I am frequently asked what we did or didn't do as parents. I am amazed God has allowed us to raise the two young men we have.
In their mid-20s, they are far better men than I was at their age. They love Jesus. They work hard and provide for themselves. They love others well. What a blessing!
It's all grace.
But, there were a few principles we practiced consistently. All parents should consider them:
1. Be intentional. Parenting is hard work. Don't try it without a plan. It's amazing how we tend to plan for everything in life, but seldom for our parenting. I know men and women who have a plan to improve their golf game, but nothing to help them grow as a father or mother. Parents who plan great social events but have no plan to instill values in their children—they simply react to life as it happens. Some parents scramble to make their children happy, making sure they are in every activity available, but never stop to think what kind of character they want their children to have as adults and what is going to best help them get there.
If you want to be a great parent, you must be intentional about the role. You must have an overall goal and plan for your parenting. This includes an individual plan for each child. They are each different and require unique discipline, interaction and approaches to parenting. It means deciding in advance what the character and values you are going for and thinking through—intentionally—ways to develop them.
At the beginning of each year, we discussed each boy and came up with a shared goal for each one and talked through ways we could better mold their character in the coming year. We thought about character traits should as honesty, integrity and kindness. It made us limit some of their activities so we could spend quality time with them and make sure they were in the right programs (yes church was one) and around the right people influences.
2. Shape the heart. The Bible is clear we should "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). I believe in firm discipline. I also believe in extending much grace. More than anything, however, the parent should learn to know, protect and shape the heart of their child. It is the heart, which will ultimately determine the decisions and directions the child eventually makes in life.
I learned great lessons from older friends and things they did which tended to push their children away rather than draw them closer. I always wanted to have a heart connection to our boys. That doesn't mean giving them everything. Ephesians 6 commands us not to exasperate our children. We exasperate when we have needless rules, when our homes lack grace, or we give them everything but never helping them develop discipline and structure for their life.
We taught our boys biblical principles. We shared with them our own struggles. We built deep connections with them. Again, this required time to develop. We ate most dinner meals together and never turned down an opportunity to throw and catch a ball.
3. Enjoy the ride. Children are children for a very short time. Enjoy those days. The diaper days turn into the diploma days quickly. Be a fun parent—balancing love with discipline. Laughing with your children will help relieve the stress of your life and theirs and keep them wanting to be close to you well into the difficult teen and early adult years.
Let their friends know yours is a welcoming home—where love abounds always. You may not allow everything, but the door should always be open for a child to return. Children can't handle all the stress of the adult world. We didn't hide problems from our boys but we did help them believe God was in control, they could trust Him and us and enjoy being a child.
We played games and made up songs and laughed until it hurt sometimes. We loved seeing our boys enjoy life and grace in our home.
Which of these do you most need to improve upon as a parent?
(Speaking of principles, be sure to read my disclaimer post about them by clicking here.)
Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.
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