P is for … Parenting

And since I’ve only ever parented boys, I guess it’s about parenting boys.

And what do I know about parenting boys?

Absolutely nothing.

I knew nothing when I started and I still know next to nothing.

About a year ago someone complimented me on my sons and suggested that I teach other parents how to parent boys. This person had known my boys after they’d left home – when I was no longer around to remind them to brush their teeth and mind their manners. She and her husband ran the hostel that two of my sons had lived in (and another is planning to next year) and in which another son had been a frequent visitor (he married the favourite resident). So I guess she knew them as well as any outsider could. The only problem is … I don’t really know what I did right except to pray and hope and pray and try different things and pray and love them to bits.

I did have the disadvantage (or advantage if you like) of having grown up surrounded by females. I had one sister and no brothers and a father that worked shift work, a grandfather that also worked shift work or was ill, uncles only through marriage, and boy cousins that were at least ten years younger or ten years older.

Therefore I had no idea that boys were meant to be messy, noisy, obnoxious, and boisterous. So if my boys wanted to be messy, noisy, obnoxious or boisterous they could go outside and do it! I expected the same behaviour from them that I would have thought appropriate for girls. Ignorant that I was of males, and no one told me otherwise (probably because there were so many females in my family and they didn’t know any different) I raised them to be respectful and mindful of others.

It probably didn't help that DH was one of eight children and had been expected to do the baking and household chores alongside his sisters to help his mother out in what must have been a busy household. So our boys - not having sisters - still had to help with baking and dishes and other household chores. We'd done it as kids so it wouldn't hurt them to do it either - or so we reasoned.

So when it came to being parented, our kids were certainly disadvantaged. We knew nothing and they reaped the consequences of our ignorance.

Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little. All joking aside, there were two parenting principals that we learnt that we believed stood us in very good stead when it came to raising our boys.

The first was to teach our children to obey. We thought we were doing this, but we quickly learned that we were actually teaching our children to disobey. Shock horror, but it was true. Perhaps you’ve seen others use this strategy: “I’m going to count to three and if you haven’t done it by then … one … two … two and a quarter … two and a half … two and three-quarters … two and nine-tenths … three!” and of course the little darlings jump on three. When we realised what we were teaching our children and what we were letting them get away with, we were convicted that we’d done wrong. From then on we expected our children to obey immediately … and it proved to be a lot easier and a lot less hassle.

The other was not just about changing their behaviour but changing their heart. It wasn’t enough to teach them to obey, we had to teach them why (because the Bible says to obey your parents). Ditto for everything we wanted to teach our children. If we wanted to instil good manners then we would explain that it was because it was a way of showing respect and love to others (love your neighbour as yourself). My favourite was – and is – to remind them how they should treat their siblings (how good it is when brothers live together in brotherly kindness).

I still don’t claim to have gotten it right, but when I look at my sons today I am proud – and humbled – at how they have turned out. And just in case you’re wondering, the photo was taken before our eldest was married and only the two eldest have stayed the same height!


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