Love must be at core of all parenting decisions

My family and I recently rescued a German Short-hair Pointer from the Watertown Humane Society. 

I was so excited to finally be getting a hunting dog that I could take with me pheasant hunting. We quickly found out that this breed of dog has endless energy and was not nearly as calm or obedient as our previous dog, a very well-behaved golden retriever. 

This posed quite a challenge for our family especially whenever we tried to take our new dog on a walk. German Short-hairs really don’t like to walk, they sprint everywhere. 

They also tend to get really focused and dash after birds, squirrels or rabbits they may encounter.  Although a new challenge for our family, we loved having this dog, who we now call Charlie, in our home. 

Over the next few months and after watching many YouTube clips, reading up on how to properly train a hunting dog, and purchasing an e-collar, Charlie had made great progress with being obedient.

Notwithstanding the progress he had made, one evening when I was taking him out to do his business, he saw a cat and somehow slipped out of his collar and took off. We tried calling for him, but he was off to the races. 

We spent a lot of time that evening driving around looking for him, but with no success. I finally went to bed frustrated, but hopeful he would come home, or someone would find and return him. 

That night I woke up at 1 or 2 in the morning and decided to go check the back door to see if he had come home. To my relief, Charlie was standing right outside the door waiting to be let in. 

As I let him in, my relief turned into irritation at the dog for not listening. I had several thoughts going through, my mind of what kind of punishment I was going to give him so that he would “learn his lesson” and not do it again. 

At that point I could not think of a single punishment for Charlie that he would understand and would connect with the need for him to be obedient. Instead, I began thinking about what made him decide to come home.

Certainly, food and shelter played a role in Charlie’s decision to return, but I would also like to think he was coming home because it was a place where he felt loved, cared for, protected and accepted. As I pondered this concept my thoughts turned to my own children. 

All parents want their children to behave, make good choices, be successful, and ultimately be happy. Assuredly, many of our children at times will not behave, will make bad choices, will want to sprint when they need to walk, will be distracted by worldly things, and may even be led down undesirable paths. 

How will we react in these situations? What will we say to them? What kind of punishments will be given? In answering these questions, it is important to determine what the result of our actions will be. 

Certainly, it is important to teach our children correct principles and behaviors. In addition, children also need to learn that there are consequences for their actions. In teaching these principles, behaviors, and consequences, it is important to take into consideration the type of home environment we are creating. 

Is it an environment where they have a desire to come home, where they feel loved, cared for, protected and accepted? If not, we may need to make some adjustments.

Parenting is no easy task, and at times can be fraught with frustration, heartache, and discouragement. As we strive to be good parents, we must remember that love is one of the most powerful motivators. Evidence for this can be found in 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us.” Early Christians loved and followed Jesus Christ because they felt his love for them. 

Likewise, as our children feel our love for them, they will be motivated to love and learn from us. 

At times this means showing tough love, whereas other times compassion, mercy, and a listening ear are needed. 

Regardless of the situation, love must always be at the core of our decisions and actions. I hope and pray that we can all teach and correct our children in a way that they will feel our love for them and always have a desire to “come home.”

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