Raising kids is a monumental responsibility, but with some helpful guidance, both kids and parents can survive. Keep in mind these few tips and it will go a long way to everyone’s mutual happiness.

1-Maintain Mutual Respect

I was recently stunned as I waited in line at the pharmacy at our local Target store. There was a mother, who appeared to be a qualified professional in her 30’s, arguing with her daughter who appeared to be about age five. They were both exasperated with each other. The mother said to the daughter, in a very serious tone, “I’m done with you,” to which the daughter responded in like manner, “No, I’m done with you.” This went on four or five times, then the mother said with great disdain, “I’m done with you, you’re crazy.” They then left the store.

They were obviously in a power struggle, of which neither one of them knew how to exit gracefully. The more the mother insulted, the more the daughter insulted back. The more the mother exerted her control, the more the daughter did as well. Neither one of them exercised proper loving authority or self-control for the sake of everyone’s good. It was a sad sight to see–like a tug-of-war, with everyone sliding into the mud, then slinging it all around on everyone standing nearby.

I thought to myself, how tragic for a mother’s relationship to be that out of control. If she could have only respected the child, then the child could have learned to return the proper respect. How could the mother have any positive impact on the behavior of the daughter, if she didn’t have any control of her own conduct. Parents must maintain mutual respect at all times.

2-Don’t Need Your Child’s Approval

Recently I observed a very loud, obnoxious mother berating her son, who looked to be about 11 years of age. We were at the historic Jamestown Settlement, and I had taken our children to enjoy the sights. We could overhear the mother on the way into the park showing her great frustration with her son. She said, “I took you to Busch Gardens twice, and then got ice cream, and then this today, what more do you want, what’s your problem.”

The boy was quiet and not sure what to do. He was embarrassed and hurt that he was being harassed so demonstratively. Apparently the boy had indicated some degree of discontentment, or had requested additional activities. But whatever it was, didn’t seem to warrant the mother’s torrent. She apparently was seeking the child’s approval and when she did not receive it, she had lost it and “let the boy have it.”

Instead, the mother should have been confident in her own plans and what activities she could and could not provide the son, and then encouraged him to be grateful. But she was in such a mess herself, she could do no good at teaching her son such character qualities.

3-Build Trust by Telling the Truth

When parents lie, tell an untruth, or make things up to persuade the child to do certain things, they are setting up the child to be deceived or to become a deceiver. Either one is a terrible thing to do. Children have a natural confidence built in for those who speak truth. They can trust it. It is innate. No deception of any kind should enter a child’s life. Even pretend or make believe can be distinguished as such, so that there is a clear difference in the truth of reality and creative play that is just for pretend. The child should be able to know the difference. Establishing what is true and real will keep the child grounded for life and also build a solid rock of confidence by knowing who to believe and who not to trust. When a child can easily trust, they can more easily obey, because they know you want their good.

Give time to these principles and they will help you in your parenting. God has given you the responsibility, and expects that you will grow in your knowledge of how to do it. Be encouraged.

Article Written by: Debbie Harper, Ph.D.