Listen to Val's podcast that coincides with this blog post: Episode 26, "Are You Parenting the Symptoms or Reaching the Roots?"
In this episode of the podcast, you'll also hear from Val's three youngest children as they talk about vacationing, including their trip to Mammoth Cave, the backdrop of this week's theme on realizing, as parents, that there is much below the surface of our children's actions.
Recently our family visited Mammoth Cave near Cave City, Kentucky. This is the largest known cave in the world with over 400 miles of mapped underground trails and caverns with another estimated 200 miles still to explore. Beneath the surface you can take all sorts of cave tours – from “Domes and Drip Stones” to the “Frozen Niagara.”
Above the surface of this national park it seems like any other nature spot with creeks, walking trails and trees.
You could be there, seeing all the above ground marvels and have no idea that you were only experiencing a small glimpse of the area’s natural wonders when below the surface there may be running creek beds, tumbling rocks, and shifting layers. In fact, in 2014 a sudden giant sinkhole formed above Mammoth Cave that swallowed eight corvettes from the nearby National Corvette Museum. You see, what is below the surface can have a big impact on what happens above ground, whether you know what’s going on down there or not.
Likewise, each of our kids have miles and miles of deeply forming questions, frustrations and fears. Their days are filled with just as much societal pressure, information overload, and internal conflict that we adults face daily. Unlike an adult, though, our children are trying to process and file all of these things in a brain that is still developing, and with a heart that is immature and easily swayed.
No Road Signs for Parents
Our tendency as parents is to RESPOND to visible behaviors at face value rather than take the time to venture below the surface to the root cause. Reaching the roots is not an easy task for parents. I’m not here to guilt you or condemn; trust me when I say that I’ve missed the warning signs of an impending sinkhole more than once. After all, parents don’t have the luxury of any road signs telling us “Speed bump” or “Curve ahead.” No, the bigger the heart issue, the deeper it seems to reside and the more layers of surface area for us to peel away if we are to discover what’s really happening with our kids.
Since I’ve had multiple children in all the growing stages, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to, regrettably, SURFACE PARENT. There have been peer wounds in elementary that I had no idea at the moment – like the time one of my sons was told by someone at a party, “you aren’t into gaming and you’re no good at sports so what’s your life worth anyway?” There have been various lies from Satan (the enemy of our souls) that my children wrestled with. Such as the lie he told my daughter in the midst of great tragedy, “If God is good He wouldn’t have allowed your friend’s mom to die so either He isn’t real or He isn’t good. Either way you might as well give up on Him because there’s no point in following a god like that.”
And, regrettably, there have even been times when I have unknowingly caused deep emotional wounds in my child. Since I didn’t know about the wound, I parented the rebellious behavior which only caused the wound to grow bigger and implant deeper underground. I can’t tell you how devastating it is to discover such a deep chasm below the surface in your child’s heart that you didn’t know was there and you didn’t know you were the root cause. Parents, we don’t get do overs. Each moment of parenting we are either: Surface Parenting or Root Parenting.
Thankfully, God does redeem relationships!! He designed these amazing tools called Apology, Restitution, Forgiveness, and Healing. What a wonderful God we serve! But none of those can wipe away the past. Eventually, the scenarios that I mentioned earlier were revealed to me by my children so that I could walk with them through the process of belief correcting and heart mending. Root Parenting is far superior to Restoration Parenting, but both are necessary skills to hone.
Root Parenting requires extra time observing when we are busy with other things; it requires listening with our heart when we feel like snapping back; it means shouting a silent, pleading prayer for God to give us discernment when we feel like using our own judgement. Possibly hardest of all, it requires slowing the pace of family life to make time for soul discussions and soul growth. Parenting on the root level involves wholehearted focus on the souls of our kids and that is wildly difficult while completely essential.You do realize that what I’m asking you to do is impossible – to accurately read the soul of another human, even if it is your own child? The only way you can discern the deeply complex tunnels buried below the surface of your child’s behaviors is for you to be connected to the Creator of our souls, our all-knowing, all-loving Heavenly Father. Plant your roots deeply in His Word and regularly be nourished by Him. Only if you are committed to healthy roots in your own soul will you be able to identify the mysteries of your children’s deep and complex root system.
Our pastor recently said, during a sermon on parenting, that every parent is going to mess up big with our kids. That was comforting to me as a parent with plenty of regrets. Mistakes are inevitable because we are imperfect humans, parenting immature imperfect humans.Sometimes you’re going to find yourself Surface Parenting instead of Root Parenting.
Don’t beat yourself up and stay that way. Instead, try this plan of action: *Learn from your mistakes *Ask your child for forgiveness* Make sure YOUR roots are planted in the regular nourishment of the Word of God* Make a fresh commitment to keep digging deeper with this young person that He has entrusted to you. All the effort will result in an amazing tour of God’s precious, hidden wonder – the heart of your child.
Prayerfully walking the parenthood journey right along with you,
#YourFamilyGodsMasterpiece If you would like to hear more of my perspective on how to do intentional, whole-hearted parenting, like Root Parenting, I’d encourage you to check out my writings on the topic Wearing All Your Hats without Wearing Out. Blog link: http://practicallyspeakingmom.com/post/wearing-all-your-hats-without-wearing-out-1-of-3/ or