Lessons God Has Taught Me About Parenting

Recently, I was asked if I gave talks on parenting. I laughed! Me? I am still learning how to parent and most of my kids are still being raised. I have no advice! I am still in the “I need all the advice I can get” stage. I am the last person that wants to give advice on parenting in any way shape or form! However, I also watch parenting in society, and even in our churches, that leave me scratching my head wondering where they are getting their parenting skills! Or…at the risk of sounding snarky…are they even parenting at all? I digress.The lady asking me asked me to come home and please email her any thoughts I had. Since I had a 2 hour drive after that conversation, I had a lot of driving time to think about this. The following are my thoughts that I have learned in my 20 years of parenting. Give me 20 more years and I am sure I will have learned SO much more! I pray I will have.

HUGE Disclaimer:

I wish I could say I have this down. I don’t. When I can keep Alicia out of the way and let the Holy Spirit rule my life, things run so much smoother. When things aren’t going well, I pull out the mirror for MY heart! These truths are what I know are right – not truths I have managed to live consistently each day. It is my desire to, and so I find myself apologizing a lot to my children and praying often for the Lord to show me my true heart towards them and for Him.

And now…my thoughts….

1. Our Foundation

We often think as parents that we need help with child training when in reality, we need parent training. Many times, children are just mirrors of the home. Because of that, it is vital that we don’t even enter the thought process that we can “train these kids to turn out,” In reality, we can’t. We can only model and pour God’s Word into their lives and pray that the sowing and watering of His Word will bring forth the increase since it is God that brings the increase.

There is no formula that produces godly children. Oh, we may produce some moral heathens, but godliness is a choice that each one of our children must make on their own. Thus it is so important that they see the rawness and realness of the Christian life and what it means to be a follower of Jesus…and that life must be shown to them as worth every single moment…in the good and the bad.There is no way that we can “show” that life and live it as a fake or a facade. Our children see right through us. They will see every glaring crack and they will see every single time we are hypocrites. Since we will be guiding them towards righteousness, they will point out every time we are unrighteous! And…since we will make mistakes…over and over…we must enter parenthood with that clear understanding and humility….that we are ALL (parents and children alike) on the road to being more like Jesus and less like our flesh, and that we are ALL fellow journeyers on this road…ALL disciples of Jesus Christ to continue maturing and learning and growing. We need to admit to our children that just like them, mommy and daddy are also desperately in need of Jesus and His sweet love and forgiveness for when we mess up – just like they are. And that we do NOT have all the answers nor do we pretend to have it all together. But that together, we will all go to God for our help…a very present help in our time of trouble,,,and that we will seek His Word and His wisdom to guide us as parents as we help guide them as children.If the foundation is not Jesus….for ALL of us…we are already setting ourselves up for failure because there are no perfect kids, and there are no perfect parents – but there is a perfect Savior!God is the perfect Heavenly Father and if we could all parent like Him, we would feel so good about this all! He is our example, and while we are not perfect like He is, He does model godly parenting that we can learn from.

