The awesome thing about parenting is that when you keep at it, you eventually get somewhere.
I know this getting somewhere sounds far off for some and like a cruel joke for others who may feel right now like you are spinning your wheels – I’ve been in both places and all I can say is you’ll just have to trust me on this and mostly, just trust God.
And please — I don’t say this as if I’ve arrived, because look, I’m not stupid enough to boast about anything that I’m always at risk to royally mess up.
But I’ve been at this blessed parenting thing for nearly 20 years and if I haven’t learned anything, goodness, I should probably have been raking leaves for a living instead of attempting to slay dragons in my home in a hat that says Mother.
Since I told you I’ve dropped the idea of PC parenting and why I’m sure it’s a bad idea, I think it’s only right I tell you a few things I think are good ideas and do work, in the hopes I may encourage you on your journey in this mad, wonderful world of all things kids.
(Sidebar: *I hope by now it’s understood that anything I list will come after the prayer, Bible reading and nurturing of our own relationship with God that is by far the best parenting thing I know, will always know, selah and amen. Love God first and then your kid. You know this, yes? :)
1. We need to be straight up and honest with our kids.
I’m a horrible liar, so fortunately or unfortunately for my kids (and I think it’s been a little of both), this one came with the territory. But let me say: this is not the same as confiding in them as adults, giving them non-age appropriate information, not being wise in our disclosures in the name of being honest. What I’m talking about here is speaking to them practically and honestly about life and reality, as their age dictates and we discern. Even terrible liars like me have been known to become spin masters a time or two in the attempt to appease our kids.
This was not the problem of the mom I witnessed at the pool recently; however, at least on the day I witnessed her. I’m not sure what her son did, but clearly whatever it was had an air of entitlement she didn’t like. “You’re not God. You have a complex and you need to get over it,” were the words I heard her say, loud enough for the entire pool area to hear it. Now look – her approach was a bit harsh. But her child was in need of correction and rather than sugarcoat it, she spoke to him straight up. It might not be the best use of words, but I can’t help but think the world is in need of some more of that straight talk right now. As I sat there by the pool, I thought of some of the things adults say on Twitter that had their mom told them what this mom did, maybe they wouldn’t be quite so mouthy. :)
The point is, we need to be honest with our kids and stop telling them half truths to help ease them into things. We lead them on too much, placate them, and yes, even pitch to them unrealistic life opportunities that they then count on that don’t involve hard work and tangible efforts that do them a grave disservice. When they finally face reality they do so without the safety net of home (they are typically grown) and then it is a much harder adjustment. We must be wise in this, and we must also be truthful in how we speak to our children, at all times. When what they perceive doesn’t match what we tell them, it creates a crisis of faith.
2. We need to nudge our kids towards their own healthy self-esteem.
I’ve personally seen this happen with my oldest son, who we pushed to stay and do something hard his freshman year of college. My mother heart wanted to let him run away and get relief. But I knew that wouldn’t help him. And in the end, the growth and maturity that happened as a result was the greatest gift he never wanted.
On the opposite side of this, my girlfriend told me about how her daughter’s cheer team has some girls on it that were intimidated by a new cheer camp they were going to a few weeks ago and their moms didn’t make them go, even though the rest of the squad would be effected by it. The moms made up excuses for them so the girls could get out of it, and at the end of the camp week, this rough-around-the-edges young cheer squad learned an awesome, challenging new routine, and the girls on the team who went grew in leaps and bounds and were so proud of themselves. The ones who didn’t go were envious and wished they had gone because they saw the growth that happened for those who went, challenged themselves, and pushed through.
I know the trend in parenting is to let the kids decide what they want to do, if they do or don’t feel like it. But our kids need us to nudge them towards finding their self-esteem, not running from it. We parent well when we understand that honoring commitments and doing hard things makes for confident, well-adjusted people, and we parent our child with that in mind.
3. We need to be parents.
I don’t know how else to say it then to say it plain and straight. When we took on this role, we said yes to sacrifice and no to selfishness. We said yes to unconditional love. We said yes to long hours, hard work, being involved and staying involved (it pains me how many parents think they can stop parenting when their kids get to be older teens, at a crucial time), paying attention, overcoming odds, battling an enemy against us, hardcore prayer, nurturing, relentless pursuit, protection and provision, our own spiritual discipline, correction, setting our dreams aside for the dreams and goals of another. We said yes to guidance and wisdom and telling the truth even when it makes us not look perfect to our kids. We said yes to saying I’m sorry when we mess up and owning our stuff and getting right before God and leading them to the Father and instilling in them values and the love of Church. And we said yes to doing it all for the glory of God, holding them loosely while remembering they are His, and one day letting them go for the glory of God, too, and not making them feel one ounce bad about their physical going away. May we never forget our high call to be parents. There is nothing PC or easy about this. But there is also nothing more glorious or beautiful.
I’ve learned so much in my nearly 20 years of parenting and still, I know, so much more to learn.
But one thing I know: it will never be easy.
And then this: if I keep at it, eventually I will get somewhere.
Thank you, God.
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