecting my children. As the Christmas season approaches, I have been faced with how my choices have given my daughter the impression that everything is attainable if she just asks for it for Christmas….and that toys and entertainment are completely a necessity that you cannot live without. I find myself often asking, “Where have I gone wrong? Why is my child being so greedy?” Jill Rigby, in her book Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World considers three different parenting styles that are formative in raising a self-less child.
First she mentions the Deflector. This is the parent who makes their child think they are the boss by giving them too much control. The child is allowed to make choices about things that they aren’t ready to handle so they become overwhelmed and frustrated. They are given power over things that should not be theirs to control so they begin to feel as if they don’t need to listen to any authority. I fit this category more than I would like to admit. One night I was putting my daughter to bed and she asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” And I replied, “I don’t know, we’ll have to see what happens.” And her response was, “Well, it doesn’t matter ‘cause we usually do what I want to do anyway.” I was totally taken aback…I hated being faced with the honest truth that I had let my child take over so many of the decisions of our home. As I thought it through I began to realize when I am frustrated and can’t make up my mind I ask my daughter, “Should we go to Kroger or Wal-Mart today to get groceries?” And when her closet seems out of control and unmanageable I ask, “What do you want to wear today?” Before I’ve had my coffee in the morning and I just want to be able to get ready quickly and get her to school, I ask my daughter, “What do you want for breakfast?” She is four! Why should I think that she should be responsible for decisions that I feel too frustrated to make? I pray that as I study this topic more, I will uncover more areas such as this and replace my sinful habits with god-honoring, intentional practices.
Secondly she presents the Depriver. The Depriver may do too little for their child. Either they are too busy or too self-involved to spend time with their child so they fill the child’s life full of “stuff” to make up for the lack of attention. Or the Depriver can also be one who does everything for their child and thus, deprives them of responsibility and opportunities needed to become a capable adult. So, picture the little spoiled daughter who has rooms full of toys and clothes but is left every day with a nanny. She becomes needy and empty and as an adult and fills her life with shopping and men. Or imagine the son who isn’t made to lift a finger his entire life so he continues to live in his parents’ basement until he’s forty and thinks everyone should cater to him.
Finally she mentions the Developer, which is the parent who gives their child everything they need to become all that God made them to be. A Developer takes charge without being harsh. A Developer sets boundaries and sticks to them. A Developer gives appropriate responsibilities, lavishes love and is sparing and intentional about gifts. With the help of the Holy Spirit, with a firm foundation in scripture and a powerful reliance on prayer I can become the kind of parent I am called to be so that my children can develop into the adult they are called to be.