Single Best Piece of Parenting Advice, and It’s Not What You Think

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As we all know, nobody is perfect, with the exception of our Lord and Savior. His ways are perfect, and His Word is perfect, providing the very best example for all avenues of our lives, including parenting. “This God–His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 18:30).

Beginning from a young age, children try to navigate through the world, gaining knowledge and independence each step of the way. However, as sinners, the inevitable occurs–trouble is faced, limits are tested and rules are broken. As a result, parents seek to correct, teach and guide their children back on the lit path, the path of the Lord. Parents often believe that teaching obedience is the most important part of parenting.

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However, our heavenly Father has modeled one of the best pieces of parenting advice and, no, this does not include timeouts, creative punishments or excessive chores as lessons. Christ has provided the single best piece of parenting advice we could teach our kids–gaining respect through compassion. When respect is present, and compassion floods one’s heart and soul, there is a solid base for sound decision-making, thus leading to a want and need to do right in life, beginning from childhood and remaining through adulthood.

Christ has provided the single best piece of parenting advice we could teach our kids–gaining respect through compassion.

Our God is a God of compassion, slow to anger and faithful to forgive, earning respect through love and mercy. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). Compassion is one of the most valuable character traits we can develop and nurture in our children. If we want our children to become productive, disciplined, loving adults, we must start by instilling compassion in their hearts, providing our kids with the opportunity to repent, learn, grow and start fresh. Not only does compassion develop a child’s heart, but compassion also heightens their awareness when having to choose between right and wrong.

Single Best Piece of Parenting Advice, and It's Not What You Think

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Exercising compassion does not mean letting everything slide or choosing to sweep issues under the rug. So, if your child got in trouble at school or outside of the classroom, Jesus is certainly not demanding you give a reward in place of disciplinary action. In fact, Jesus discourages such behavior. Jesus was, single-handedly, the most demanding teacher who ever lived, teaching loyalty, encouraging discipline and setting standards. Nevertheless, Jesus moved with compassion.

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). There is a unique discipline when exhibiting a compassionate mindset, thus establishing compassion as a priority in one’s life. When compassion takes precedence, compassionate decisions and actions are birthed. As a result, better decisions are made and, in the event poor decisions are chosen, there is a heightened sense of awareness as to how to fix this issue if it happens to occur again.

If we want our children to become productive, disciplined, loving adults, we must start by instilling compassion in their hearts, providing our kids with the opportunity to repent, learn, grow and start fresh.

I remember, many years ago, helping a friend cheat on a test. She was unprepared, and I had the material mastered. So, I figured I would let her peek at my paper. Well, my teacher caught us both, and our teacher called both of our parents. I was so nervous to face my mom, not because of the inevitable harsh punishment I was bound to receive but because I knew I disappointed her, and that feeling struck my heart more deeply than any consequence. In retrospect, I am grateful for my mom not only putting her foot down but instilling compassion in my life. Compassion birthed respect, awareness and consciousness. As a result, compassion served as a useful, beneficial teacher, then and well into my adult life.

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The truth is, God built His foundation on salvation. We want our children to do better, and while we do not want them to slide with every wrong-doing, we want to exercise discipline from a place of compassion, remaining firm and consistent to the teachings of Christ.  

Compassion brings out Christ-like character, both in deeds and in tongue. “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk in deed but in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). There is a distinct, priceless difference between a harsh punishment that affects the present versus providing a lasting lesson that will spawn better choices for the future.