Posts Tagged ‘parental scripts’

Your parents spanked you when you needed it. Her parents thought spanking was child abuse. Your parents were strict about bed times. His parents let him stay up until he fell asleep on the floor!  Your parents never left the kids overnight with grandparents until they were at least three years old. He wants to leave the six-month old for one night with your parents.  What do you do?

Challenging? Challenging is hardly the right word because the parenting scripts that we inherit from our parents are so deeply embedded that we sometimes don’t even know they are there until suddenly, you say to yourself, “Oh my! Did that just come out of my mouth? I sounded just like my mother!”  Even more threatening though could be the reaction: “Oh no! He just sounded like his dad!”

Most couples are challenged quite early in their marriage to begin the task of working with their own parental scripts and figuring out what parts to keep, what parts to change, and what parts to discard.  Here are just a few simple observations from our own experience.

1.  Talk to each other—a lot—about how it was in your homes! My mother was strict with us but did not raise her voice. Sherry’s mom raised her voice to discipline the kids. So Sherry would raise her voice, and the kids would be fine—but it would drive me crazy!  Knowing that it was just part of her inherited script rather than “seriously irrational behavior” made it easier for me to understand and her to evaluate.

2. Don’t be afraid to defend your own script, but don’t fall into the trap of defending your parents! If you had wonderful parents, it is natural to want to imitate them—and rightly so. Just make sure that what worked for them is still appropriate thirty years later in a completely new family. And if your spouse feels the same way about a different script from his parents, keep the conversation about your children, not about your parents—or his parents!

3.  Don’t let your discussions become either YOUR way or MY way! Try to frame the result that you want as “what God wants US to do for our children.” The ownership of our own scripts can cause us to stubbornly, proudly, selfishly, insist on winning—even to the detriment of our children. It’s not about YOU. It’s about them!

4.  Remember the temporary nature of your decisions. Our kids, at least, went through ups and downs in their development that were mildly unpredictable.  Just about the time we would pat ourselves on the back for discovering the right parenting posture—because the kids were responding so well—they would change and our approach would seem all wrong now.

I know this is where many parents get frustrated. It’s like good parenting is always a moving target.  All the more reason to stay close to the kids, be around, listen to how they are today, and don’t hold on to previously effective parenting modes out of principle. Do so only if you both still feel they are appropriate with your children as they are today.

5.  Sometimes you adopt, sometimes you blend, and sometimes you concoct! We adopted Sherrylee’s grandparents’ admonition for our teenagers: “If it is not a sin, let them do it!” We blended most areas because our parents actually gave us similar scripts so it wasn’t too hard. But to deal with our children and what to do with them in cross-cultural situations, for instance, we had to create because we didn’t have any script from either set of parents for those situations.  Don’t get stuck in Either/Or thinking. Your kids are special enough to deserve your exploring creative options as well.

The Best Advice We Ever Received

Perhaps the best piece of advice that Sherrylee and I ever received was from an older missionary who told us that if the kids know that Mom really loves Dad and Dad really loves Mom, then the kids will turn out OK.  I know that’s a pretty simple script and won’t fit every single case, but in general, we believe it to be true, so my last piece of advice for blending your parenting scripts is

Love each other. Treat each other with respect, with honor preferring one another.

Does that sound familiar?


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