I have seen a lot of parenting styles in the almost 40 years I have been in children’s ministry or teaching public school. I have seen parenting victories and fails and have experienced both myself as a parent of three grown children. All of these observations have led me to think about things parents need to know, but maybe haven’t been told.
There are things you should do, things you should avoid, and most importantly, things you should become.
I Hope You:
- Laugh. Enjoy the little quirky moments with your children. Sometimes things your children do are just funny! Relax and laugh.
- Pray Continuously. Praying quietly comes naturally to a parent. But remember your child needs to hear their name prayed out loud. So pray for them in front of them, also. Pray that your children love God more every day. Pray for every stage they wander through. Pray for their health. Pray that they will learn and grow even in their mistakes. And don’t forget to pray for their spouses even when they are little. Pray for protection for that spouse as they grow as well.
- Depend on God. Remember that God is the protector of your children. He gave them to you to raise, but they are his. Depend on the loving Father that he is and relax some of your control issues.
- Value Experience over Schedules. Give your children different experiences, memories, and time with different people. Experiences almost always should trump schedules!
- Raise the Bar. As your child grows, raise your expectations. Challenge your child instead of enabling them.
- Teach Obedience. Train your child to stop, listen, and obey when they hear your voice. When they are running toward the street, you do not have time to count to three or reason with them.
- Teach Service. Teach your children to serve others at an early age and encourage them to keep doing it all their life.
- Teach Generosity. Help your children give generously to the church and others early in his/her life. Be a generous family and let your children be part of that generosity.
- Have Family Meetings. Family Meetings are great for making decisions on rules and consequences, discussing family finances, planning ways to be generous and serve others, celebrating victories, and supporting each other in hard times.
- Write letters. Write to your children at milestones in their lives and save these letters to give to them as an adult. It will mean a lot for them to see how you prayed for them, or what characteristics you saw in them at an early age.
I Hope You Avoid:
- Delayed Obedience. Don’t teach your child to procrastinate by counting instead of expecting immediate acknowledgement and obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
- Reasoning with a Toddler. It just doesn’t work! Use less words and physically show them expected behavior.
- Children as Idols. Our sinful nature makes us idol makers. Don’t allow your child to become your idol. Remember, idols are made when we turn something good into the ultimate.
- Creating Idols. Children are also sinful and will struggle with making idols for themselves. Don’t create idols for them by taking something good (like sports, education, talents, recreation, etc.) and making it into the ultimate thing of their life, by letting it take all of your family’s time and treasures.
- Stubborn Pride. You will make many mistakes as you parent your kids. Learn to apologize quickly.
- Words Instead of Tools. Give your children tools to use instead of words of excuse like “bored” or “fair.” Teach your child to create, dream, or read, and help them to understand the reality of an unfair world. Give them tools to survive and thrive.
- Staying on the Sidelines. Get in the game! Parenting is an active sport and you can’t just sit on the couch and yell.
I Hope You Remember to Be:
- Surprised. Sometimes we have too high of expectations and feel discouraged as new parents. Be surprised and then thankful for gifts like a good night’s rest, or even a nap. Your life will never be the same after kids. Embrace it, and then be thankful and surprised when you get a good gift.
- A Good Model. Model how to be a Christ follower, a good citizen, a loving friend, and a generous person.
- A Team. Make a plan together with your spouse to disciple and discipline your children, and always stay united with your spouse in how to raise them. Never show any disunity in front of the kids.
- A Storyteller. Tell your child your story of coming to faith and let them watch the story of your faith play out every day.
- A Worshiper. Give your child experiences worshiping with you corporately. Embrace the moments they can worship with you; don’t be afraid of them.
- In Community. We all need community — people to walk with us as we parent. Mark and I were blessed with friends along the way and a special couple that walked with us because their journey looked a lot like ours. We learned together and survived together. We picked each other up and encouraged each other along the way. We grew as parents and followers of Christ together.
So, now I’ve said it — I’ve told you things you may not have ever been told. Hopefully though, I just reinforced things you already knew, and encouraged you. Parenting is a mighty adventure. The trip can seem long at times, but when you look back it only seems to take a moment. So, seize all those moments and enjoy the gifts that your children truly are.