Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Dignity

Photo image courtesy of Pexels via Pixabay
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
~ James 3:17-18, MSG ~

Parenthood is a lesson in adjustment and readjustment. From that first day we become a mom or dad we are adapting to raising this young human. Life changes in drastic ways. 

Eventually, we gain a level of competence and confidence in our role as a parent. Getting to know our child, their likes, their dislikes, their fears, and behaviors all bring us to a point where we feel more secure as mom or dad. 

But then things change, and that's where life can get messy.

In one of our Side-By-Side Parent Mentor Small Groups we are reading the book Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood and Behavior Challenges by Nicole Beurkens. It has been an invaluable tool for us as we discuss various topics and grow in our skills.

This week we covered Section 5 of the book which discusses "Connection." Many relational strategies are discussed, providing ways of helping our children to grow and adjust in the wider world. In a chapter that covers staying calm when our kids don't, the word "DIGNITY" jumped off the page for me. The author states, 
"Don't pour salt in the wound by embarrassing your child, or instilling guilt or shame about the behavior. Allow your child the dignity to successfully move on to whatever needs to happen next..."*
I marveled at how we moms and dads go from this feeling of uncertainty and trepidation to becoming more authoritarian in our children's lives. That's a good thing. Our children need our authority and guidance. However, there comes a point where we need to put the brakes on how strict we are as parents. We need to come to an awakening that our kids are becoming distinct individuals with feelings, thoughts, and self-esteem.

How we treat our kids as human beings is pivotal in how they move through life. In her book Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, author Brene Brown pulls apart the issue of shame and vulnerability. My own old past wounds opened up anew as I saw how Brown exposed behavior in adulthood resulting from feelings of inadequacy inflicted earlier in life. Seeing how I was affected made me even more committed to set a guard over my mouth so that I never create that sort of damage in my kids. 

Living with an executive function defect, disability, anxiety, or chronic disease can make our children feel diminished enough without us adding to that hurt. Being good stewards of their dignity and value as a person should be our highest calling. We have the unique opportunity to give our kids perspective. Assuring them that there is not one perfect person in this world can instill just enough confidence to regroup and go at the difficult pieces of their lives. Equipping them in their formative years strengthens them for the future.

Chances are that we will not always be there to defend our kids against assaults on their personal worth. We can't expect others to treat our children with dignity -- or even expect them to have their own sense of self-worth -- when we are not first leading by example as parents.

PRAY:  Father, how incredible You are that You ascribe infinite worth and dignity to each of us. Remind us to speak life to one another, especially to our children. Let us be builders rather than destroyers.

~ Barb Dittrich

* p 150, Life Will Get Better by Nicole Beurkens, Sky Water Press; 1st edition (March 10, 2016)

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