“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3, NRSV)
We have bookstores and libraries filled with parenting books and manuals about how to raise, discipline and guide our children. The Internet provides a plethora of information, both helpful and not. Community centers, hospitals and schools offer classes to tell us how to be a good parent. Even with all of these resources, the responsibility lies with us to create and execute our own effective parenting plan.
An effective Orthodox parenting plan dismisses worldly falsehoods such as the virtue of material possessions—wealth and the “child with the most toys wins” attitude—and instead brings forth a kingdom-focused approach that concentrates on eternal truths. By placing the proper focus with our families on humility, forgiveness and holiness, we are preparing them for God’s kingdom.
So how do we do this? First and foremost, we create a Christ-centered home: one where we experience the “liturgy after the liturgy” where families pray together, practice forgiveness and model Christ-like love. By including our Lord in every aspect of our homes and our children’s lives, the process of creating our parenting plan begins.
Here are five fundamental steps to help your family begin to build your unique parenting plan.
1. Set Firm Boundaries
Boundaries are the acceptable and unacceptable limits that each family can comfortably maintain—the Family Rules. Consider and discuss what those boundaries are and be firm about keeping them. This means letting children know in advance what behavior is unacceptable and what the consequences will be if that boundary is breached. It is important that boundaries are clearly communicated and reinforced on a regular basis. Keep in mind that boundaries will and should change as children grow, mature and reach new developmental benchmarks.
2. Build Strong Relationships between Family Members
It is of the utmost importance for children to have quality relationships with parents, siblings and the extended family. Simply stated, it is about finding quality one-on-one time with each child. This serves as an invaluable tool to attend to each child’s specific needs through engaged listening, nonjudgmental reactions and empathetic responses. Try asking an open-ended question and just listening!
3. Allow Children to Fail
Many parents do not want their child to fail and thus attempt to rescue them at the first sign of a challenge. When children are faced with a task that they are physically, emotionally and developmentally capable of completing, it is important that parents allow them to try to succeed. Unless the task is dangerous, developmentally premature or spiritually harmful, a successful family plan allows children to attempt the task at hand. We want them to feel empowered to handle the challenge, even if it is difficult. We must allow them to fail, so that they can continue the attempt until they are successful. This is what builds real confidence in children.
4. Model Christ for Your Children
One of the most difficult things in parenting is modeling Christ for our children. Often we seem to have two standards: the way we expect our children to behave and the way we actually live. It is our responsibility and calling to model Christ-like behavior in all of our daily interactions. Our children need to see parents respond to particular situations with honesty, integrity, patience and love. We cannot give our children mixed messages about Christian living; rather, we must model for them what the Lord expects from all of us.
5. Set Family Goals
One of the most overlooked methods for creating a family parenting plan is goal setting. Setting goals for and with our children is an essential component of growth. Goals can be as specific as individual milestones or accomplishments or as broad as long-term familial hopes and dreams. By properly planning, we have both individual and family objectives to walk toward. Have each child come up with at least one goal and review together periodically.
While creating a family parenting plan may seem trivial to some and daunting to others, I assure you it is worth the effort. We read in the Book of Proverbs, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3, NRSV). To be committed to our Lord means to be steadfast in faith, devoted to doing His will and enduring the challenges set before us. By being committed to Him, we are guiding our families to Christ and allowing Him to guide us.
Presvytera Anastasia Leondis (MA, LMHC, NCC) holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor in Florida and New York. She is a nationally certified counselor and has worked in the field of mental health counseling for over twenty years. Presvytera Anastasia currently has a private practice in Boca Raton, Florida, where she works with individuals, couples, kids and families, and she serves as an instructor at Nova Southeastern University, where she supervises graduate students in their counseling program. You may contact her at [email protected].
This article originally appeared in PRAXIS Volume 16: Issue 2, “Fasts and Feasts.” To learn more about PRAXIS, including how to subscribe, visit praxis.goarch.org.