  • God gives unconditional love.
God has loved us first (like we have our children), God has loved us without conditions (He created us and has a plan for our lives since conception) and it is His will and desire that none perish but all come to Him. His love is not moody like ours, nor is His love based on how we treat Him. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He never squabbles with us about His role as our Father. He just is. He is confident and stable in His position to our lives. We are the ones that get bigger than our britches and have weird emotions with Him. But our wild mood swings and temper tantrums don’t phase Him. He just deals with us with a perfect love that is always balanced in His perfect truth.
The practical application can be seen in our homes. Many times, our great insecurities in our role as parents leave our children on a roller coaster where sometimes we are the big bad boss yelling our commands and wanting obedience while we count to 3…or 20…., other times we are soft teddy bears wilting at their tears, or we are just so weary we give in to their constant begging and pleading. We go back and forth and our children really never know “what” parent they are going to get today because we are so easily swayed by our emotions.This ought not to be so. We need to look at our children through eyes of love that asks what they truly need…not what they want (they don’t even know half the time). We need to rest in the fact we do know what they need as the mature adult and make our decisions known to them – not with anger, but assertively and confidently in the authority and trust that God has placed us in for their well-being.
Example: “Mommy, I want some candy.”
Do they need the candy right now? Is it best for them? Do you want them to wait until after supper? What is the right thing for them. Then answer with confidence and assurance that you ARE loving them by acting according to what is best for them.God always chooses what is best for us. We don’t always agree or like it, but it does not change the truth that He abides in. It is in His great love that He does NOT give me my way….for that would not always be what is best for my life. It is a wise leader who will walk in truth and not be swayed by emotion. Emotion makes a wonderful caboose, but a terrible engine. Keep them in their place.
  • God gives choices and consequences.
God says that He sets before us life and death…so choose life! As a parent, there are certain things that are non-negotiables in our house. As they leave our home and live in their own, they may not make choices that we have. However, as long as they are under our roof and we are paying their way, there will be non-negotiables. These are the choices we are making to do in our home, and if you live in our home, this is what you will do. If you choose another way, and you may, but the consequence will not be to live in our home. This is referring to being over the age of 18. As long as they are minors, they don’t even have a choice not to. I have been shocked by church members I see that give their 14 year old children the option to attend church or not. They come and ask prayer for their children to attend church, yet they don’t make them. Mind blown.
How do choices and consequences work in younger kids we are trying to teach this God principle to?“Johnny, I would like you to clean your room thoroughly this week. I don’t care what day you do it, but it must get done this week.” So Johnny procrastinates (as most Johnny’s do) because that is just not his thing. He keeps putting it off and he really does forget. So, now that it is the weekend, Johnny wants to have a friend come over or wants to go over to the friends house on Sunday afternoon. What do you do?
You help Johnny understand choices and consequences. You gave Johnny liberty in the when, but you were clear on the what. If Johnny did not do what you asked (even if he really forgot – which he really didn’t forget…he kept putting it off….which is procrastination…which is a bad character quality…so many parenting opportunities here), you ask Johnny if he cleaned his room. When he says “No, I forgot all about that!!” You say, “I hate that you made that choice Johnny. I know that I was clear in what needed to be done and my responsibility is to communicate clearly, but it was your responsibility to remember. Since you didn’t, I have no choice but to say no. You aren’t going to be able to go or do anything else until that room is clean.This may seem like such a silly exercise, but it is SO easy to just let these things go and we are not helping our children learn accountability, or character, or work ethic, or personal responsibility, or anything. 90% of us will know we shouldn’t let him go if he didn’t do it, but Johnny’s begging and promises to do better next time will have most of us caving. And you know what we taught Johnny? We taught him that our word doesn’t have much value, and that his bad choices don’t have any consequences. Scripture is FULL of God telling us our choices and setting before us the choice and path He desires for us to take, and Scripture is full of stories of many who disregarded His words. But let’s not forget that Scripture is also full of many examples of the consequences that were given to them because of their choices. So, we must NOT let that lesson slip past teaching our children these very serious truths.
  • God is a God of grace.
Our children can never understand grace if they do not understand consequences. Grace is God giving me what I do not deserve. It is so important for our children to grow up knowing that the world is not about them. We are to love and serve one another. We are to prefer one another. We are to submit to one another. We are to be kind to one another. We are to not only love our enemies, but are to do good to them in return!There are two life views…one looks in a mirror and only sees themselves. The other looks in a window and although he can see his reflection, it is a part of the world outside. Our children need to know they are fearfully and wonderfully made! God has knit them together in our wombs for their work in His kingdom and for His glory. Sin knocks that plan in the head and so our children need Jesus to follow Him for the purpose they were created! It is a glorious calling, and they cannot know that they are hear to serve Jesus, if we make life all about them. We love them unconditionally, we encourage good choices and have consequences for bad choices, yet we also must help them see their place in life. To do good, to love others and to be servant leaders in the kingdom of God.
