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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 160: Parenting Tapes

Today's Reading: Proverbs 22-24

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

This verse from Proverbs has puzzled many a parent. Especially when they wake up one morning and find that their precious child has been kidnapped and has been replaced with a teenaged monster!

There is a time in every parent's life when she looks at her child and thinks, where did that child come from? I don't see a reflection of myself anywhere in him.

Sit with some mothers as they converse with one another and you will begin to see this is a normal pattern. Children act out in ways that seem rebellious to every lesson taught.

Even the most skilled in parenting experience this disappointment. Children seem to have a mind of their own. Imagine that!

I think the translation of this verse leads us down the wrong path. I prefer another translation I received from Beth Moore. She said a more accurate reading of this passage would be:

Train a child in the way he should go
and when he is older he will not be able to escape it.

This translation cuts both ways, for good and for evil.

What it implies is this. What you say and how you raise your children gets stored in their memory banks. It is like a tape being recorded. Even if your child goes a different direction from what you taught, either intentionally or unintentionally, either for good or for evil, that tape recording will follow them all the days of their lives and they will not be able to get it out of their heads.

As a counselor, I find this is true for most of my clients. If they are victims of poor parenting, many of them struggle with the "parent voice" in their heads. That parental voice carries great power even if the voice is totally bonkers and speaks falsehood.

In the same way, parental rules, customs and mannerisms often become so much a part of us that complete strangers who knew our parents can recognize our bloodline after a few minutes in our presence.

So here's the double edged sword.

Sometimes I hear my children quoting me to their peers. Sometimes I see my bad habits being passed on to the next generation in their struggles. Once in a while, I see my strength in them and that brings me joy.

Here's the truth: Our children are listening.

If they were on a game show called "What Would Your Mother Say," they'd probably win the million dollar question easily. They know what and how we think. They have studied us.

And that is either a great comfort or a great fear for us as parents, depending upon the strength or weakness of the moment we shared "training," knowingly or unknowingly.

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