Symbiotic Parenting: Iron Sharpening Iron

family parenting Oct 22, 2023
Symbiotic Parenting: Iron Sharpening Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

– Proverbs 27:17


 

Introduction

As you grow in your parenting journey, you will undoubtedly come across other couples who ask you for advice. Sharing what you’ve learned and what has worked for your family can be a blessing to others. Your unique experiences can give you a special perspective that others may not have, and explaining your process can encourage them to make necessary changes. You can also warn others away from mistakes you’ve made or failures you’ve lived through. Even if you’re farther in your parenting journey than the people asking for advice, you will likely find that you also can learn from them through mutual encouragement and feedback. 

 

Sharing Resources

It can sometimes make us feel awkward or shy when friends ask for our input on parenting. We don’t want to come across as know-it-alls or proud! Offering a resource that you’ve personally found helpful can be a great way to point people in a good direction. Many of us have favorite books, podcasts, blogs, or articles that have been influential in our parenting. Offering such resources can be a blessing to a friend, and it also demonstrates the fact that you’re on your own learning journey.

Books are an easy thing to pass along, either by loaning one, giving one as a gift, or helping a friend locate a copy of their own on Amazon or through their library. We have books that we’ve purposefully purchased to give to parents when we have them over to our house. We store them on a special shelf near our family altar. They also make great Mother’s Day gifts!

If you don’t have time to read books or prefer an auditory experience, you can listen to audiobooks or podcasts. This is Derek’s style, as he enjoys listening to things while he drives. Being able to point friends to specific podcasts or episodes can help them get started. 

If there is a good parenting conference in your area, consider attending with your friends or giving them the information they would need to attend alone. It’s also good to warn them away from any unhelpful or unbiblical resources…and unfortunately, there are a lot out there! 

 

Open For Discussion

This may sound intimidating and take time and effort, but spending time in purposeful conversation can be extremely beneficial for both parties. This can be casual - a quiet hour at a coffee shop or time on a park bench while your kids play - or more formal - a parenting discussion gathering in your home with multiple families. We recommend starting small, then attempting larger groups as you get more comfortable. 

We started parenting discussion events in our community and host them at our home, two to three times per year.  They have allowed us to specifically discuss topics that are timely and important to all of us. Sometimes this meant that we helped families - or were helped ourselves - through challenging situations. It also became a safe place to share failures and successes without feeling judged.

Parenting groups can be done once, or they can become regular meetings. With today’s technology, these discussions can even include people far away via Zoom, or by taking a small family trip. We meet up a few times a year with friends from another state and discuss parenting topics. Our kids love playing with theirs, and we enjoy chatting about all kinds of things. 

We’ve all heard the adage, “it takes a village to raise a child,” but remember that you get to pick your village. Choose wisely!

 

Mentoring

Mentoring is a one-on-one relationship with another family over an extended period of time. It is a time-intensive way of assisting others, but it can be extremely beneficial to both you and the other family. There is no “right way” to do mentorship, as this will largely depend upon the lifestyles and personalities of the people involved. Some families need structure and formality, while others won’t be able to relax unless they feel at home and out of the spotlight.

How long the mentor relationship lasts is also up to you. Some people choose to set a certain number of weeks on the calendar, while others want it to be open-ended. In either case, what matters is that both parties are in agreement. The location for meetings can be as easy as one of your homes, or you can choose to start off on a weekend retreat to get to know each other and jumpstart the ability to have deep conversations about a variety of subjects.

We asked another couple who are farther along in their parenting journey to be our mentors years ago, and our relationship has been a blessing to all of us. We really respect them and appreciate their advice, counsel, and perspective.

Mentors don’t have to be the same age as you are; they can be older or younger, but will likely be more experienced. While it is ideal to be mentored by people who are local, we know that this isn’t always practical. With today’s technology, you can do mentoring with people who are far away (if you get creative!).

 

Conclusion

When others ask you for advice, remind them that you’re not trying to make their family into the image of your own. They may not even need help with anything big, but even seemingly small gestures can make a real impact. Trust that God has provided these opportunities for you for a reason. He gave your family their unique strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and successes for a purpose, and it can be a blessing to share those aspects of your family with others. These kinds of relationships don’t always show immediate results, but don’t let that discourage you. Planting seeds requires patience, but the harvest will come.

 

Key Points

  • Helping other families on their journey can be as easy or as involved as you want it to be. 
  • Your unique experiences can help others gain perspective and avoid mistakes.
  • God can do big things through seemingly small interactions with other families.

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