Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.–Psalm 127:3
As much as I know and believe my children are a gift from the Lord, sometimes this parenting thing is HARD. As a mother, I’ve continued to grow in ways I didn’t know were possible, and I’m not done growing, either. I’m very far from being a perfect parent.
I was recently encouraged by Chip Ingram’s Effective Parenting in a Defective World series. My church offered it as an 8-week class a few years ago and I took it then. I walked away with a reframed perspective on parenting and my goal as a mother: to teach my kids how to obey. I liked how Chip pointed out that teaching them to obey me will make it easier for them to obey God as adults.
Recently I pulled my study guide out and looked through my notes again. I noticed some points that resonated differently this time around. I highly recommend you watch the series for yourself, but I wanted to share some of the main concepts that really stood out to me. I hope they encourage you as you grow as a parent, too!
4 Principles to be an Effective Parent
“The stewardship of raising your children is most important.”
No one else is my kids’ mother. No one can fill that role but me! While I know God has placed me in the job I have and guided me to begin blogging, neither of those focus areas are more important than how I raise my kids.
Begin with positive, clear-cut objectives
What are your goals for your kids? How do you define success as a parent? I liked that Chip pointed out the importance of realizing God’s dream for your child versus the human dream for your child.
The world tells us that success is:
- Financial security.
But in Romans 8:29, God tells us He wants us to be like Jesus:
- Set apart.
- Morally pure.
- Counter to the culture.
Chip also brought in Ephesians 6:4:
Fathers, don’t over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Bring them up with Christian teaching in Christian discipline.
So the focus is Christian teaching and Christian discipline.
Practice what we preach
YOU are your child’s most important teacher. Other adults may play a role, but no one has the influence you do as a parent. They’re not just listening to what you say, either; they’re watching what you do. They’ll see how you handle failure. Are you modeling humility and ownership over your forgiveness in Christ? That’s a tough one to be transparent about sometimes.
Build relationships that bond
Tension is going to happen, it’s inevitable (especially at some specific ages). But the stronger your relationship with your kids, the more likely they’ll embrace your values and beliefs as they get older.
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12 shares some fantastic guidance for mothers and fathers:
Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Care for your children. Delight to share your lives. Encourage. Comfort. Urge to live lives worth of God.
Chip also went through eight keys that build relationships that bond:
- Unconditional love.
- Scheduled time.
- Focused attention.
- Eye contact.
- Consistent communication.
- Meaningful touching.
- Having fun together.
- Praying together often.
I’m sure some of these come naturally to you, but some probably don’t. What are some areas you need to work on?
Looking back at my notes, I identified “focused attention” and “eye contact” as two areas I needed to work on. It’s kind of fun to see that I have improved in these areas since then! I still have work to do, but long-term progress can be very encouraging.
This is an area I want to focus on during my prayers with God more regularly. I’m planning to write out the list so I can put it somewhere I’ll see it and remind myself to be integrating those into my time with my kids throughout the day, too!
Constant repair and ongoing maintenance
We’re broken people. We mess up and say what we shouldn’t. I react more than I should, especially when I’m tired. But instead of viewing these as parenting fails, I’m trying to embrace them as opportunities to model how to repair relationships.
Chip shared five magic words: “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
How often do I apologize to my children for my overreaction or distraction? Not enough. I think a lot of us feel so overwhelmed by life and everything we need to do that we just move on. This is another thing I want to work on!
I loved the encouragement Chip provided that it’s never too late to work on this, no matter how old your kids are.
All of us are always going. Looking back three years, I do think I’m a better mom now than I was when I originally did this study. But I’m definitely still not Super Mom, either. I still have a lot of growing to do, and I pray that God will continue to work on me and my kids.
I’m not the perfect mother, but God knew that when he gave me those adorable little gifts. He loves them even more than I do, so I’m trying to trust that He’ll use my mistakes to help them grow into the people he designed them to be.