“Back to School” is the time of year to which many parents look forward. We hope that our child’s temperament, teacher, and school will be a good fit. We prepare our children physically by buying the latest fashions and stocking up on school supplies. We make all the preparations that we believe are necessary for a successful school year with the hope that this school year will be better than the year before. However, parents must prepare themselves for the academic aspect of "Back-to-School" as well. As a result, over the next several weeks, I will post "Back-to-School" tips to help parents get started on the right foot this school year. With myself being a parent, my posts will focus primarily on the dynamics of parenting and nurturing the parent-child relationship.
First, parents must constantly remind themselves that a child is a gift from God. Typically, the birth of a child will alter the lives of the two individuals that conceived the child. Most often, these changes manifest in the way the parents spend their money and time. New parents have an innate desire and ability to feel and display “love” to their newborn child. When our children are infants and toddlers, we as parents shower our children with love through gifts, birthday parties, a good education, toys, games, clothes, bedroom furniture, etc. We pride ourselves on how much we love our children. In these early years, parents display what I call “unconditional love” to their children. Unconditional love means love without any strings attached; children don’t have to do anything to earn their parents’ affection, gifts, smiles, and kind words.
However, a phenomenon takes place when children enter grade school. At that time, parents tend to develop several unspoken expectations of the child that precede the release and level of love a child will receive from them. Those expectations are based on the child’s satisfactory performance of the following specific behaviors:
1. Thou shalt respect your principal, teachers, and staff.
2. Thou shalt behave appropriately in school.
3. Thou shalt be actively engaged in learning at school.
4. Thou shalt finish your classwork every day and homework every night.
5. Thou shalt be organized and stay on top of your assignments, tests, and quizzes.
6. Thou shalt sit quietly in class.
7. Thou shalt not distract others from learning.
8. Thou shalt bring home “A’s” on your report card.
9. Thou shalt learn how to read and write.
10. Thou shalt not hang out with the bad kids at school.
Many parents may believe it is simple for children to perform the above behaviors. However, children with special or unmet needs may find it almost impossible to meet each of the standards on the list. If your child falls into this category, he or she may put a great deal of strain on your time, energy, money, and household relationships. When your child enters school, you will focus the majority of the time you spend with them on school. For many parents, as their child gets older and the demands of school become greater, “fun time” gradually becomes a thing of the past. Spending quality time with your child ends up being a goal that your child’s therapist recommends rather than something that occurs naturally. Unfortunately, parents may begin to believe that their child is intentionally failing to perform the expectations in the above list in a satisfactory manner, which leads some parents to withdraw love and replace love with anger, disappointment, and sometimes emotional and physical abuse.
A parent’s love should be patient, kind, long suffering, and most importantly, unconditional. Parenthood will test our characters and teach us about God’s capacity to love us. As we begin this new school year, I implore each parent to resolve to love their children unconditionally. In order to do that we must remind ourselves daily that Christ loves us unconditionally. We are far from perfection, but God loves us anyway. We fall short of successfully meeting all of His standards, but God loves us anyway. Your child will never do everything right, and will often do the exact opposite from what you’ve taught them, but I encourage you to love your child anyway.