Being a parent is like jumping out of an airplane. You only get one chance to get it right. The thrill of beginning the journey is replaced by a hope that everything lands on target. Pam and I today are out of the plane, the rip cord has been pulled and we are drifting slowly down to the target zone, parents of two normal and somewhat amazing teenagers. We are not parenting experts, but we are experienced.
Not long ago, I was asked to consider writing a parenting book. I told them no one should write a book on parenting until all their kids were out of the house and successfully launched into adulthood. In fact, the toughest part of parenting may be the time your kids leave the house until they are married or launched. We still have that part of the journey ahead of us.
Looking back on the toddler and elementary years, Pam and I made a lot of mistakes, but got a few things right. Here are a few insights that I hope are helpful.
1. Be predictable when they are young. Most bad behaviors with little ones happen at 2pm in a Wal-Mart or at 9pm in a restaurant. That’s because they should be napping and sleeping at those times, not in aisle 3 or at a Red Robin. Stay on your schedule and you will have less tantrums. That is good for all of us.
2. Get control of bad manners as soon as they recognize the Queen’s English. It’s a lot easier to wrestle their rebellion to the ground when they are in onesy’s than when they are wanting to borrow your car. We demand Abram and Callie say “yes m’am” and “no m’am”, “please” and “thank you” with no exceptions. Old school, maybe, but I don’t like brats, especially in my house. Plus, we are from the Deep South and we practically invented manners. And cornbread.
3. Both our kids are taught to respond immediately to us when we call their name. Ignoring mom and dad is not an option. When they are older, I hope they will respond as quickly when God whispers to them.
4. Our kids are required to greet us when we come home. We also greet them when they come home. If they ignore my entrance, whatever TV show or game that is distracting them, gets turned off.
5. We laugh a lot at our house. Make sure you enter their world, learn their jokes, and giggle with them, even if it’s over really silly stuff.
6. Learn their love language. Read Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages” to learn how your child primarily gives and receives love. It will change your relationship for the better, I promise.
7. Model a passionate lifestyle of following Jesus. Our kids are paying a lot more attention to what we do and say than we think. Passionate parents most often produce passionate children. Live it in front of them, pray with them and they will catch it.
8. One on one time is super important. They must know that they are individuals with immense importance to you. Spend time with them, even when they beg to be left alone. They will remember your persistence and thank you later.
9. Give them responsibilities that have rewards for being obedient and consequences for missing the mark. I have these same responsibilities as an adult. It’s called a job.
10. Slow down the pace and savor their innocence. I know your kid is probably going to write the next great concerto, but that insane schedule you have them on every week is not fun for you or them. Let them be kids with a lot of space to breathe and play. Let them have a sabbath, too. The 10 commandments are for everyone.
If you are really serious about finding a better rhythm for family living, I wrote a book that may be helpful.
What have you learned along the way?