Did you know that parenting encompasses four distinct stages determined by your children's ages and evolving needs? These stages should serve as the foundation for your parenting approach, with the primary goal of fostering strong emotional connections with your children. Parenting extends beyond authority and disputes; it revolves around nurturing, kindness, and compassion, ultimately shaping individuals who profoundly love Jesus. Love and Discipline stand as the two essential components within the heart of Abba (God, the Father, who is the only perfect parent you will ever have). Recall the words of Jesus in Hebrews 12:6a: "The Lord disciplines those who He loves." Now, let's explore these four parenting stages and contemplate where you currently stand in your parenting journey.
THE FOUNDATION - DISCIPLINE YEARS (AGES 1-5)
During the Discipline Years, typically encompassing ages 1 to 5, parents face the monumental task of setting the foundation for their child's development. It's a period when survival often takes precedence as you navigate the chaotic world of parenting. Boundaries are established to ensure your child's safety, such as teaching them not to throw food or stick a fork in a light socket. These boundaries are the first steps in your child's understanding of self-control. It’s imperative during this stage to communicate clear expectations.
The Discipline Years bring about a period marked by outcomes, where you impart to your child the significance of adhering to rules and showing respect for boundaries. Although it may sometimes seem like a daunting and tiring phase, it's crucial to keep in mind that these moments pass swiftly. The familiar saying, "The days are long, but the years are short," reminds us how quickly time passes in this stage. In the midst of our fast-paced lives, juggling work, school, and sports, it's crucial to weave love into our daily schedules.
THE WHY BEHIND RULES - TRAINING YEARS (AGES 5-12)
As your child enters the Training Years, typically ages 5 to 12, they become more capable of understanding the reasons behind the rules you've set. Explaining the "why" behind these rules is critical, helping them grasp the importance of good choices and turning them into habits. This stage requires patience and clear communication as you navigate a child's growing independence.
The Training Years can be particularly challenging, especially when dealing with a tween on the brink of adolescence. Hormones start to surge, and your child begins to assert their individuality. In this phase, the child might seem larger than life, making the discipline methods from the earlier years appear less intimidating. Reflect on the choices that reflect your affection for your family, especially your children, within your home's daily routines. When your children push boundaries you've established, always respond with compassion. Disciplining in anger doesn't promote their growth; it fosters bitterness in their hearts. This is why Ephesians 6:4 advises, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Approach with empathy and love - this is key!
FROM COACH TO FRIEND - COACHING YEARS (AGES 12-18)
The Coaching Years typically ages 12 to 18, are marked by your child's growing independence. They start making their own friends, selecting their music, and engaging in activities of their choice. During this phase, it's crucial to emphasize guidance and mentorship over strict correction. Your role is to come alongside them as a coach, helping them navigate the complexities of adolescence. They’re in need of an adult they can trust who will remain cool and composed when they are insecure. Take a look at what Reggie Joyner wrote in his book, “Parenting Beyond Capacity,” “Too often, parents think their primary goal is to get their children to follow the rules. During the formative years, it is actually more important for parents to earn trust with the child than for the child to earn trust with the parents.”
Effective communication becomes paramount in the Coaching Years. Engaging in open and non-judgmental conversations is essential, fostering an environment where your child feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences with you.
BUILDING FRIENDSHIP - FRIENDSHIP YEARS (18+)
Ultimately, the goal of parenting is to transition into the Friendship Years, where your child becomes an adult with their own life and family. Your foundation in earlier stages will truly shine during these years. Your aim should be to have established trust and rapport with your child so they willingly choose to spend time with you.
In the Friendship Years, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy a more equal and reciprocal relationship with your adult child. Your bond will evolve from a parent-child dynamic to that of friends who share life experiences, values, and a deep connection. It's a rewarding phase that requires patience, understanding, and continued effort on both sides. Let’s look at what Jesus said to His closest followers in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” He spent three years with his disciples, training, correcting, coaching and loving them like family, and after those three years, Jesus said, You’re no longer my servants, you’re my friends.
Navigating the different stages of parenting, from Discipline to Training to Coaching and finally to Friendship, is a remarkable journey filled with challenges and joys. Embracing the principles of love and discipline throughout these stages will equip you to raise secure, confident, and kind children who can flourish in life. Remember, there is always time to invest in your relationship with your child and strive for the ultimate goal of Friendship. By staying committed, understanding their unique needs at each stage, and offering love and guidance, you can foster a strong and lasting bond with your child that will stand the test of time.
For more encouragement, support, and tools to equip you, we encourage you to check out these additional resources:
- MESSAGE: To watch Liquid Church's entire message on "Win Hearts Not Arguments" from Part Two of our new series, “Parenting In The Twenty-First Century” Click here.
- ARTICLE: As you raise up the next generation, make a commitment to raise your children with a plan so that they can become mature, faith-filled adults who love Jesus, others, and you! To read “Raising Up The Next Generation” Click here.
- MESSAGE: Love and Discipline are two things every family needs. Together, these two ingredients will help families flourish. And there’s a reason for that, to learn the answer in “Loving Discipline” in Part One of Parenting In The 21st Century, Click here.