Year of the Child

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”

Isaiah 11:6 NIV

In the chapter “Wilderness” the subject is on codependence and the long-term destructive behaviors that can be a part of that condition.  If those behaviors are not discovered and dealt with early they are passed on to the next generation.  Codependent parenting is common in families today.   Messed up parents equals messed up children and on and on.  Whenever I do the Women Rising group in the jail twice a month, codependence issues are the main topics of discussion.  The common thread among all the clients I have worked with is codependence.  It can lead to unhealthy relationships, unhealthy parenting and on average eventually unhealthy outcomes.

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On the website Psychology Today, they give a list of common warning signs of codependency:

· low self esteem

· the need to be in control

· excessive need to please others

· anxiety and stress

· extreme worry

· not feeling “good enough”

· non-assertive communication

· blame self for others problems

· lack of trust

·  fear of being alone

· intimacy problems

· difficulty making decisions

· chronic  HYPERLINK “http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/anger” \o “Psychology Today looks at Anger” anger

Also listed are general rules set-up within families that may cause codependency include:

• Don’t talk about your problems or how you feel

• Feelings should not be expressed

• Be strong and “suck up” your problems

• Work hard, be good, seek perfection

• Strive to meet unrealistic expectations

• Do as I say not as I do

Many families may have one or more of these unspoken rules or expectations, but these rules lead to low self-esteem, poor coping skills, poor problem-solving skills and unhealthy relationships.

The following tips can help prevent codependency and create a positive parent-child relationship:

1. Establish a trusting relationship.

2. Maintain healthy boundaries.

3. Set reasonable rules.

4. Set realistic expectations.

5. Encourage your child to openly express his/her thoughts and feelings.

6. Provide a nurturing and supportive environment.

7. Allow your child to explore and be independent.

8. Encourage problem solving. Don’t rush to fix everything, rather guide and encourage your child to find the solution.

9. Provide positive feedback and give lots of compliments.

10. Build self-esteem by encouraging your child to try new things, and to persevere with difficult tasks. Believe in your child’s ability to achieve.

11. Most importantly, build them up with words, don’t tear them down.

One of the primary goals of parenting is to provide an environment for children to grow to be happy and independent adults. Codependent children will struggle to achieve that goal. Treatment of codependency includes education and individual and group therapy. Parents of codependent children must learn to challenge distortions and unrealistic expectations and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. There are many resources on codependency, such as: websites, books, and audio material.   (End of quote from Psychology Today)

One day when I was brainstorming with a colleague, we talked about the Pro-Life name of the movement against abortion and thought it should be changed to Pro-Child. Calling it Pro-Child could target a broader need and impact the resources that are needed for early childhood programs not only just the birth. Most important, this would take the passion, devotion and dedication that is brought to bear against abortion and also pour it over into the programs that save the lives of children unborn and born alike through early childhood education and general well-being.  In time, there would fewer and fewer unwanted pregnancies as our culture gradually evolves and prioritizes the lives of all children.  Every year would be the year of the child.

The 2015 Welfare Report Card came out and Missouri has slipped to number 50 in the states for welfare reform.   That is dead last.  The Welfare Report Card is based upon how effective the state’s programs are on getting people off welfare rolls.  This would mean making laws and regulations that favor people getting a reasonable level of assistance while seeking employment.  Services would be prioritized to reward those in the transition to getting off welfare.  The way it is now, you gradually lose food stamps and Medicaid depending on your income.  That’s okay if the program has been updated to reflect an income that you can actually live on.  If it is updated regularly with the cost of living increases that reflect reality then with case management that family could get a foothold over at least a two – four year period.   

At the present time with regulation income levels as they are, there is limited incentive to get off welfare.  The families I work with experience this.  Minimum wage is not a living wage and so they discover that getting a job means less assistance so why try.  Being last in the effort to help at-risk families which includes at-risk children shows that we are disconnected from understanding opportunity for all.  Someone observed that there are more children than adults in shelters for abused or homeless families.  And because there are more animal shelters than shelters for homeless or abused children, we need to reexamine our priorities.  Right now in our state legislature, our elected officials are looking at a bill that would tighten up once more what food stamps can not purchase.  Cookies and soda pop are on that list.  No wonder we are dead last on welfare reform.  I had a family once who were struggling to keep going and the father had a tooth that needed extraction.  He was missing work, the pain medication caused vomiting.  They couldn’t pay for both the rent and having the tooth extracted.  He was at risk for losing his job and then eventually their apartment.  I had access to a resource that understood standing in the gap to help families.  I was able to find $170 for the extraction and the family was able to pay the difference.  He kept his job and their apartment.  Each family should have their needs addressed on a case by case basis.  This is not a one size fits all.  Having that flexibility in my work is why I enjoy some success for the families Christos House serves.

Year of the Child has been written in the hope that parents and communities can see where the child has the right to expect a bright future.  We can make decisions and change our parenting approach to impact their future for the best outcome.  It’s not about money and programs, it’s about changing ourselves and our priorities.

The apostle James describes what is pure and faultless religion: 

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27 NIV

Jesus in His short ministry period, made it clear how he felt about children and their place in human priorities:

“ At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.  Matthew 18:1-6  NIV

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10 NIV

Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.  Proverbs 22:6 NIV

The Scriptures offer excellent guidelines that parents should follow to get the best response from children.  Here are some scriptures that fits that qualification:

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:1-4 NIV

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  I Peter 5:5 NIV

17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace;
they will bring you the delights you desire.  Proverbs 29:17 NIV

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
    and a chain to adorn your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9

If as parents we actively treat our children with respect and exemplify right living in our lives then all of these outcomes can be ours.  But, if a parent mistakenly thinks that building on fear and making threats of physical harm is the way to get respect then the outcome will not be peace as Proverbs 29 promises – quite the opposite of peace.  There is a fine line to discover between teaching a child respect and making them feel like a powerless victim.  A child who is not encouraged to think for themselves and given an appropriate way to push back or disagree will not be self-reliant and independent but will act out in rebellion.  Then they will hurt themselves more than the parents with whom they are angry and rebelling against.  Talk to any child in the juvenile justice system; the stories will most likely be very similar.   So many parents ask “What happened to my child to make them rebellious and out of our control”?  The answer is in the question.  Somewhere along the way, there became a disconnect between them and the two most important people in this child’s world and themselves.  That has to be repaired.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble!  Matthew 18:6-7

As I have stated in other Sweetwater Journey writings, the parents with professional help if needed, are the only ones who can fix the problem with their child.

God set the spiritual bar high for his special family the Israelites.  He made it quite plain what they were to do in order to have great happiness in their lives as his people.  He required them to love and serve him by following his commandments and teaching their children to do the same.

“11when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” 

Deut. 31:11-13 NIV

9 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deut. 4:9 NIV

“19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut. 11:19 NIV

Isaiah 11:6-9 NIV

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the L
ORD  as the waters cover the sea.

This is the world God is preparing for us to have on this earth when Jesus Christ returns.  If we live noble lives that are centered in love and respect for others and ourselves, only good can come from it.  Make this the Year of the Child in your family and community.

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