The Chemistry of Parenting

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Luke Norsworthy and I recently talked a bit about what I called "the chemistry of parenting."

I'd like to explain that a bit more.

Each of us are unique, our personality a combination of traits that gives our selves a "molecular shape." Consequently, when two people come into contact--like a parent and child--these two unique shapes, these two distinctive personalities, come into contact in specific, particular and unique ways. Ways that are unique to the pair and unlike other combinations. The contact points I have with my two sons are different than Jana's because Jana and I are different. Our personalities make contact with our boys' personalities in different ways.

So that is what I'm calling "the chemistry of parenting," the unique and particular ways the personality of a parent makes contact with the unique personality of a child.

The chemistry of parenting is what makes parenting books and advice so limited and useless. Every kid is unique. But so is every parent! The combinatorial possibilities here are vast, making generic, general and "one size fits all" parenting advice almost impossible.

Now let me change the metaphor to two uniquely shaped objects coming into contact.

Effective parenting, as I see it, is learning to manage the unique friction points between a child's personality and the parent's personality when the two come into contact. These friction points will be unique for every pair, as each personality has a distinctive shape. These friction points are the flash points of irritation, conflict, frustration, and disillusionment. If these friction points are not managed well relational damage occurs, hurt feelings and emotional distance. Sometimes a parent will try to "sand down" aspects of a child's personality or force a child's personality into a different shape to reduce the friction points, which amounts to trying to force a round peg into a square hole. That's not a good way to parent, sanding down or forcing the shape of a child's personality to accommodate your own.

Some child/parent pairs are, fortuitously, well matched, with few if any friction points between their personalities. This is a happy occasion and a location of joy. But that lack of friction is not good parenting. It's a happy accident. "Good" parents are, more often than not, lucky parents.

Good parenting, in my estimation, is finding yourself faced with friction points and attending to them lovingly, graciously and well.


The Fruits of the Spirit come to mind. Parenting well is simply the pursuit of holiness and love.

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