The voice on the other end of the telephone jaunted between waves of fear and hysterical screaming. This was a mother who was afraid and sad. She was also angry. It all came through her voice. She wanted to know what she had done, and how her boy had gotten himself into this situation in the first place. What had she done wrong? Why were they so bad? Why hadn’t they listened to her? Who should she talk to now? She had to go to work. She had no money. As I listened, I could hear the pain, fear, anger and frustration. I also heard the guilt, shame, frustration and pain. When she finally broke into sobbing, I said, “Mother, parenting is a ministry, and sometimes the minister loses members of the flock.”
The line went silent except for an occasional sniffle that followed the blowing of her nose. I continued, “The minister’s job is to do the best he or she can, knowing that the Divine Father and Mother have a plan that we don’t always understand for the children. We can preach the word and teach the word. It is always up to the child to take the word to heart. Some do and some do not. But in the end, all children will end up at home, because when the power of the earthly parent runs out, the power of the Heavenly parents take over.”
She had heard me, not only with her ears but also with her heart. Her next question became the foundation of this article. This heartbroken mother asked me, “How was I supposed to minister to them when nobody ever ministered to me?”
I am probably not alone when I say that I did not know how to be a parent. I knew how to have children, but I had no clue about how to raise them. I knew what needed to be provided, how to get it, and how to provide it. I learned, however, that a good provider is not necessarily the same thing as a good parent.
My parents, when they were available, fed me, clothed me, disciplined me, offered me the best of who they were and what they had. Unfortunately, it was not enough. They did not teach about the process of discovering myself. They did not teach me now to expect more from myself and for myself. They did not teach me how to love myself, honor myself or lift myself from the despair into which I was born.
They taught me right from wrong, good from bad, as it related to the obvious things. They taught me who and what to fear, but not how to dismantle fear. They did not teach me how to explore my feelings, examine my motives, state my intentions or clarify my expectations. They gave me words to live by, but those words did not fill me in a way that would sustain my life.
The things that they did not give me, could not give me, were in direct correlation to the things that they had received. My parents were ordinary people, who did the best they could with what they knew and what they had. My parents were not ministers because their parents had not ministered to them.
The distraught mother had four sons. She had raised them alone, in the midst of a few temporary relationships. Her oldest son, age 24 was in prison for nine years. His brother, the next in line, age 22, who had been in and out of prison since the age of 16, had just been arrested again. This time for attempted murder. Her youngest sons were twins, age 19. One was in the third drug rehabilitation center, threatening to leave. His brother had just announced that he had quit his job and his GED classes.
She had been a good provider. She had taken them to church. She had taught them right from wrong, good from bad. She left their father because he beat her. She had always worked, always set a good example for the boys. “Why?” she wanted to know, had they gone astray? And, what, could she possibly do about it now?
Not all children from a “disadvantaged home” go bad. By the same token, all children of so-called “good homes” do not walk the straight and narrow. In Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood, author Wayne Muller says, “For many of us, childhood was not only dramatic, it was also very complicated.”
Very often, parents commit simple acts or utter simple phrases with such a dramatic flare it is hard for children to discern the real meaning. When the meaning of acts and words are lost, the child can also get lost in the process. A parent’s anger, frustration and fears will color the texture of everything they say and do. Children mistakenly believe that the parent’s upset has something to do with them. Life is complicated enough, but when you add to the normal complications of life, the drama of hidden meanings, lack of time and conditional affection, children are left to their own devices trying to figure out the maze in which they are living and their role in it.
In the end, believing life is a maze of meaningless drama, secrets, and difficulties, children lose their hope, their vision, and often, themselves. A lost soul usually seeks guidance, counseling and direction from a spiritual source. Because few children think of their parents as their spiritual source, they mistakenly believe that what they need, their parents cannot give. More dramatically, they believe that the parent is the reason they got lost in the first place.
Parents are ministers. This is not a revolutionary idea once we understand a minister’s role. A minister is one who listens and counsels; guides and supports in the development of the spiritual nature of those in his/her care. A minister aids the needy by providing sustenance and basic needs. A minister administers rites of a spiritual nature (e.g., christening or naming of children, marriage rites, burial rites, etc.). A minister acts as an agent, representative and instrument of teaching for those in his/her spiritual family. A minister is a diplomatic representative, lending aid and support in matters of a delicate or personal nature. Finally, a minister is a servant. S/he serves for the good of those in his/her care selflessly. In my mind, all of this fits a pretty good description of a parent. The mission then, is to bring these activities and goals to our conscious awareness when we are dealing with our children regardless of their age. The goal of each of these activities is salvation, meaning preserving for the highest good the mind, body and spirit, which is the concern of most ministers and all parents.
