My oldest child turned 20 this weekend (Happy Birthday Will!). With that, I now can claim twenty years of parenting experience. If you add up the ages of my three kids, this is the year where that total also equals my age of 46. Not sure what that adds to the post but it was just a fun fact.
Anyway, with all of that experience I’ve learned quite a few lessons along the way. I wanted to capture my top twenty list to commemorate one for each year. In no particular order, those are listed below.
- Manners matter. I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to hear others compliment your child’s use of manners. Please, Thank You, Yes Sir/Ma’am are all still welcome in adult circles. Teach your kids respect for others and respect for themselves and the manners will come naturally.
- Make the punishment fit the crime. One of my best parenting moments came when my oldest wouldn’t share a toy. I made him play with that toy and nothing else for the next hour. No more problems with sharing.
- Never give up. No matter how much they frustrate you, they are your children. You brought them into this world and they are your responsibility. Even into adulthood, you continue to mold and influence their minds. Always be there for them.
- Know when to say no (and yes). Don’t be a pushover to your child or run the risk of spoiling them. But never saying yes takes the fun out of life.
- Share meals together. At least once per day, sit down as a family for a meal. This will get tougher as they get older, but make it a priority. And turn off the television and cell phones at the table.
- Fairness can’t always reign. As much as we would like to be fair and balanced, it won’t always happen. While you can’t always be fair, you can always do the right thing.
- Introduce them to God. They live with us just a few short years on this earth. Their relationship with God determines whether they live with you in eternity.
- Trust but verify. We all want to trust our kids and give them the benefit of the doubt. But they will test and stretch your boundaries. If ever in doubt, do not be afraid to verify your child’s activities. You just might save their life.
- Maintain margin and balance. Your kid needs time and space to just be a kid. They don’t need an endless schedule of activities and sports to validate their existence and prove their worth.
- Be an example. If nothing else, show integrity. If you tell your kid to do or not do something, model the same behavior. Nobody likes a hypocrite, and “Do as I say, not as I do” is very disingenuous.
- Teach them about money. Like it or not, money is important. If you want your child to leave home and stay gone when they reach adulthood, you’ll do this.
- Present a united front. Parenting is tough. Your kids will work both sides of the Mom and Dad fence if you let them. As parents you don’t always have to agree, but you do need to be united. Whatever decision you both reach on an issue, support each other as parents.
- Give them problems. The temptation is great to protect our kids at all cost. However, if they don’t learn to solve problems during childhood then why should they in adulthood? My oldest once faced a shortage of cash to pay his car insurance. Instead of paying it for him, I gave him options. In short, a couple of months later he had everything caught up and cleared up through some extra work. He said later that it was definitely better for him to learn how to deal with it himself.
- Show physical affection. Your kids need this like they need air, sunshine, and water. If you don’t shower them with hugs and rough-housing then they will find someone who will give it to them.
- Seek out teachable moments. Embrace those occasions when your child is faced with a dilemma. Help them reason to a logical conclusion. Be open and honest with your mistakes and help them avoid the same ones.
- Expect them to be great. Don’t make excuses for your child. Tell them they’re going to be great. The mind is a powerful playground, and what they hear often translates into what they become. When they aren’t great, be there to tell them that you love them and are proud of them anyway.
- Be a parent, not their friend. Your child will have plenty of friends. They need you to be their caretaker, their guardian, their mentor, their provider, and their defender.
- Celebrate their uniqueness. One of the most precious gifts you can give your children is to identify their strengths. Then, go one step further and help them develop their strengths. We tend to focus on what’s broken or what our children struggle. Instead, emphasize what they’re good at. What outcome do you desire for them – would you rather they move from a poor to an average science student or from a good to an outstanding writer?
- Be involved. It’s hard to tell a child that something like school is important to you if you are never involved. I tried to be at all of my kids’ activities, but I was late to one of my son’s ball games when he was seven. Turns out that I missed him catching a fly ball because of work. Since then, I’ve tried to make every event possible, on time.
- One size does not fit all. Your children are unique. What works with one child may not work with the other. The most effective parenting model adapts to the child and to the situation.
All of this translates to a commitment of time and energy. Which would be the overarching lesson that I’ve learned – your kids need you. They don’t need more money, more clothes, or more vacations. They don’t need cars, iPhones, or Nikes to boost their self-worth. They need you.
Discussion Question – What other parenting lessons would you share? Join the conversation!
Like this? Please like or share with your friends using the buttons below.
Want more? Use the Subscribe or Social Media widgets above.