While on a beach vacation, I was watching a dad and mom with their elementary-aged son and daughter. I remembered when my two sons were younger, but the scene also illustrated to me a great truth of healthy parenting as it relates to discipline—how important it is to take time for family fun.
Letting go of stress and enjoying family
These parents I watched were so engaged with their children.
The daughter was performing a beach gymnastic routine while her mother watched and affirmed her. The mom also took time to pull her daughter on a boogie board in the surf. Both were laughing as Mom swung her around in the water. Then the mom sat at the surf’s edge talking with her daughter about all kinds of topics.
Dad was working hard on several activities. He threw a frisbee with his son, built sand castles and volcanoes, took pictures of family in the surf, and touched base with his wife and daughter, while tending to the umbrella and chairs. He made sure everyone had what they needed.
I noticed how the parents stayed in communication. Dad and Mom were intentional about giving each other breaks. One would attend both children while the other would take a boogie board into the ocean; then, they would trade roles. In fact, Mom creatively multi-tasked with her kids as she sat in the surf. (It also reminded me once again of the amount of energy it takes to parent.)
These parents appeared to have a great rhythm, and seemed to be in sync with their kids. How wonderful to see kids and parents having a great time!
We all need balance in life
Today, families are so busy and stressed, it is much too easy to conform to daily pressures and forget to enjoy life. It’s no wonder that parents find themselves exhausted by the demands of life and often just want their kids to behave.
Kids feel the pace and stress, too, as they deal with pressures of school and activities.
Consequently, parents may feel like all that occurs is complying to schedules and motivating kids. But what gives parents the relational integrity and a healthy balance with their children is spending some time having fun. So, parents may need to be purposeful in planning fun.
I am quite sure the parents I watched at the beach have the same struggles as any parents in disciplining their children. However, having fun, talking about kid-type things, participating in kid’s activities and giving children dedicated relational time and energy pays big dividends in tough parental moments when discipline is necessary.
Family fun never goes out of style
It was so encouraging to watch this family have fun. I also enjoyed how the children reveled in being nurtured during fun, engaged with their parents. These moments are certainly key to their developmental process. We as parents of older children realize how quickly these fun times go by.
While at that beach, I was also reminded that parenting fun can last a very long time. I, too, tossed a frisbee with one of my adult sons (at his request). Then, my dear wife surprised us with snow cones, which stopped all of our activities while we sat on our beach chairs and enjoyed each other’s company, talking about the simple joys of ice and some flavoring.
Parenting is a lot of work, but having fun with your kids is essential to a good balance in your relationship with them. It is as healthy to have fun while they are young as while they are teenagers and adults.
Having fun is a good point to remember as parents and kids are busy with school starting and activities ramping up. Also remember that fun and discipline go hand-in-hand.
…And I want to thank those parents at the beach for providing me with encouraging and important thoughts for today.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Some information taken from Preventing Violence through Effective Discipline, 2006, Diane Wagenhals. Licensed Materials. All rights reserved.