Parents as ministers or Spiritual Parenting, as it is fashionably called now, is the order of the day. It means that we must serve our children by giving them our best and expecting the best from them and of them, knowing that our definition of best may need to be expanded or revised. While we may not want to think of ourselves as “servants” of our children, it is key that we understand that this is the energy needed in consciousness to support in the divine unfolding of our children. The reality we must consider is, as parents, we are serving God. The children are simply the recipients of the service. God had entrusted us with the care of His divine Creation – children, for they are the way God ensures the continuing process of life.
The truth is, we must not be doing such a bad job, because God continues to trust us with more and more of them.
I believe as parents there are some key elements we must begin to embrace in the process of ministering to our children. If we intend, to the best of our ability, to keep these principles in our consciousness when dealing with our children, regardless of their age, we will undoubtedly offer to them the ministering skills they will need to raise their own children.
Remember, Expectations = Results, and what you believe you will see. If we start from the consciousness of demonstrating the best, expecting the best, and believing the best, we will experience the best.
Always See The Good In Your Children – Start from the belief that your children are good and want to do good, not that you have to “make them be good.” Unfortunately, like all of us, they sometimes get their wires crossed. Avoid all judgments and criticisms of their mistakes by reminding yourself they are ordinary people, doing the best that they can. Support them in revisiting their choices, assessing their options, and examining their motives and intentions when pointing out to them a poor choice or error in judgment.
Hold Your Children In Unconditional Positive Regard – Every person is born with their own spiritual agenda. That agenda takes the form of experiences and lessons. You may not always understand your child’s agenda, but you must know that it is active and operating. What you can always do is help them find the good in themselves and their actions, regardless of any seeming negative experience. In other words, always let them know you love them and expect the best from them and for them.
Keep Your Fears To Yourself – “I don’t want them to go through what I went through,” can be coined as The Parent’s motto. Unfortunately, what we are silently saying to our children is that there was something wrong with what we went through and how we turned out as a result. In other words you are saying you don’t want your children to be like you. Unfortunately, children want to be just like their parents, because to a child, a parent is a god.
Keep Your Judgments To Yourself – Avoid the temptation to gossip with your children about other people, particularly the other parent, whether or not they are present. Remember, you lead by example. If your children know you talk down and dirty about other people, they will assume you talk down and dirty about them.
Share Your Weaknesses and Mistakes With Your Children – Don’t be a hypocrite! Children can see right through you. Let them know about the areas of your own life that are challenging and difficult. Here’s a novel idea – ask them what they would do if they were in your situation. If you do not own your stuff, they will never be able to face their own stuff.
Allow Them to Talk To You – This is the cornerstone of counseling. Avoid interrupting and questioning your children when they are speaking. Give them the opportunity to share a complete thought and their honest feelings with you. When their thoughts and feelings do not mirror your own about a particular situation, always ask for more information. In this way, you can follow their train of thought. When it feels that they are totally off the mark, support them in re-visiting their choices, assessing their options, and examining their motives and intentions.
No Name Calling – This needs no explanation. Remember, God trusted you with this life. What you say to your children, you are saying to the essence of life and God
Teach Them To Pray – A family that stays together is the family that prays together. Don’t be afraid to ask your children to pray for you and, when they are not listening, be sure to pray for them.
Learn How To Give and Receive Support – The easiest way to do this is to ask your children, not tell them, what they need. Be available to help with projects and homework, but always ask if you can help. Ask their opinion and input on what you want to do for them and with them. What you are actually doing is teaching responsibility and independence. And, don’t forget to ask for rather than demand your children’s help and support with your own projects.
Prize and Provide Positive Feedback – Let your children know about the good in them and the good they do. Point out the little things. Give them compliments and buy them gifts “just because”.
Know When To Let Go – This is by far the most difficult part of parenting. In this sense, letting go does not mean giving up on, turning your back on, or not acknowledging. It means accepting that there is nothing you can do beyond loving, supporting and praying in a way that does not sacrifice you. It means turning the children over to God and expecting the best.
