Remember when you brought that bundle of joy home and you came to the realization that you had the power to make this little one an engaged and articulate student or ... to really screw them up. I remember that revelation and it scared me to death! Over time as my children grew I recognized the imprint of my life on theirs, especially my mistakes and flaws. They seemed to be replicating in the life of my children and I was concerned about it. I prayed and sought counsel from others. I read and attended conferences on parenting. I just wanted them to turn out okay and not wrestle with some of the same things that I did as I grew to maturity.
Here are some simple lessons I learned.
1) Staying positive. There are days when this alone is a challenge, but I assure you that it is important. My bad attitude set the temperature in the house. When I am positive and filled with faith that we are going to survive and overcome the challenges that we are facing it is amazing how it informs the discussions and attitudes of my kids.
2) Little sinners. Recognize your children for what they are. They are not innocent little angels that have relocated from heaven. They talk back, get cranky, steal and lie, and a thousand other things. (remember #1). You see they are just like you. They need need to learn about consequences for their actions and the need for mercy. They need to experience real forgiveness - full and deep. They need to be taught at a moral level- this is acceptable and that is not... and why.
3) Stay Structured. If you don't have guardrails your kids will end up driving off the cliff. Bedtimes are bed times (while they are not set in granite, neither are they suggestions). Naps are important. Small children NEED to sleep. ( a one year old needs a minimum of 14 hours a day! for more info) Before you buy the uniform and ball gloves- make sure they understand that they are making a commitment for the whole season- no quiting! Homework needs to be done on time. It needs to be done after school in the allotted slot. The list goes on and on. These structures are important and are character forming in the hearts of our little ones.
4) Put your guilt away. I know that you always wanted Junior to be your little buddy and that you feel guilty that you work all day but you are REQUIRED to be his parent. Don't parent out of laziness or guilt. You will have to be tough sometimes now in order to have the great relationship you want in the future. We are talking about your child's needs... not your own needs.
5) Educate your self. Read, study books, listen to mp3's, talk with friends, go to seminars, take a Sunday school class on parenting. Sharpen your skills as a parent.
6) Be flexible. What works for one child will likely have to be modified in another in order to achieve the desired results. When my teenager assured me that he was well advanced beyond his youth pastor and that he no longer desired to attend the Youth Group I was flexible. I said, "Well Son we are Christians and attend two services each week. But you don't have to attend Youth Group... You can sit in the adult service if you are bored up there. " He never attended a single adult service. The goal was spiritual growth. Since I could tell he wasn't walking on the water yet I didn't care that he got it somewhere other than the youth pastor.
7) Your being played. The little darling knows that you think the sun sets and rises upon their smile. They know that you basically don't want to do much in regards to parenting. They will try to tell you what you want to hear. Believe about half of what they say (remember #2). You won't be able to tell by looking when they start to lust, steal, masturbate, go to third base with their boyfriend, etc. Suspect everything. Leave little room for problems and they will have difficulty manifesting themselves.
8) Eat together without the TV on. Talk. Talk about what happened in school. Talk about the Word of God and how it applies to you (dinner is a great time form family devotions). Talk about politics, science, something you read. Keep the door open. Trust me the teen years come and they will try to close it on you. Build the relationship with your kids over and over.
9) Prioritize fellowship. Keep yourself and the kids in church. Make very few excuses to miss fellowship. Our life is the Word and Worship. Sports, homework, etc are poor excuses for missing church. That's right I said it! You need to put everything in its place so that a spiritual life will develop. Look around parents... spiritual lives don't develop by accident- they are purposefully designed in the lives of the children.
So there, are some of my lessons I've learned I'm sure there are more. What about you? Have any lessons you want to share?