If it was going to be easy to raise kids, it never would have started with something called labor. ~Anonymous
Last month, our 22-year-old daughter got married. That particular event has caused me to be more reflective about family life and parenting than at any other time. I haven’t been in the day-to-day trenches of parenting for a while, since both of our girls have been away at college. But it’s a whole new step when a child, adult that they are, moves out and starts their own family.
In the past 22 years, I certainly never reached the point where I thought I’d mastered this parenting thing. I learned something new on a regular basis. There was a lot of trial and error, and I learned as much – if not more – from my mistakes as I did any successes.
I realize that I’m still parenting, even though that looks different now. I look forward to how my relationships with our daughters will change and grow in the coming years.
As I reflected a bit on some of the lessons I’ve learned, here are ten tips I’d like to share if you’re still in the middle of your parenting journey.
1. Let the little things go.
How you and I define “little” things may differ, but over the years, I took to heart the saying, “Choose your battles.” To throw in another metaphor, not every hill was one worth dying on.
One of those little (to me) things I let go of during their teen years was insisting that they keep their bedroom neat. Throughout high school, both of our girls played sports, participated in fine arts, and worked. You wouldn’t think they were home long enough for their rooms to get messy 🙂 but they were. Most of the time, they’d do a clean-up on Saturday mornings, so for the rest of the week, I just overlooked the piles of clothes and whatever else was stacked up or scattered around the room.
2. Attitude is everything – hers and mine.
Yes, either one or both of our daughters occasionally needed an attitude correction – but often I needed to address mine before helping her with hers. There were times when that meant setting a discussion aside until one or both of us had calmed down.
Be approachable and willing to listen. Yes, we’re the parents and we have to set boundaries and enforce consequences. But we can do all of that while showing our children that we love them and want what’s best for them.
3. Apologize fully.
When you’ve blown it, apologize. Look her in the eyes and say I’m sorry that I handled that situation incorrectly. Show your child what humility looks like.
4. Remember that rearing children is a process.
What happens today is not a full picture of you as a parent. It’s only a snapshot. It’s the weeks and months and years of training and correction and love and prayer that will make them into men and women of character and faith.
5. A sense of humor lightens my load and theirs.
Sometimes things are just funny, so laugh. Some of our most memorable family moments came when things didn’t unfold as planned…like getting caught in a torrential downpour while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge or taking a wrong turn while driving in Arizona and ending up at the border to Mexico. I’m not saying that they were all our favorite times, but they were memorable!
6. Losing my temper accomplishes…nothing.
Did you know that there’s a Bible verse about this? “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) Our anger will not produce God’s righteousness in ourselves or our children.
Under this point, I’ll include the value of learning to bite your tongue. Often our first response is not the best one, and, in almost every situation, taking a minute or two to think before you speak is helpful.
7. Be firm, with no drama.
If consequences for misbehavior are forthcoming, just state them simply and move on. No browbeating, no lecturing, and no debating allowed.
8. Work to build strong sibling relationships.
By the grace of God, our girls are very close friends today. I wouldn’t have thought that would be the case during certain periods in their growing-up years! But it was always a goal of mine and something I wanted to promote as much as possible. I wrote more about this in an older post, Five “C’s” for Creating Caring Sibling Relationships.
9. Be creative with correction.
There are many different ways to teach your child a lesson. Natural consequences were always my favorite, but they weren’t always available. However, as much as we can, making the “punishment” fit the “crime” will make more of an impact than using the same consequence over and over.
10. Seek wisdom.
If I had all the answers, I wouldn’t need God – and how I need Him!! Never was it more evident than during my years of parenting children in our home, especially in the teen years. How thankful I am that at every life stage, God promises to give us His wisdom if we’ll just ask and believe He’ll provide it. (James 1:5-6)
There’s also value in friendships with moms and dads who’ve already parented their children through the stage that you’re in. They can share what worked and didn’t work for them – as well as offer a sympathetic ear if you just need someone to listen!
The neat thing is that this last tip carries over to my current status of parenting young adults. Praying for our daughters and what’s going on in their lives as well as asking God for wisdom on how to best relate to them now is an ongoing process.
I’m excited about this new phase of life, adding a son-in-law to our family and watching him and our daughter grow in their young marriage. May God continue to bless us and our children as we walk with Him!