Parenting is a tough gig.
The whole thing goes by crazy fast and it’s all too easy when you’re in the middle of it all to get caught up in the minutia of what other people think, chore charts, discipline methods, dance lessons, parent teacher nights, birthday parties, homework, sleepovers, and the social politics of fifth-grade girls instead of asking the hard questions like:
What kind of an adult do I want at the end of this journey?
How do I train a child who will train their child to love Jesus?
How do I make the most of the years I have with this kid?
Parenting books are good, I have no issues with book knowledge. However, truth-be-told many authors of parenting books have not actually raised a child to adulthood. Furthermore, parenting techniques go in and out of style and one of the most frustrating aspects of parenting is that you start out with a lot of theories on the subject but you can’t really know what’s going to work until it’s over. For that reason I asked some mothers of grown children I admired to find out what they wish they could go back and do differently.
Every Mother I talked to confessed at least a couple of things they wish they had done differently. Following are five mistakes that tended to come up over and over again:
Failing to become a student of your child-
Many of the older Mothers I have spoken with deeply regret not understanding who their kids really were. Many admitted to imposing their own goals on their kids rather than letting them figure out what God was calling them to do. I am convinced that the number one responsibility of a parent is to help their child to know and understand him or herself. Kids need to leave our homes with a deep awareness of their strengths and weaknesses, character quirks and tendencies towards sin. It is not a parent’s job to decide what a child should do and then guide them toward her goals for their lives, but rather to observe her kids and help them to dream dreams and form goals based on their own unique talents and abilities.
Thinking bad behaviors are cute-
This has been a reoccurring theme among moms. For whatever reason, things like intense competitiveness, smart mouthing, nitpickiness, precociousness with the opposite sex, melodrama and enhancing the truth can be oddly charming on adorable little children. Those same actions become less charming and even offensive when you’re dealing with an older child or a young adult. The next time your little cutie gets flirty with the boy or girl next door, saunters out in a skimpy ensemble, demands they win for the hundredth time, tells you a whopper of a tale, or says something saucy, try and imagine what that behavior might look like on a fourteen-year-old. Any seasoned parent will tell you that it’s much easier to break an ugly habit in a child than in a teenager
Disregarding the spiritual-
Every human being has a dark side. It’s our nature. Belief in the God of the Bible has helped keep the ugly side of humankind in check for eons. Taking your kid to church and teaching them to apply Christian principles to their lives will go a long way in helping to keep narcissism, greed, violent tendencies, and self-interest from spiraling out of control in future years. In order to make the spiritual a priority something else will have to take a backseat like sports and other extracurricular activities.
Not finding out what they really think-
Even the best Moms can be guilty of telling kids what to think rather than finding out what and why they think what they think. When we push our views without listening to theirs we drive wrong thinking underground where the wrong thinking becomes embedded in their character. Ask questions to discover what your kids believe about issues. Don’t jump to correct every little thing they say or they will shut down and stop talking. Instead, ask them further questions about why they think what they think and then gently help them see the eventual end game of a faulty belief system.
An unwillingness to change your mind or admit wrong-
Admitting we got something wrong and changing course in front of our kids is one of the most uncomfortable and humbling things in the world. However, it’s we must do on occasion because it is extraordinarily prideful and foolish not to. It’s not as if they won’t figure out on their own that we don’t actually know everything. Kids desperately need role models who are willing to humble themselves, apologize when wrong and change course when necessary.
Good parenting is not really about being perfect (Thank God!). Good parenting is about loving our kids enough to help them discover who they really are and what they might be good at. It’s about modeling grace and humility. Good parenting is about looking ahead at what present behavior might eventually become and loving our kids enough to educate them about the God who loves them even more than we do.