I am frequently asked what we did or didn’t do as parents. And we did have a few parenting principles, but truthfully it was all grace.
Along the way, however, God allowed us the privilege and responsibility to raise two of the finest men I know. Both married, with children, serving in vocational ministry – they are far better men than I was at their age. What a blessing!
I do not believe there are guarantees, even if you live by the parenting principles we used. Some of the best parents I know are struggling with their adult children, but I do believe they can be helpful.
3 effective parenting principles we used:
Parenting is hard work. Don’t try it without a plan. It’s amazing how we tend to plan for everything in life, but seldom for our parenting. I know men and women who have a plan to improve their golf game, but nothing to help them grow as a father or mother. Parents who plan great social events but have no plan to instill values in their children – they simply react to life as it happens. Some parents scramble to make their children happy, making sure they are in every activity available, but never stop to think what kind of character they want their children to have as adults and what is going to best help them get there.
I believe one of the best parenting skills is simply to think intentionally about the role. Things such as having an overall goal and plan for your parenting. This includes an individual plan for each child. They are each different and require unique discipline, interaction and approaches to parenting. It means deciding in advance what the character and values you are going for and thinking through – intentionally – ways to develop them.
Sometimes we give them everything they want materially, but never help them develop discipline and structure for their life.
At the beginning of each new year, we discussed each boy and came up with a shared goal for each one and talked through ways we could better mold their character in the coming year. We thought about character traits should as honesty, integrity and kindness. It made us limit some of their activities so we could spend quality time with them and make sure they were in the right programs (yes church was one) and around the right people influences.
Shape the heart
I believe in firm discipline, but I also believe in extending much grace. More than anything, however, the parent should learn to know, protect and help shape the heart of their child. The Bible is clear we should “Above all else guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) It is the heart, which will ultimately determine the decisions and directions the child eventually makes in life.
We taught our boys biblical principles, shared with them our own struggles and tried to build deep connections with them. Again, this required time to develop, so we ate most dinner meals together and never turned down an opportunity to throw and catch a ball.
I learned great lessons from older friends of things they did which tended to push their children away rather than draw them closer. I always wanted to have a heart connection to our boys. That doesn’t mean we gave them everything, but Ephesians 6 commands us not to exasperate our children. We exasperate when we have needless rules or when our homes lack grace.
Enjoy the ride
Children are children for a very short time. The diaper days turn into the diploma days quickly. One day you’ll look back and long for those clothes or toys lying on the floor. We tried to remind ourselves of this often and enjoy those days.
We tried to balance the discipline they needed with the fun of childhood they craved. Laughing with your children will help relieve the stress of your own life and theirs. It keeps them wanting to be close to you well into the difficult teen and early adult years. So, we played games and made up songs and laughed until it hurt sometimes.
We wanted their friends also to know that ours was a welcoming home – where love abounds always. You may not allow everything, but the door should always be open for a child to return.
We also kept in our mind that children couldn’t handle all the stress of the adult world. We didn’t hide problems from our boys, but we tried to help them believe God was in control, they could trust Him and us and simply enjoy being a child.
As for the intentionality, I have posted my complete parenting philosophy in THIS POST.