The past month I’ve been struck by a certain refrain over and over again. Its one of those moments when once is thought provoking, twice makes you think about it a little more deeply, the third time you start to realize that perhaps this is something you need to consider changing in your life, and by the fifth, sixth and seventh time you hear the same refrain you realize that ‘hey! hello ding dong! SomeOne is trying to have a word with you!’
It all focuses around a verse in Proverbs, Proverbs 22:6:
6 Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (TNIV)
Repeatedly I have been pointed to an emphasis on the words ‘on the way they should go.’
First I was reading a book about husbands and wives and about how our culture has, to a large extent, left many fumbling in their roles because while we’ve done away with the old constructs of how marriage and family works (as a culture) we’ve done little to replace it with anything of any value and our culture is falling apart. The interesting thing is that the book was written in the late 1970’s.
In the book, the author makes a comment about how to work on negating this trend, and basically draws on the verse from Proverbs and states that really we have to go back to raising our boys as boys and our girls as girls.
Hm, I thought, I have little to disagree with that sentiment.
Then I read three books on parenting, in specific dealing with children like my son. Again, there was a stress on valuing your child for the way he was created. I am paraphrasing in ‘Christian words.’ All three had chapters about assessing your personality and your child’s personality and seeing how the two mesh and how they conflict.
The I read a book by Florence Littauer called Your Personality Tree where she does an even better job helping you peg yourself and determine where your personality lies, but even more interesting she does a lot of work covering how your personality has be moulded and changed by your parents. She often talks about how you can have your personality masked by trying to please your parents. And she again talks about Proverbs 22:6 and says what a terrible thing it is that this happens because, we as parents then have raised up the child in the way ‘we’ wanted them to be and not the way God created them to be.
Another really beneficial tool, for me, was how she showed that each personality is equally valuable and necessary to God’s created plan for us. She also shows the weaknesses inherent to each personality type. She also draws out various areas that two personalities are going to have when working side by side.
In my search for various things for this blog post, I came across this website which I think has a nice collection of personality information, personality via Young Ladies Christian Fellowship.
So, I have concluded that I need to take stock of how I am parenting my children. Along side being broadsided with this message over and over again, I am working with my son on a personality test called the “Ibots” All about Bots, All About You Personality Test.
The thing that I discovered while he was taking the test with me was that he often answered differently from what I thought. And the test showed an equal balance between two personality types. One that I think fits him well, and the other kind of clashes with the first.
Another thing I discovered is that if I answer personality tests based on how I would have answered as a child, I rank quite differently on how I answer as an adult.
If I use the words that I take from Littauer’s book, I can see that my adult personality is a mask that I put on to please my parents. I took on traits that they valued and admired. And truthfully, as an adult I am glad I learned these traits and I actually value them. However, they aren’t things that I do easily and I always have a sense that ‘this isn’t exactly me.’ For example, I am the responsible one in my marital relationship. I keep track of things, book appointments, do the bill paying, do the taxes, police the budget, etc. But in my heart of hearts, I’d rather just hire someone to do that, have someone tell me I can have this much allowance and then run and enjoy life.
What is interesting about my son’s test is that the personality that I think is not really his true nature, is the one that would please the ‘mask’ that I’ve put on. In other words, he is responding to the side of me that isn’t my natural nature. He often would respond to a situation in the Ibots test with… “well, really, I’d want to be —– because of this ——, so I’m going to say I’m most like this one. And really, I shouldn’t be like —— because this would happen —— so I’m going to say I am least like this ——–.”
Meanwhile I’d be saying, hey kiddo! You’re neither of those, your this and you are least like what you think you should be like! Thankfully the test does have parents rate the child with what they think and discusses that, only I have still to get to that part!
I’ve noticed that I take my parenting style from my parents. My mother took her style from my Grandparents. She has often said she didn’t like their parenting and in the not to long ago past has apologized to me for some of the things she did to me in the name of parenting. However, Grandma and Grandpa Haverkamp did succeed in raising a relatively happy and healthy Christian family, so she didn’t see, at the time, that she could be doing things a lot differently from them. And to be truthful, she did do things differently to which I am glad!
My father took his parenting style in direct opposite of his parents. He felt they were too lax and there were lots of things lacking in his home growing up. So he adopted my mother’s parent’s attitude to parenting. What is interesting is that with the passage of time, both my parents have stated that my father’s parents had a better way of parenting and are pleased to see that I try to follow in my Oma and Opa’s parenting method. Dad has also admitted that much of what was lacking was because of his parent’s financial situation where they had a bakery business that went bankrupt because Opa had a habit of trying to fed the masses in a time when the entire economy went down. Then Opa and Oma refused to allow the bankruptcy erase all their debts and instead spent nearly their entire lives paying off the debts they owed to others.
So I too have a legacy of parenting examples that I fall back on. I now realize that they aren’t exactly me but that they have pro’s and con’s and that I need to take stock of my ‘inventory’ and adjust the tools I have to better suit both my children’s needs and my own needs as a parent.
More importantly, I have been bringing my son up in a way other than his own. I’d be bold enough to say in a way that is not inherently my own as well. I have not been following Biblical directions well. I have room to improve and I am thankful that God has taken the time to bludgeon me into realization! In fact, I sit back astonished that such a collection of seemingly random books gathered and loaned to me by various people could have such a singular message for me!
Thanks for listening!