These opportunities will arise all throughout their childhood….from every friendship that they get hurt in, every conflict they are engaged in, every rotten attitude they partake in, every sin they are enticed by….over and over and over we have opportunities to share the power of Gospel – not only for our home in Heaven, but for our presence on Earth.
The very best we deserve as sinners, is hell. That is the consequence I deserve. Yet God, in His amazing grace, took that punishment for me and gave me life. When I receive that gift of salvation, it is a heart of gratitude…and knowing what I deserve….that should put my heart in a humble position that compared to hell, nothing I will ever endure or go through is as bad as that. That heart gratitude keep me from being a “victim of life” and instead keeps me victorious in Jesus! THIS needs preached to our children! Children!! Jesus loves you so much, He took what we deserved. Because of that great love, we love. We love first in our home, and we love others outside of our home. By this shall others know you are my disciples….IF you have love for one another.
Once we have this understanding as our Foundation of thoughts….we can now move on to what this looks like in our homes as mothers….
2. Our Families
They say that more is caught than is taught. I don’t know about that, but Scripture does tell us that our life is like a book and it is being read by men. Since that is true, then that means the first people that get the first edition of our lives, is our families.
Our families know the real us. They know our hearts, our attitude, our desires, our like and dislikes. They know when they get on our nerves. They know if we really like them. The question is….if your family is reading the story of Jesus in your life, what would they think of Him? If we gain the whole world (which we project to them what we want them to think of us), yet we lose our own soul, what good is that?
Likewise, if we give everyone the good Christian impression…except for our families…are we frauds? I am a failure as a follower of Jesus if my own family cannot see Him in me first. So many times, we spout the right words to our children yet we model just the opposite.
“JOHNNY!!!!” we scream. “I HAVE TOLD YOU 20 TIMES TODAY TO BE NICE TO YOUR SISTER!!! I am sick of telling you this!!!”
What we said was to be nice. What we screamed was that we are being ugly while telling him to be nice. We are hypocrites. He knows it.
We say to our husbands…”Ugh. I hate how I look. I look like a fat slob and my nose is too big.” He says, “Honey you are beautiful!” You say, “Stop lying.” Our daughter comes and says (at 12 years old), “I am fat and ugly.” You say, “You are NOT!!! You are beautiful….just the way God made you!” She doesn’t believe you believe that….and neither will she.We want our children to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We want God to be real to them! We want them to love God and not rebel against Him, yet, how often do we intentionally talk with our children about God. When do we pray over little things with them? When do we stop throughout the week and point out things in nature or life and draw a spiritual truth for them? Jesus was ALWAYS pointing to nature to teach his truths (the olive tree, the vineyards, the fig tree). How often, in our daily lives, do we just add a sentence or two about God and His goodness? Do we make God personal to our children? Do we walk in God’s truth? Do we live in the light of who we are in Christ and that WE…as women…are strong and beautiful daughters of God? Do we grumble and complain and gripe and gossip? Do we daily have the joy of the Lord as our strength or do we play the martyr card that our lives, our marriages, our church, our kids…are all just straining and stressing us to the max….and we just need a break! A break….from the precious family that God has given to us because He knows that we, as mothers, have the strongest influence on our children.
Our lives are telling our children a story about God. What story is it telling?
  • That God isn’t really a big deal in our daily life? If we never make Him daily, that is what we are saying.
  • That God doesn’t know what He is doing in my life? When we grumble about every trial that is what we are saying.
  • That God made a mistake in me? That is what we are saying when we complain about our bodies.
  • That God isn’t enough to fulfill me and bring me joy? That is what we are saying when we allow any circumstance (from minor to major) rob us of our joy.

Do you see how major this is? This is not “how to train my children.” This is “how to discipline myself in truth” with God as the foundation leading us in truth and humility and showing us the way as our example.

Our families are the only possession we will ever have on this earth that we can take to Heaven with us. They are the greatest mission field. They are the greatest investment we can make with our lives. They are pieces of us that will continue on after we have gone. Our children are not a status symbol. They are not a “thing” on the American way of life checklist. They are living souls. They need Jesus. They need discipled. They need us to lead the way, and like Paul said, our prayer should be that they follow us as we follow Christ. And let that also be a warning to us…they may follow Christ as they see us follow Him…which could be really lousy if we are not serious disciples and followers of Jesus Christ.

Does this all sound really complicated? It isn’t. Walk humbly, seek wisdom moment by moment from God, grow together with your children, and constantly point one another to our sweet Jesus!
Does this sound time consuming and intentional? Yes, it is. But, their lives are worth every single moment of it!

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