Parenting from the Building Blocks
My husband and I had discussed our views of parenting before our first child was born. We chose to rear our children differently than either of us had experienced. We were very strict, but fair with our children. Our children’s social lives were centered on church and school friends whose parents held the same values we did. This was a source of conflict with our children; however, having led a pretty wild life before his salvation, my husband would not back down. He was determined to protect our children from what he called “the devil’s lies.” My husband is an ordained deacon, not a preacher. However, he can preach some pretty good sermons to his family. And we heard them often. There were times we thought an invitation and benediction would surely follow his sermon.
We were determined to provide as much security and emotional support as we possibly could for our children. Neither of us had an emotional bank from which to draw but we did the best we could to provide a feeling of security in our home. We told our children often that we loved them, taught them appropriate behavior, and reprimanded inappropriate behavior. We complimented them on jobs well done and took time to re-teach tasks not completed satisfactorily. We believed that punishment was the consequence for intentional inappropriate behavior and should be age appropriate. Also we felt that children should be disciplined because they are loved; however, discipline in itself is not love and should not be a substitute for displays of affection. We did not discipline our children when the behavior was age appropriate. I had a rule that discipline should be in private. Once I broke this rule. One of my sons had been disrespectful to a church sponsor on a trip with the youth department. I wanted to her to know that I was addressing the issue and proceeded to reprimand him in public. Later I was deeply sorry that I had hurt my own child and embarrassed that I had used a tool so hurtful to me in my childhood. Intentional embarrassment, humiliation, and name-calling were never allowed to be used with our children. Name-calling was one of my dad’s favorite sports, but the first time he called one of my children a derogatory name, I quickly informed him it would not be tolerated. After that he had nothing but kind names for my children.
Our children were encouraged to be creative and entertain themselves at home. I cleaned house on a regular basis, but it was not always obvious to visitors because our children were allowed to play in every room of the house.. The only restriction was that they were not allowed to intentionally destroy anything. At times there were no blankets in the closet because the boys were using them to build their tents. Our living room sometimes looked like a tent city, truck stop, corral, or battlefield, depending on what the boys were playing at the time. One day during my third pregnancy while resting in my room, I kept seeing the boys run down the hall. Finally when I could stand the suspense no longer, I went to see what they were doing. These two small boys had moved every piece of furniture in the living room to create an obstacle course, which required them to run down the hall, climb over the back of the couch, roll under the coffee table, run around the chair and back again. I thought this was very creative. The disruption of my living room was not an issue for me.
For years I wondered why there was a 2”x24” strip of the living room paneling that was lighter in color than the rest of the room. When our younger son was an adult, he finally confessed. He said that when he was about seven years old, he decided the only reason he did not get mail like I did was because he did not have a mailbox. So while I was out getting the mail, he used mailing tape to attach a folder to the paneling for his mailbox. When he decided that was a bad idea, he ripped the tape off the paneling, taking some of the color with the adhesive. My parenting style leaned toward encouraging the children’s creativity. I was not concerned with impressing visitors and always encouraged people to call before coming to our house.