Recently Dellie and I were approached by a couple with young children. They took us to dinner and said they wanted us to think about what advice we had for parents with young children who are just getting started in this long humbling journey we call parenthood. For those who don’t know we have 5 children ranging in age from 18 to 6. Four of them are boys and there is one girl in the middle. Below is what I wrote out to walk them through what we think we’ve learned about parenting. I’m posting it here in the hopes that others find it helpful as well.
PARENTING ADVICE: IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
- Pray for and WITH your children consistently. God loves them more than you do.
- Share the gospel with them at a young age, and repeatedly. But let them make the decision when they are old enough.
- Read them Bible stories regularly. Make Bible story videos available to them. Encourage Bible memory work.
- Discipline appropriately (not overly harsh)
- Involve them in church consistently/Be very positive about church.
- Teach them tithing. Show them how God is providing for the family.
- Apologize when you mess up.
- Don’t neglect your marriage. Let them see a loving, sometimes fighting couple
- Write them a letter of encouragement on their physical or spiritual birthday and take the child out to breakfast and read it to them and affirm them.
- Really listen to them.
- Protect family meal time.
- Enjoy them. Play games with them.
- Answers questions about the faith. Act like questions are a good thing; if you don’t know the answer say so. But then do the research and circle back to them with a solid answer.
- Establish simple family traditions (Friday night movie night/ice cream).
- What is each child’s love language? Learn to speak it.
- A united front. Don’t undercut each other.
- Give them time with their grandparents (and other positive adults, especially church people).
- Be stable, stay in one place as much as possible.
- Tell them you love them and are proud of them regularly (be specific).
- Involve them in a sport if they are interested (but don’t become overly busy).
- Be somewhat open about your background (Your parents, your mistakes).
- Marry someone as cool and wise as Dellie.
- Limit video games.
- Read regularly to them.
- Laugh as much as possible (We bought Christian Comedy DVDs whenever we could)
- Hug them often/ Touch.
- Have them see you pray and read the Bible.
- Detox them from the negatives of public school. Process with them about Darwinian evolution, secular sex education, etc. But affirm the positives, overall our kids had wonderful teachers and we’ve had a great experience with our kids in public schools.
- Be open, for the most part no subject is off limits to talk about.
- Be aware of your kid’s friends parents. What are they being exposed to at the other house? Do not assume that other parents share your values. No overnights or make it very rare.
- Defend the other parent. (Our teenage boys thought hiding in the house and jumping out and scaring Dellie and I was funny. It was fine for me but Dellie grew up in a very violent home; so I made them quit when I realized they were actually scaring her).
- Build a relationship with your child’s school. Be a parent they want to see coming so that when there is a problem you have made deposits in that relationship bank.
- Master quantum physics, this will make parenting look easier. And no, I have not mastered quantum physics, I’m not even sure I spelled it correctly.
- Honor other authority figures in your child’s life (youth sponsors, teachers, coaches, policemen)
- Always, always convey and say to them that you love them no matter what.
- Encourage them to try new things (drama, musical instruments, etc).
- Don’t pick unnecessary battles, but if you pick a battle you must WIN the battle.
- Never ever underestimate the power of your example.
- Monitor media input strictly (movies, TV, music, etc.) I usually preview most movies.
- Give them regular chores, so that they contribute to the household.
- Talk about your expectation that they will go to college or a trade school or apprenticeship after high school.
- Work hard at your job. They will learn their work ethic from you.
- Teach them to watch media critically. Have them analyze the real message of all commercials.
- Tell them life can be hard. Expect challenges. Try to combat a sense of entitlement if you see it growing in them.
- Teach them to defend the underdog and look out for the odd kid at school.
- Be friendly to their friends. Pray for them specifically.
- Make some vacation memories.
- Teach them to say thank you. And to write hand written thank you notes.
- Ask questions when you’re driving the kids somewhere, especially the boys.
- Savor your time with them. It goes way too fast.
I hope at least a few of these are helpful to you. We are not perfect parents and our kids are not perfect; but they are great kids and we are proud of who they are and who they are becoming.
Under His Mercy,
Journey Christian Church