It takes wise parents to raise well-adjusted children and build a family. Here are some things parents can do to work toward that goal.
There is so much confusion in today’s world on how we should “parent” our children. Multiple books and podcasts abound with a diversity of opinions. Even amongst believers. Friends disagree. And there are more and more parents who come from painful backgrounds themselves with few role models. How are we supposed to raise healthy kids? Who do we listen to? What really matters?
What if I fail?
We know how you feel. Having raised 5 kids, ourselves, and now praying for our 21 grandchildren we know it’s hard. And scary. And full of failures. You may have heard me share a phrase God gave me when I was feeling like I had ruined a child: Susan, your ability to ruin your child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him (or her). Over and over, I have had to remember this.
It’s not all up to us!
We need God’s wisdom and the wisdom of others who will come alongside us.
Briefly, here are 8 things I believe wise parents will do. You can add to this list.
- Agree on your priorities for your family.
We come into marriage and family life with differing expectations. And often we don’t realize how different we are until we’ve been married awhile. When children come along, we may be surprised by our different approaches to parenting. As our children grow, we will discover new things that matter. What is important here is that parents communicate with each other, rather than assume what their mate is thinking. We need to be on the same team.
Our two main priorities have always been that our children would love the Lord and each other. How this is implemented changes year to year. But this is our fundamental Family mission statement taken from the 2 great commandments.
Plan a couple-date and ask the following:
What are our priorities for our family for this coming year?
How can we implement these?
2. Determine to grow in your own faith.
Over the years I’ve spent time each day in the Psalms. I love them because David is so honest and yet turns me back to God’s character. One desperate morning after a sleepless night with littles I found myself in Psalm 144:1-2: He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Really Lord? I need you to subdue these littles!!! I think God has a sense of humor.
Over the years a daily time in God’s word and in prayer, (even if it’s brief) has been my lifeline and my kids know this. My Bible is heavily marked and from time to time I share with them verses that are special to me and why. My prayer for them is that each child and grandchild will fall in love with God’s word. (Psalm 119:105)
3. Be firm with discipline but generous with grace.
It’s best to be firm in the early years and then loosen up as your kids get older. Too often parents placate little children (especially strong-willed ones!) and then come down too hard in the teen years. If you are very clear with expectations and follow through with discipline in the early years your kids will learn that you are reliable. You mean what you say. This gives them a sense of security. A child who calls the shots in the home will become insecure, not secure because God did not intend for that child to have that much power over his parents. You are the parent, not the child. (Read my blog on this topic here.)
Resist the desire to bail your kids out when they get in trouble. Stand with them in their punishment but allow them to experience the consequences. They must learn their actions matter-for good or for evil. When they fail help them see it’s not the end of the world. Grant them grace and forgiveness.
4. Stress character over accomplishments/success.
Success has become an idol in our culture. “If your child succeeds you must be the best parent.” Reality check: this is “parental peer pressure.”
God is more concerned with character than with success. And we must be as well. Praise your kids for accomplishments, but make sure the bulk of your praise is for developing character traits. “Thank you for offering to help with the dishes. You are thoughtful!” I’m proud of you for sharing that toy with your little brother. That is kindness.”
Wise parents will guard against over-commitment of outside activities. Ask: Is it more important that we sign our child up for one more sport or music lesson, etc. or is it more important that we limit activities in order to have a family dinner all together? In the long run what will matter most- a trophy gathering dust on the closet shelf or a close-knit family who built friendships over a family meal?
5. Exposure your kids to solid believers.
This is particularly important in the teen years. Our children need to be around mature Christian believers where we are not. In this season they are more likely to respond to sharp faithful young adults than to us. Use summers wisely- Christian camps, mission trips, etc. Have young adults to a family meal and ask them to share their faith story. Enjoy watching your kids listen.
Be involved in a local (Bible teaching) church. Why?
Church is the one place where you are amongst people of different ages and generations. Our kids need this exposure and so do we. And they will need this modeled for their own future. Even if they think it’s boring, they are taking in the word of God, and it will bear fruit. In addition, insist that your teen be involved in a vital youth ministry. It’s a priority. If your church or school doesn’t have one, help start one. (Our favorite youth ministry resource is Rootedministry.com. It is a fast-growing national organization that has excellent articles, podcasts, and conferences).
6. Be quick to say, “I was wrong, will you forgive me.”
Ok, this may be hard but it’s crucial. We do blow it with our mates and with our kids. When we do it’s important to say, I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you forgive me? Why? It’s an act of humility and we often need God’s forgiveness and that of another person. We are commanded to ask for forgiveness and to grant it. (1 John 1:9)
Forgiveness doesn’t automatically make you feel better or restore trust. This may take time. But the asking and granting of forgiveness opens the door to restoration. We probably won’t feel like asking for forgiveness. We go to one another out of obedience not out of feeling. God has commanded us to do this.
God willing, one day our kids will be married, and they will need to ask for and grant forgiveness to their spouse. How will they know to do this if they have not seen it modeled in their own home?
7. Teach them to care for others.
Our kids are growing up in a culture that preaches Take care of yourself. Be happy.
But God says to care for others. (Mark 12:29-31)
Our family can unconsciously (unintentionally) become captivated by culture’s values unless we are intentional in pushing back and living out God’s values. Wise parents will provide opportunities for their children to care for others. Ask, “Who is a child in your class that might be lonely? How can you reach out to him today?”
Mow a lawn or clear snow for an elderly neighbor. Cook a meal for an overwhelmed young mother. Visit a nursing home. Serve in a soup kitchen. Go on a family mission trip. Volunteer in the inner city. When your kids protest that they don’t have time simply say, “This is one of our family values. This is what we do.”
We want to raise “other-centered” kids in a “me-centered” world. Here are two helpful blogs from my website: How Not to Raise Entitled Kids and Raising “Other-Centered” Kids in a “Self-Centered” World.
8. Guard against “overparenting.”
It’s easy for well-meaning, loving parents to become too involved in a child’s life. A dad plans for his son to go into politics as he has, another to become a pro athlete because that was his dream. This parent opens doors to enable this to happen, often providing necessary funds and in a myriad of other ways pushing the child. The message a child gets is, I can’t do this on my own. I’m not capable. My parent will do it for me. This hampers emotional development, limits confidence, and retards emotional growth. Sadly, this loving parent doesn’t even realize what he’s doing. It’s classic overparenting. And it’s dangerous.
Two questions may be helpful:
“Is this my dream for my child or his?”
“Is my ‘help’ allowing and pushing him to grow or doing it for him and therefore stunting his growth?
Raising kids takes so much wisdom that we don’t ourselves have. James 1:5 promises that if we lack wisdom we can ask of God and He will give it generously. I have prayed this promise over and over as I parent.
One thing that has greatly encouraged me is the realization that it’s not all up to me!
Jesus our Savior is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for me and for my kids and grandkids. He is praying right at this moment. (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25)
Wise parents will remember again and again that it’s not all up to them!
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“For nothing is impossible for God.”
Grab Susan’s free ebook, “Camp at Home,” right here. This valuable resource is based on her book Cousin Camp. It includes 100 things for you to do with your kids of different ages including toddlers, the middle years, teens, and specific things for the whole family. In addition, there are ideas for grandparents to use to stay connected with their grandkids.
100 Ways to Love to Your Son/Daughter
You love your son and daughter–but that doesn’t mean you always know the most effective ways to show that love, ways that will connect with their hearts, and stick with them no matter what life throws their way.
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