We recently celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day so I’ve been thinking about parenting. My kids are now adults living independent lives, and yet, I’m still working on figuring out how to parent well. I’ve asked many people through the years how to handle various situations and be the best dad I can possibly be. There’s been plenty of good, helpful advice, as well as, a significant number of suggestions that weren’t so good.
Through it all, I’ve learned a few truths. These are written from a parenting perspective, however, I believe you can apply them to just about any relationship.
Pray for your kids. Whether they’ve yet to be conceived, are driving you nuts as preschoolers, in the midst of elementary school, teenagers or adults. Petition the Lord for protection, health, and guidance. Pray for their spouse-to-be or that are now part of your family.
Prayer is simply talking with God. We generally are fairly good at asking for the things that we want. We also need to be good at listening to His input. It’s a two-way conversation. As I grow, I’m discovering that I need to be listening more than talking in my conversations, especially with the Lord.
Pray for wisdom and understanding. We need the Lord’s wisdom more than another self-help book on parenting. No one knows your kids and what they need more than God, so we might as well ask the expert to reveal how best to understand them.
Without the help and intervention of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to achieve much. I’ve made so many mistakes as a parent that I’m amazed at how the Lord has overcome my shortcomings with His incredible grace and mercy.
Your kids are not perfect and yet they still need your love in the midst of everything. They need to be celebrated when they do good. They need to be disciplined in love when they mess up, held when they are hurting, and loved regardless of their performance.
I have to admit that there are days that I don’t like my kids very much. It’s just not possible to always like someone. Heck, some days I don’t even like myself much. But regardless of how much I like or temporarily dislike them, I hope they know that I love them. There is absolutely nothing that my kids can do to lose my love for them.
Unconditional love is more powerful than all of the forces of the enemy. Love is a primary characteristic of God (see 1 John 4) and when we operate in love, we are emulating our Heavenly Father.
There is so much more caught than taught. “Do what I say, not what I do” just doesn’t work. Kids are watching everything that you do, and they will believe your actions far more than your words.
This is especially true with how you handle yourself when you make a mistake. If you expect your kids to be humble and apologetic when in the wrong, then you should model that yourself. Show them how to own their stuff by taking responsibility for your actions.
I’ve met far too many parents who seem to think that they can’t let their kids know that they aren’t perfect. I hate to break it to you, but, the kids already know it, so you might as well talk about it with them. How else are they going to learn how to recover from a fall?
Model forgiveness, humility, grace, and mercy. Model how to journey with God in the good times and the hard times. Show your kids, through your actions, how to be a Christ-follower by modeling the fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).
Open communication will overcome so many shortfalls. When we don’t have open and honest conversations, then assumptions are made on one or both sides of the table. Assumptions are rarely beneficial and most often have some degree of error in them.
Talk about the good stuff and the hard stuff. Some conversations are difficult but we need to have them even if they are uncomfortable. Don’t dance around the elephant in the room, address it. Share your life, and ask about their life.
Be available when they need you. If you say, “In a minute,” be sure that it is only a minute. By being there and listening, they will feel valued and more likely to come to you with things in the future. Listen attentively, not just to the words but to the meaning behind what is being said.
We also need to be talking about God in everyday situations. Don’t limit Him to church or a short prayer before meals. Talk about His creation as you walk together. Tell your kids the stories of the Lord working in your life. Literally apply Deuteronomy 6:7 to your family life, as well as, all your other relationships.
Every person is unique, not just our fingerprints and DNA, but our personalities, emotions, and dreams. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Learn about who your child is and respond accordingly.
Each of my kids is unique, even my twins who might look alike are very different people. We need to celebrate each child’s uniqueness. Discipline in a manner that they can receive the correction. Learn their love language, and learn how to speak it with them. Discover who they are, and custom tailor your parenting to each one.
One of my favorite things in the work that we do is to see God meet with each person uniquely. When coming alongside ministers and their families, we have seen so many different ways that the Lord interacts with each person. For example, I have an exercise that I use to deal with shame. The process is fairly simple, the result is the same goal of freedom, and yet the individual experiences are so incredibly different.
Walk out the truths
As we all walk in relationship with people, especially with our kids, we will face difficulties, experience joys and heartaches, make mistakes, and get a few things right. Applying these truths will help us to have healthier, more fulfilling relationships.
How can you apply these truths to your relationships? Do you pray regularly for your kids, family, friends, co-workers? Are you loving the people in your life unconditionally? Do you model being a Christ follower? Are you talking openingly about life in a way that people see God? Do you treat each person that you interact with uniquely as God created them?
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