I spent more than a decade teaching. I enjoy the smell of a crisp new lesson plan book with empty seating charts and student lists. Each year, I anticipated the day we received our class lists the same way my children look forward to birthdays or Christmas. Twenty or more new faces to greet on that first day of school started as just names, neatly typed in alphabetical order on a spreadsheet with my name at the top.
Once in a while, one or two students would come with a reputation. Teachers couldn’t help sharing their personal experience—positive or negative, but usually negative—with the teacher who was to inherit that particular student. Whispers at the teachers’ table, or an anecdote mentioned in passing in the hallway would highlight a student’s name on those otherwise impartial class lists.
I learned early on that students’ reputations were not always accurate. Experience and personalities cloud facts, and what might be one teacher’s perception of a student may not be mine in the end. I tried to ignore or set aside anything said about students I had or had not yet welcomed into my class.
You see, I learned to enforce a “blank slate policy” in my classroom. I endeavored to give every student a fresh start—not only every school year, but also every day. I’m not perfect, nor do I claim to be, and I know I wasn’t always successful in this attempt, but I wanted to be, and I tried.
In parenting, and in life, I’ve learned to enforce that same policy. I need it, my kids need it, and my relationships need it. I often quote the verse, “Great is His faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22 NLT) I need the fresh mercies of God—or a blank slate—every day! As a mom, I know I have the responsibility to offer the same blank slate to my children. Here are three things I try to do to help with that:
I try to take care of discipline issues promptly. It’s not always possible. The other day, an incident occurred with our oldest son right before we had to leave for school. He was disrespectful, and although the matter was paused, we knew (and so did he) that we’d need to revisit it later. In that instance, later was better anyhow, because tensions were high as we rushed out the door. Regardless, when we met with him later to discuss it, we didn’t act as if we were holding it over him; instead, we referred to his actions in calm, objective tones. The conversation was fruitful and the matter was settled for good.
I try not to discuss my children’s inappropriate behavior with anyone but my husband. Again, I’m not always successful—a story or experience might pop up in conversation and it’s out of my mouth before I recognize what I’m doing—but I try to follow this principle. Part of blank slate parenting is truly wiping the slate clean in your heart, especially when talking to others.
I ask the Holy Spirit to help me. Really, this should have been my first point. Sometimes, as parents, we hold to the adage, “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget!” In Psalms 103, David describes our sin as being “as far as the east is from the west.” If God can forgive us that way, and forget our sins too, surely He can help us forgive and forget with our children.
I’m convicted even as I type these words, because I assure you that I don’t get this right all the time. But I want to be a “blank slate” parent. I’m so thankful for the blank slate Jesus gave me. Do you practice these tips in your parenting already? What else has helped you accomplish blank slate parenting?