The mother and I talked about all of these things. She admitted that with the exception of prayer, she had not done any of them, because she did not know how. “If I had done this, would that mean my boys would have turned out differently?”
Instinctively, I knew she was asking the question because she wanted more information that she could use to feel guilty and beat herself up with. I told her there are no guarantees in life. There is no guarantee that anything we do, whether good or not so good, will ensure that our children turn out the way “we” want them to turn out. The key is to give them something to stand on, stand with, and to fall back on.
The goal is to remember that they each have a spiritual agenda and a learning curve. We can find peace in knowing that no matter what they do, don’t do, or how they do whatever they do, in the final analysis, we all end up in our Father’s and Mother’s arms.
A Prayer For Children by Iyanla Vanzant –
(To be spoken to a sleeping child)
My beloved son/daughter (speak child’s name), I call forth your holiness.
I now see you as God created you to be – whole, complete and perfectly capable of making the choices that will take you to your highest and greatest good.
I see the good in you and I see you attracting more good into your life.
I see your mind filled with diving light. I see your heart filled with divine love. I see your life filled with divine good that is your inheritance from God.
I now surrender all fears I have about you or for you. I now surrender all judgments and criticisms of you.
I now ask your forgiveness for anything I have done consciously or unconsciously to deny the Spirit in you.
I now affirm for you and with the Divine Spirit in your perfect peace, total well being, joy and abundance.
I direct you toward your perfect place, your divine purpose and your true identity as a child of God.
You are a divine idea in the mind of God.
You are the perfect manifestation of the energy of God.
You are the life of the love of God.
I see you in the light of God
I behold you in the image of God.
I love you, just as you are.
You are a child of God, blessed, noble and divine
This is the truth of your being. And It Cannot Be Otherwise.
Thank You God! Thank You God! Thank You God!
I surround you in love. I surround you in light.
I see you as you were meant to be a blessed child of God.
And I call forth your holiness.
A Parents’ Prayer
(by Okomfo Akua Duku)
Dear (God, Creator of your understanding).
Remind me to teach my children to call on You in times of challenges and difficulty and to thank You afterwards.
Teach me how to understand my children’s needs, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer their questions with kindness and wisdom.
Help me to be as courteous, compassionate and cooperative with them, as I want them to be to me.
Heal me of all thoughts, habits and actions that lead me to shame and ridicule them when they make mistakes. May I never punish them out of spite or anger, or to show my power.
Help me to demonstrate by all that I say and do that honesty, honor and humility will produce joy.
Eliminate any meanness in me, when I am out of sorts, and help me to hold my tongue.
May I be ever mindful that my children are Your children, who are complete and perfect just as they are.
Let me not rob them of any opportunity to learn how to do things for themselves and the value of making honorable choices and decisions.
Help me to grant them all reasonable requests and give me the courage to deny them the privileges that may be harmful.
Help me to be fair, just and kind so that I will earn their love and respect.
Most of all remind me that what I can’t do for them. You can and will do.
What Every parent Wants To Give Their Children:
A sense of TRUST
Let them know you trust them and that you can be trusted.
A Sense of VALUE
Let them know that they are valuable because of who they are, not because of what they can do.
A Sense of WORTH
How you treat children is a direct reflection of how much they are worth to you.
A Sense of HONOR
Let them know they look good and they are good and their actions are important.
A Sense of SELF
Give them boundaries, and honor the boundaries they set for themselves.
Tell them you love them in word and deed. And, don’t put a price tag or conditions on your love.
About Iyanla Vanzant:
Iyanla Vanzant, accomplished author, inspirational speaker, talk show host and living testament to the value in life’s valleys and the power of acting on faith, goes behind closed doors and deep inside people’s lives for emotional, riveting conversations in the new hit series- Iyanla: Fix My Life
Iyanla has had a unique life filled with many personal struggles, which she has overcome and used to become stronger. Now, she’s back, helping people fix their lives, using her past to help others’ futures. Secrets will be revealed, truths will be uncovered and emotions will come out as Iyanla teaches us how to pull back the curtain on what is broken in our lives.
Iyanla: Fix My Life is produced by Harpo Studios. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FixMyLife
Read more: http://IyanlaFixMyLife.com/