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Curious, Compassionate and Creative Parenting

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by Jamie Roach

No two children are the same. Each one is uniquely formed, an original masterpiece. The Psalmist says it this way:
“For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14 [NRSV])
If each of our children is different, then as parents, we have to really pay attention. It is our job as parents to be in tune with our children, to pay attention and understand what makes each child unique and special. For example, my wife and I have four uniquely different children who are now grown. Our first child tends to interact with the world with her mind; she is very rational. Our second child perceives the world with her heart; she feels something before she can explain it. How we talk and listen to each varies drastically. Being literal with the first is just as helpful as it is damaging to the second. Another child is energized by being alone while another constantly wants to be with friends. This is a key difference to understand as we help our children socially engage with others. What works for one could be disastrous for the other. 
Presence-centered parenting is about being present to your child. This involves being curious, compassionate and creative.  
Being curious involves paying attention in order to discover what makes our children tick and taking a genuine interest in whatever interests them. Too often, parents assume – or perhaps hope – their kids will share their interests. As parents, we can also find ourselves trying to relive our own childhood through our children. If we are not careful we end up using our kids (for personal gain) rather than loving them. Children of curious parents often feel like their parents “get them” and the bond they share is unbreakable. 
Being compassionate means we love them with all their foibles, not in spite of them. It means we love them exactly as they are and feel no need to try and change them into something better. It means we don’t compare them to their siblings or friends. We see and celebrate who God has made them to be as unique individuals. 
Being creative means we are flexible. We alter the way we spend time with, love, discipline and talk with each child. We learn to speak their language because we understand a “one size fits all” approach does not work when it comes to parenting. Creative parents tend to see parenting more as an adventure to be enjoyed rather than a test to be passed. For creative parents, the relationship – rather than rigidly holding to rules – is what matters. Uncertainty, messes and mistakes, as well as forgiveness, growth and resilience, are all found in homes with parents who are able to be creative with their kids.
Creative parents tend to see parenting more as an adventure to be enjoyed rather than a test to be passed.
In order to possess these three important qualities, we need to be secure in our own identity and feel safe in our own skin. If we are feeling overly anxious or still trying to prove our worth as parents, then we are in danger of using our children to soothe us or make us feel worthy. It is not the job of children to love their parents. It is the job of parents to love their children. In their book on family therapy, Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy and Barbara Kranser describe the relationship between parent and child as being “asymmetrical” because the parents do all the giving and the children do all the receiving¹. Dr. Terry Hargrave, professor of marriage and family therapy at Fuller Seminary and noted author, explains, “A child is entitled to receive and a parent is obligated to give things like physical provision, protection, nurturing, love and discipline². The child, however, carries no such obligation to provide care for the parent…”  I’ll say it again: It is the job of the parent to love their children. It is not the job of the child to make their parents feel loved. 
Therefore as parents we must first “know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16 [NIV]). Then secondly, we become conduits of God’s love to our children. It is God’s love that frees us to be curious, compassionate and creative parents.
¹ Boszormenyi-Nagy, I., & Krasner, B. (1986) Between give and take: A Clinical Guide to Contextual Therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel
² Hargrave, Terry and Franz Pfitzer (2011) Restoration Therapy: Understanding and Guiding Healing in Marriage and Family Therapy. New York: Rutledge

Get to know Jamie Roach: Jamie has served on the staff of Youthfront for 35 years, working with students, parents and youth workers. His passion is seeing people live their best life. Jamie is a spiritual director, author, communicator and Licensed Professional Counselor. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Mid-America Nazarene University. Jamie loves Nebraska football, reading, walks in the woods and hanging out with his family. Jamie and his wife Lea Ann have four children: Megan (29), Haley (27), Logan (24) and Sophie (21)

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