So simple, yet so difficult. So easy, but incredibly demanding. Straightforward but complicated. Parenting seems completely natural and yet we spend most of our time questioning every single decision we make. We worry and fret, plan and pray, and hope with all our hearts that we are getting it right. You probably are getting it quite right, but read these three steps anyway. Read and be encouraged!
In the south, we all know the one perfect recipe for banana pudding. Anyone who uses a different recipe is just wrong. Pecan pie. Same thing. Similarly, there is one way to serve a meal and that is with yeast rolls... or biscuits. Unless it has to be cornbread. We all know that how we do things in our own kitchens is the only correct way.
It is a lot like parenting. We all know precisely how it should be done. For every child. In every situation. We are all experts.
The truth is, God has given us our children along with many of the instincts necessary to raise them well. There is more than one right way. To illustrate this I want to share a conversation between two older ladies that I overheard some time ago. It became the inspiration for my blog this week.
The first lady told the second one that she had spoiled her now grown children. The second was defensive and responded that she had not spoiled her children she had loved and enjoyed them. The second lady went on to tell the first lady that her home had been run like boot camp and her children had been too regimented and constrained. At almost the same time, the two women said, "But look at how well my children turned out!"
Seriously. This was a real conversation. Just a note for your future reference, let me tell you that the pastor's wife hears all sorts of things. Make sure that your pastor's wife either doesn't hear your conversations or, at least, doesn't have a blog. Anything you say can and will be shared. In love. Names held back because I'm pretty nice.
But here's the interesting part: between them, these women had nine children ranging in age from their early fifties to mid sixties. And every one of them are wonderful people. Loving, successful, productive, happy, sensible, etc.
They are parents and grandparents themselves now. Nine children raised in very different environments but each becoming fully functioning competent adults. It made me think at how many ways there are to get it right when we are raising our children.
What if there were just a few parenting truths that could be manifested in many different ways? Perhaps these could produce a positive outcome for the individual child as they grow to adulthood.
What if it were simpler...what if there were just a few things we had to get right? Would that make parenting easier? No...there is nothing that can make parenting easier...but maybe it could be simpler...fewer absolutes and more diversity. What would that look like? Could we condense things a bit? Make it easier to understand? A few ground rules.
I thought long and hard about this. Raising up the next generation is my greatest passion and joy. My brain uses a lot of its band width on this topic. As a result of this chain of thought, I distilled many parenting notions and fashions into three basic truths.
If we make sure that all of our actions as parents and influencers of children stay under these three umbrellas, we are going to be on the right track. No matter how wack-a-doodle it looks to your neighbor, aunt, or mother.
Here are my three simple rules for raising children well. Use these rules as a guideline as you create your own harbor home:
Set the bar high. Your children are capable of doing and being far more than you may realize. Keep them on a track toward becoming all they can be. Letting them slide by in terms of behavior, academics, empathy, or social skills does not serve them well. It can be draining to keep consistent standards, but the end result is worth it.
Keep the real goal in mind. You are raising adults. Children are adults in training. Keep in mind that each stage of development leads to the next. Enjoy the stage they are in with all the joys and challenges, but be prepared to lead them forward to the next. Crawling leads to walking which leads to ever increasing independence. Gradually our children must learn to leave our homes to create their own.
The needs of your children are more important than your desires. When you have a child, you relinquish the right to be the most important individual in your own life. Period. Parenting is a self sacrificial role. Caring for yourself in the midst of this is vital, but setting aside child raising for the sake of a career or hobby is the path to deep unhappiness for your child and, ultimately, for you. I have seen far too many parents who can not understand why the relationship they have with their grown children is cold and distant when they spent those early years indulging themselves and neglecting their parenting responsibilities. You must put the time and effort in early to reap those later benefits. The children are, simply put, more important.
Keeping these three principles in mind, enjoy your children! Teach them what they need to know in order to function well in your family and in the larger community. Encourage them to grow and change and try new things! But remember these three things.
Understand this: love is not enough. Love is not enough. Love is a necessary starting point but it is not going to see your children into maturity. Trust me on this. I have seen it over and over in many dark scenarios. These three truths, taken together with love, will be the keys to your child becoming the shining star you know that they are.
Being a parent is such a great privilege and joy. It is also challenging. It causes you to dig deep and find resources within you that you never knew you had. You can do it. Stand encouraged today! Your greatest challenge will become your greatest victory.