As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my husband and I put in a swimming pool in our back yard this past spring. It is beautiful and our whole family is enjoying it tremendously but there is one feature that we are a bit disappointed in which is the diving board. I knew that the board would be a very basic small board however I was not prepared for the rigidity of it. It just simply does not have a lot of spring. When my almost thirty year old son tried to bounce off of it this past weekend, I thought I heard something crack in the board however my son jokingly hollered that the cracking sound was the vertebrate in his back snapping due to the lack of bounce in the board. It is just too rigid. The only thing that makes me smile about the diving board is that my five year old grandson calls it the “jumping board” which brings me much joy. I have never heard anyone call it that but now that my perfect grandbaby has renamed it, that is what it is being called from now on, pure and simple.

 

        As I watched all of my kids and grandkids sailing off of the jumping board this past July 4th weekend, I began to ponder those two words…rigid and flexible.  I began to dwell on thoughts of rigidity versus flexibility, particularly in terms of parenting. Once again, I have had ample opportunity to observe extremes on both ends of the spectrum with neither being very healthy philosophies.


        From the time our children were very little, I occasionally observed other families who just seemed to have an oppressive aura about them. This strict tone or thread if you will that seemed to run through their families was not something I believe that was intentionally desired on the part of the parents as much as it was a natural result of an over emphasis on the rules and regulations that had been established for that family. My impression was that the parents seemed to be ultra strict and ruling with an iron fist with no room for exceptions, bending, or any gray areas on that clearly defined and well understood rules and regs chart.  Our immediate sphere of friends and acquaintances tended to be very conservative folks as were we and if pressed, I am sure that we agreed in theory about many of the basic principles of parenting. We all knew what the Bible said about parenting and wanted to follow the instructions that are clearly outlined in God’s Word. I feel that where we sometimes differed was in the rigidity versus flexibility zone.

 

        I personally feel that to raise healthy, well adjusted kids who love God and others, those kids need to see four basic traits in their parents. It is just so important for them to yes, know that their mom and dad are in charge and the authority over them as that is without question, but also to see a willingness to bend now and then. This is not to be confused with not being generally consistent in discipline as that is a necessary component of effective parenting. The truth however is that during those eighteen to twenty years that our children are with us, being raised in our homes, under our roofs, they need to see certain things in mom and dad. They need to see a sense of humor, a desire to listen and understand, and sometimes a willingness to be flexible. I always said that if parents got report cards, that every parent should strive to get all F’s….those F’s standing for FAIR, FIRM, FUN, AND FLEXIBLE. Some readers may be thinking that FIRM AND FLEXIBLE are opposites but it is quite the contrary. In a home in which the child knows that there are firmly established rules, but also is confident that mom and dad will hear him out on certain situations that perhaps have extenuating circumstances is a home with secure kids living there. Kids just need to know that mom and dad will have open ears and a sincere desire to listen to their perspectives, and their understanding of things sometimes. When parents show that sort of courtesy and respect to their kids, they win the hearts that are beating inside of those children. It never fails. It also shows them that they have validity and credibility in the eyes of their parents.

 

        I remember when my husband was attending the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island for just ten months. We were just going to be living there for one school year and then moving again. These sort of military orders can be tough on kids as they know that they will be making friends only to be saying goodbye again in a short period of time. Our sons were all outgoing, gregarious type kids who made friends quickly and our son Ben, who was in the third grade that year was no exception. He had several buddies who he played outside with, many of them were not of any faith, had rarely been to church anywhere and therefore had no definite beliefs about God. Our boys had a certain time that they needed to be home when playing outside and on one particular day, Ben came home about thirty minutes past the time he was supposed to. When I asked him why he was late, he piped up that he had been sitting up in a tree with Brian (who was one of the more rowdy and rough kids) and been telling him about how to become a Christian. I was pleased and tickled that my eight year old son was concerned for his friend’s salvation and he was not punished because he had an excellent reason for not being home on time. The problem was that for about the next two weeks, he was late about five more times and each time the reason was that he was witnessing to little Brian. He was sincere, concerned, and even relaying to me different parts of the conversations indicating Brian’s progress in understanding about Jesus, the cross, and other scriptural truths. I encouraged him to bring Brian by our home, so that I could also explain and answer any questions he had but Ben refused. He wanted to be the one to see his friend come to Christ because of his own conversations with his buddy. Two more weeks went by and there were more late arrivals home. The problem was that my little boy was also sly and savvy as well and I was beginning to wonder if I was being played like a fiddle and perhaps the “witnessing story” was being milked for all it was worth. I had a choice to make; I could simply inform Ben that he would be punished if late again, or I could continue to believe him, keep asking questions about their conversations, and therefore lend validity to his efforts and what he was telling me. I was bending the rules for sure, but if it was all real, it would be so worth it. I decided to turn my back on the rules and to bend a bit. On about the fourth week, Ben came running in the house, all excited one day, before the time he was supposed to be back home, telling me how Brian had accepted the Lord as his Savior. He was breathless from running home so fast to tell me all about it. I thanked God that day for helping me to be flexible during those previous weeks when I wasn’t sure that I was being foolish for being so. My motto is that it is better to think the best and take the risk of being fooled and thereby show your faith in your children than to be a rigid rule guru who may be squashing spirits and building resentment with a nonflexible approach.

 

        Rigidity and Flexibility actually are twins who should walk comfortably hand in hand with one another. The wise and thoughtful parent will be diligent to practice both on a regular basis and if they do, they will have the hearts of their children in the palms of their hands. A jumping board can have no bend to it and not a whole lot of harm is done. A parent however is a completely different story....a mom or a dad who has no give, no flexibility is risking future heartache down the road as they may observe adult children with hardened and resentful spirits.

 

        If you are reading this and you think you may be a bit too rigid, spring into action by jumping into the pool where you start to bend here and there. You just might find it cool, refreshing and much more fun and enjoyable to be with your children. The pool of flexilibility… take the plunge...and win your child’s heart.