I have a habit of blogging on special days for the family. Perhaps, the moment demands reflection and thought. And like most occasions, when I start processing things, I journal in order to frame together what is stirring in me.
Today is my son’s 15th birthday. As usual, theses moments in your children cause you to reflect upon the parenting job you’ve done and are still doing. I’m sure something will stir in a few weeks when Cammi turns 18. But till then, I thought on Ethan’s 15th birthday, I’d give 15 parenting tips I’ve learned over the past decade and a half.
- It’s more important for my kids to see Jesus in me than anything else.
- Kids need to see how Jesus is lived out, not inside the church, but outside of it. Even though I am my kid’s lead pastor, they need to see Jesus in me in our home MORE than from the iPad stand I preach from.
- My children are not beyond a bad decision.
- To be blunt, I don’t want to parent in a way that says, “my kid would never do that.” Yet I don’t believe they’re always guilty. My kids are capable of bad decisions because, well, they’re human.
- Own mistakes in front of your kids.
- If you’re kids never see you make a mistake, it makes their mistakes look that much worse as they’ll compare to the “perfection” they’re always exposed to. Show your kids how to be humble in the face of something you’ve not done correctly. They should hear the words, “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me.”
- Don’t do anything alone.
- From a task around the house to a trip to the store. I’ll get one of my kids to go with me to do whatever is on my list of things to do. It’s not about having another hand for the project/task, it’s about the time and connection of just being together.
- Work isn’t lethal.
- Work ethic is a wonderful thing; Entitlement is not. I believe when we foster a good work ethic, we’re set our children up for success.
- Work to find a connection.
- Don’t allow a mentality of “my kid are too different” prevent you from discovering a way to connect. Ethan doesn’t like most sports (which breaks my heart) and he isn’t the most active kid. But I decided years ago we’d “try” a number of things and see what sticks. Going action movies stuck. Going to hockey games stuck. Going hiking (which I’ve never done before) stuck.
- Physical touch is healthier than you realize.
- UCLA did a study that says every human being needs 8-10 meaningful touches a day. I love hugging my kids randomly. When I encourage them, I’ll do a little side-hug. Sometimes, I’ll walk up behind them and put my hands on their shoulders to ask them about their day. Appropriate physical touch helps them to not go looking for it in inappropriate ways.
- My marriage is more important than they are.
- I always have a panicky parent contact me after I say or blog about this. Statement like this don’t mean we don’t care for our kids. But they NEED to see your marriage as a priority. It sets them up for a healthy marriage.
- Value their interests.
- As much as sports/competition are important to me, I cannot force that upon my children. In the same breath, I cannot allow my unfamiliarity of their interests to make me apathetic or unfeeling to them. When you pull your attention away from what’s important to your child, you’re not rejecting the activity, you’re rejecting the child.
- Effort and commitment > achievement.
- I’m not a “give a medal to all of the kids” type of parent. But my being proud of my kids isn’t based upon a grade nor an achievement. Making effort and following through on commitment is what we ask of them. The rest is gravy.
- Position other voices of authority.
- My kids need other voices in their lives. For that reason, I really didn’t want to coach my kids as I wanted them to have other voices of authority besides mine. If I did, I wanted to serve under a “head coach” as to make sure the kids saw someone else in authority over them (and me). I will be eternally grateful for those Kids Pastors, Youth Pastors, small group teachers, and youth leaders who’ve poured into my kids.
- Have a united front.
- Anne and I disagree on a variety of things. We’ve disagreed in front of our kids but not on major issues. We work hard to make sure that our kids see a united couple when it comes to the big decisions. We also work hard to support each other when one of us isn’t around.
- Seek and value their input.
- I don’t ask my kids input to pander to them. I legitimately want to know they’re opinion on a number of subjects. Let them own some decisions for the home even on stuff that they don’t necessarily care about. To me, it’s not about the actual decision as much as what the process does: helps them to know that they are a valued member of the home.
- Every event is a learning opportunity.
- When my kids are processing things, they don’t always deal with them appropriately. So when things “cool down” we have a “sit down.” I usually sit on the edge of their bed and we walk through what happened and I ask the question, “what did you learn?” I want to know, now that everything is over, what they could have done better to handle things. If they own their issues, they’ll own the growth that’ll come from them.
- Discipleship is my responsibility.
- I pour out from what is being poured into me. As much as I love the Godly voices in my kid’s lives, it should be in addition to what I am doing, not supplementing what I’m not doing.
As always, I look to the words of Paul who said,
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Philippians 3:12
I’m still working on these as well as learning new lessons for later lists. I’m still striving to be the example they need. I know my parenting will never stop, but I want to make the most of every opportunity I have with them.
I love you Ethan. My heart is for you to be a much greater man of God than I could have ever dreamed for you to be. Thanks for being you. Thanks for your patience with me. Thanks for being such a great son.
Love all of you parents out there. I’m cheering for you!!!
Thanks for letting me ramble…