The Clock/Cloud Approach to Parenting

Parents often base their actions on how they were raised. If it worked on them, they will use it. If they are bitter about it, they will cut it out of their parenting style. The trouble with this approach is that parenting is not a one to one science. It’s not a recipe or a blueprint where if you apply the right ingredients or materials at the correct time, you will reap the desired results.

In his book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, David Brooks describes the difference between a clock and a cloud. A clock can be taken apart, its pieces measured and then reassembled. A cloud on the other hand is more fluid in nature and while it can be studied, its behavior can also be unpredictable and puzzling. Humans are like clouds in many ways especially in respect to how we relate to one another.

With your children you can do all that you can for them and they may still disappoint you. You can read books, seek counseling and even pray but at the end of the day, your children are human and contain a will of their own. In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15), the father lets his boy go. He felt it was time to say goodbye to a boy who was discontent at home. What should parents do when they feel their own child pulling away?

First, gain understanding. Proverbs 3:13 says, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver,
and her gain better than fine gold.” With the books we read, we gain knowledge, but do we really gain an understanding of what is happening in our families. What is underneath the surface? There may be a lot going on and it may be out of your control.

Second, Proverbs 22:6 says to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, why do Christian families lose their children to the world? This is a proverb, not a money back guarantee. Those who are faithful as adults were likely taught at a young age and many who leave return to their faith because of those teachings. So, teaching your child is still imperative in Christian homes. You must also remember that even God loses His children.

Third, treat your child for who he is, not for who you think he should be. It is important to consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses and build from there. Where can they be successful? Where do they need help? You may get a “that’s not fair response” from siblings who view your treatment of them with disdain, but you must remind them that fair doesn’t mean equal and you are only giving each of them what they need.

Finally, your child isn’t a microwave dinner, scheduled to be done at age 18. We rush our children into adulthood too fast sometimes without giving them the proper experiences that help them grow appropriately. Some are ready for college right after high school while others could use some work experience first. Maybe they need to experience some independence or maybe they need to sleep with the hogs. Wherever they find themselves in their path, be there to help them and know that God isn’t done with them yet.

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