So far I’ve found that parenting kids and teens produces many more unsatisfying questions than it does answers. It is frustratingly rare to have a moment where I say to myself – “Hey, my kids were doing this, so I did this to encourage/discourage that and now they have become this/did that and will forevermore be this/do that as long as they all shall live”, or the shorter version: “Yay, me!”
It just doesn’t happen, does it?
You don’t have to search far in the blogosphere to find parents asking ”Am I getting it right?” If we’re not careful that question can turn into trying to get an ironclad guarantee from everyone in internet-land who has an opinion that we are going to get the results we want as long as we follow formula a or formula b. Unfortunately we can give those sometimes-thoughtful opinions and occasionally-helpful techniques way more power than they deserve.
Occasionally I find myself spiralling into a fit (or even a pit!) of despair when things don’t seem to be going as I would like with one of my younglings. I can turn second-guessing and forecasting permanent doom and gloom into an Olympic sport if I’m not careful.
There is no definitive list on how to parent perfectly, but these are some of the things that help me to keep things in perspective when raising these awesome kids God has blessed us with.
1) Parenting is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you are frustrated, take heart – this stage that you are in is not going to be forever. The admirable or questionable behaviour that we see in our kids now, isn’t a promise that it will be like that forever.
2) You can control some things, but you can’t control everything. There has yet to be a generation born without free-will. Understanding what drives your kids and what makes them tick will not help you control them better, but it will help you communicate in ways that will often make reaching that finish line of adulthood much more enjoyable and hopefully more productive. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.
3) Remember that we are training our kids. This differs from simple care and feeding. Training takes teaching the same concepts over and over and over again in many different forms. We teach our kids to be kind, generous, loving and thoughtful not by singular events but through continual practice. Filling Christmas shoeboxes once a year will not make for generous children if we don’t back that valuable object lesson up by living and encouraging a generous lifestyle.
4) Sometimes parenting is like trying on shoes. What fits one kid, won’t always fit another. Even if you find something that is a perfect fit, children develop and change and eventually outgrow what fits in the moment right now. How many teenagers do you know that find 15 minutes on the naughty-spot to be helpful in changing their hearts?
5) Remember you can’t control everything. Did I say that yet? I usually need to be reminded more than once. So, you know, let go already.
6) Pray. A lot. God has been parenting for pretty much forever. He’s definitely seen it before and has equipped you uniquely to raise your exceptional children. I’ve found prayer doesn’t always calm the storm around me, but it often quiets the one raging in my own heart. And when my heart is still, I listen better.
7) Think Big. Grace is a big concept. It cannot be turned into a tidy checklist with a money-back guarantee. And that is so, so frustrating some days. We need to raise our kids with that same grace God demonstrates to us and give them the chance to be transformed from within as well. If you can do that, you’ll set your family free…I can practically guarantee it 😉