The first WFMW of each month has been a themed one this year, and this month the focus is on parenting.
I’m no expert and my family and I are far from perfect…..but after almost 23 years of parenting, I’ve learned a few things…
- Pray for wisdom. I used James 1:5 in conjunction with raising my children more than any other area of life.
- Study what the Bible has to say about raising children. For one of my child care classes in college, we had to do a study on what the Bible says about raising children, just taking a concordance and looking up verses with words like child, children, teach, train, etc. It was one of the most beneficial things I have ever done.
- Use Scripture in explaining right and wrong and principles to them, but don’t club them over the head with it and don’t be harsh about it.
- Don’t give them options when they don’t have any. When it is time to go to bed or to eat dinner, don’t ask them if they would like to or if they are ready to — you’re just setting yourself up for trouble if they say, “No.” When it is time to go to bed, in a cheerful and positive but firm way let them know it’s time. I always liked to let them know ahead of time when a deadline is coming up (“After this TV program ends, then it’s bedtime” or “I’ll set the timer for ten minutes, and then we need to pick up toys and go to bed.”) just out of consideration. After all, I much prefer knowing what’s coming up rather than being told I need to drop what I’m doing now.
- Teach them to be constructive rather than destructive.
- Never assume. You can walk into a situation and think you know what has happened and be dead wrong. Unless it’s an emergency situation it’s best to ask questions first and clarify what has happened.
- Ask questions instead of making accusations. I mentioned in an earlier post that this is something I just learned within the last year, and I wish I had known it when my kids were younger. Making accusations produces defensiveness: asking questions leads to examination and conviction.
- Be specific and clear in your instructions.
- Realize that your children might have a different understanding of your instructions than what you’re trying to convey. A classic example is the instruction to “Clean your room.” A young child will have a different idea of what that entails than you do. It’s better to be specific: “I want your Legos in the box and your books on the shelf and your dirty clothes in the hamper.”
- Be careful, though, of too many instructions at once. If someone has several things they want me to do, I’d have to ask them to wait a minute while I get something to write them down. Why would I then expect my children to remember a long list of instructions?
- Teach progressively. When teaching your child to do something, say, a specific chore, do it together with them at first, then progress to having them do it (or parts of it at first) under supervision, then doing it on their own. Along with that, remember…
- Children do what is inspected rather than what is expected.
- Don’t have negative expectations of any age or stage. Two different mothers told me this at two different stages of life, one before the “terrible twos,” and one in regard to the teen years. Going into those or other stages expecting it to be terrible is going to color everything. The world seems to promote the idea that the teen years are going to be awful and it’s just that way and you just have to hang on and get through it. There are struggles and issues to work through, certainly, but if the relationship has been good all along and respect and obedience have been taught all along, it doesn’t have to be a bad time for parents or teens.
- Attitude is as important as obedience. I used to give more latitude for a negative attitude if my children were still doing what I asked them to, because, after all, I don’t always have the greatest attitude, myself, about the things I need to do. But I was convicted in recent years by I Cor. 6:20: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I wish I had emphasized this more when my kids were younger. They need to know that “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” is God’s requirement, not just what Mom would wish for in a perfect world (Phil 2:14. Verse 15 says this is part of our testimony.) You have to be careful here and take into account age level, emotional maturity, whatever else has happened in their day (whether they’re stressed, over-tired, ill, hungry, etc.), and I wouldn’t expect perfection, but you should see growth in this area over the years.
- Convey expectations beforehand. I mentioned this in a previous WFMW, but I learned that it helped a lot to let children know ahead of an event what was expected rather than trying to keep on top of their behavior during the event. Even with something simple like going to the grocery store, if I told them before we left the house or before we got out of the car (or both) that I wanted them to sit nicely in the cart and we wouldn’t be getting a toy today but we might get a treat if they were good, it helped curb the “I wants” when we passed the toy aisle and kept them from trying to climb out of the cart.
- “You have to stay where I can see you.” This was our watchword when we went out in public anywhere (after they got out of the stroller stage) — in the park, in the grocery store, at the mall, even at church. This was not only for their safety and so that they wouldn’t be in danger of being snatched away: it was also so I could keep an eye on what they were doing. I don’t know why it seems at church in particular parents seem to let their young children run free. Maybe they are thinking it’s a safe environment and that everyone will be watching them. But they need to be under our watchful eye there as well as everywhere else. I could tell you stories of kids found raiding the cookie jar in the nursery, piling their plates higher than anyone could possibly eat at church fellowships, and all manner of things. They need to be taught both by instruction and example how to act there as well as everywhere else.
- Point out the hand of God in everyday life. When a car swerves into your lane but misses you, thank God for His protection. When we see sunlight filtering through the clouds in a pretty pattern, point out the beauty of His creation. Let them know of answers to prayer, great and small. Help them to see God as real and active and interested in their lives. I think this goes a long way toward making Him real to them and conveying that Christianity is a relationship with Him and not just a set of rules (though rules and doctrine are important, too).
- Keep time with God as a priority. I expanded on this in an earlier post: it may be harder to do when the children are small, and you may have to be a little more creative in how you do it, but it can be done with His help.
- Enjoy this time of life! You hear it all the time, but it is so true: it goes by so fast. Relax and enjoy it as much as possible.
As always, you can find a wealth of tips on Wednesdays at Rocks In My Dryer.