I don’t know a parent out there who doesn’t want good kids. The problem is, we all have different ideas of what “good” looks like. For some it means kids who behave well in public, while for others it means kids who will be successful in school, or will grow up to have a lucrative career. For us, it means kids who love God and love others; who know who they are and aren’t afraid to live it and who desire to have a positive impact in the world. Sounds pretty lofty, doesn’t it? Perhaps, but we believe it is achievable, especially with consistent practice of these five concepts.
1. Have a plan. Nobody would begin to bake an elaborate tiered wedding cake without a recipe. Even more foolish would be to begin construction on a 30-story office building without building plans. Aren’t our children’s lives more valuable and important than either of those pursuits?
Kids come into the world so small and vulnerable, and we have such lofty ideas for how we want them to turn out. But soon, we are caught in the whirlwind of diapers and night feeds. Those give way to toddlers and tantrums. Slowly but surely, time creeps on, morphing our little, cherub-faced kids into awkward, bumbling pre-teens. Before we know it they’ll be moving out while we ask ourselves “where did the time go?”
Knowing where we want our kids to go will guide our parenting decisions [tweet this].
Take some time to write down five attributes you want your kids to have (internal character traits), such as wisdom, patience or resilience. Then, move on and write down five life skills you want them to have (external habits or abilities), such as co-operation or money-sense. Ideally, this will be done with your spouse and those who are a part of your parenting team. Evaluate them regularly and evaluate whether they are still in line with your values for your children and your family.
2. Work from the inside out. As parents, we’re very externally-focused. There is an old joke that a toddler was sitting in time-out and as he scowled as his mother he said “I might be sitting on the outside but I’m standing on the inside!” I would rather have a child who is obedient and kind in their heart than one who obeys only out of fear of punishment or to get their own way later. It is difficult to determine how this plays out for young children, but I usually gauge it by my kids’ temperament and expressions. Even our 18-month old is capable of displaying either defiance or repentance. Whenever I need to discipline, I try to ask myself “What character quality is this addressing?” and I try to work on explaining that to the child to make it a learning experience for both of us. If their hearts are in the right place, their actions will follow.
3. Teach empathy and compassion. We are born self-centered. Those who’ve been around young children cannot deny it. It is our job as parents to demonstrate and teach our kids that despite being the centre of our world, there is a whole world that surrounds them. Focusing on how our actions make other people feel is a good way to begin. If your child hits someone, rather than just rebuking with a “don’t hit”, explain that hitting doesn’t demonstrate kindness and can hurt not only other’s bodies but their feelings too. From there we can teach them to see things from another persons perspective, or helping someone else to have a happier or easier day.
4. Know when to let go. “You can’t win ’em all” applies equally to parenting as it does to sports. Sometimes we as parents get so focused on winning that we lose sight of what we’re even fighting for. One issue that we routinely deal with is supper-time drama. There was one night recently that I chose to put my foot down in regards to what we wanted our daughter to eat. She was equally as stubborn as I was and it didn’t end well. In trying to win the battle I momentarily lost her heart. In this instance, it might be necessary to go back and ask ourselves why we’re not backing down and whether it is a critical issue or not. In parenting, like in sports, consistency is key. The occasional fumble isn’t going to make or break our kids or our relationship with them. Funny thing is, once I let go of fighting her at meal time, she has become remarkably more open to trying, and enjoying, new foods!
5. Keep love at the centre. Parenting is a marathon: long and challenging. Changes don’t happen overnight, and sometimes it gets difficult to wait for issues to pass. Keeping love at the centre means having the perspective that it is our job to raise and guide our children, yes, but even more important it is our job to love them unconditionally.
We love them.
They try our patience.
We love them.
They hurt our feelings.
We love them.
It is important to find out what communicates love to your child, or what makes them tick. If your child is young, try to notice when they’re happiest or what makes their eyes light up. Maybe it’s when you read a book to them, or take them on a special outing together. If your kids are a bit older, ask them what makes them feel loved or special; their answers might surprise you and may change the way you relate to them.
These five tips might sound simple but they aren’t easy. We are striving each day to follow these guidelines in our parenting. Sometimes we succeed. Other times we fail. But we persevere and that’s what parenting is all about.