05 September, 2013

Ten Things Parenting has Taught Me

NOTE: Our main computer is currently flaking out, so I don't have access to a lot of my pictures. I hope to get a post up about the end of August, but we will see! In the meantime....

Today's culture, to me, seems vastly different from any before it. Any more, it is considered not only normal, but also acceptable that children throw temper tantrums and that teenagers are the most feared beast of this generation. The more I study the Bible, and the longer I parent, there are things that stand out clearly to me. Here are my Top Ten:

1: Children need to learn to obey.
Ephesians 6:1-3: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'—which is the first commandment with a promise— 'so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'”
From the beginning, our children learn that their good choices lead to happy consequences, and that their bad choices lead to sad consequences. The entire basis for requiring them to obey is because of an order of authority. Daddy and Mommy obey God, and they obey us. The goal is that they learn the beauty of Jesus' obedience to God the Father in laying down His life for us. Understanding the obedience of Jesus Christ leads to what Ephesians speaks of-a desire to obey because you are part of God's family, and because you have a right desire for heavenly rewards. There is no shame is desiring the reward of obeying God, and children should be raised to know this!
On an immediately practical note, teaching that behavior has consequences will lead to a simpler life. Instruction on our part can often be said in one word: "Choose". All I have to say to my kiddos is, "choose", because we have a long-standing precedent that if they disobey there will be consequences (and what child wants to go sit in the car with one parent while their siblings get to finish out the shopping trip?). Nine times out of ten they shape up, cheer up, and behave themselves because they know dad and mom will follow through.

2. Parents need to do what is right before God.
Ephesians 6:4: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
Let's set the record straight: I have exasperated my children.
Let's get something else straight: As parents, Scott and I are responsible for what our young children understand, what they do, how they respond to any situation, their manners, and what they are learning.
Every time I see the Lord Jesus in Scripture, He was so patient with the most ridiculous people! And let's be honest, children can be ridiculous. But part of bringing them up, "in the training and instruction of the Lord", I believe, is teaching them what Jesus said, and did, and how much grace He gives. I am not afraid to apologize to my children, because I seriously mess up and am constantly understanding the grace of God more and more. I think children need to learn about grace by example, and learn about patience and kindness and faith and love by example. The very best I can do with that is point them to the Lord.

3. Healthy living is a necessity.
Proverbs 31:17: "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks."
This one is pretty straightforward: If I can not live a healthy lifestyle, if I am not fit for tasks, if I am unable to do my work with cheerful ability, I should not ask my children (or my husband, for that matter) to do anything for me.
I realize that every situation is different, everyone's health is different, I am merely stating this fact as something I have learned. However, I do think it should be taken into serious consideration by every healthy, capable woman! 

4. I desperately need God.
Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise."
I can only teach my children what I know. Therefore, I need to know God. 

5. Understand the balance in the imbalance.
This is more practical application than anything else. 
There are times the children get sick. They puke all over, and it has to be cleaned up. Scott does the laundry, I clean the kiddos. It works, and it gets the job done. Granted, this job is done at 2 in the morning, so the next day will be slow and lackadaisical. 
There are times that I am sick, or Scott is sick, and part of survival is letting the kiddos watch a movie while we sack out on the couch next to them with a hot pack and a bottle of DayQuil (only sort of kidding on this one). 
Anyone who looks from the outside in can assume that a family has it all together, that the children never argue, and that the parents are always a team and always loving and understanding toward one another. This is true most of the time, but life isn't always perfect. There are runny noses to be wiped, dirty bums to be cleaned, and puke that happens. It is all part of life well lived, and patience learned, and grace in the every day muddle. I believe it is one way we learn to understand how God picks us up from our messes.

6. My marriage comes first.
Life can get very focused around the everyday, so much so that I forget my husband needs me too! We have to plan dates, plan time to just sit and relax. Take time to talk. Flirt, laugh, tease. Pray together, for each other. Parenting comes second to being married. Strength in marriage leads to teamwork and strength in parenting.

7. It is impossible to keep my children from everything.
 I don't want to keep them from everything, either. But there are those dreaded conversations, those times when Ava repeats a word because it sounded cool. And each time is a chance to say, "Those words do not honor God, and they do not please Him. If you need to exclaim over something, an appropriate phrasing would be _____." Ephesians 4:29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
 Sometimes siblings are mean, sometimes other kids are mean, and that's something to deal with. Learning to be kind when others are not, to establish boundaries ("If they are being rude or hurting you, tell them no and walk away. You should not let anyone hurt you."), to stand up for what is right, and to do it all in a way that honors God. Ephesians 4:2: "Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love."
And last but not least, I pray for my children. Whether it's praying with them in the middle of the night when they've had a bad dream, or praying for patience when they are being recalcitrant and I'm at my wit's end, or praying for their safety every time we walk through a parking lot, I pray for my children. When we discipline them, we pray with them; we pray that they learn to obey, and pray for wisdom for daddy or mommy.
I pray that they will have a desire and a longing to know God, to live lives that honor Him and glorify Him. That they will want to be like the Lord Jesus, and give Him first place as example for their lifestyle. 
Prayer is powerful; remembering that it is our communication with God the Father keeps it in proper perspective.

8. It is okay to give up what I want to do.
Philippians 2:3: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."
As a child, and as a teenager, I was always incredibly frustrated if something didn't work out and plans for fun were ruined. As an adult, I became less selfish about them, and then as a parent, WOW! It was as if God designed parenting to weed out selfishness in our lives. Our plans rarely come out 100% as we intended, and I have learned to just be okay with it. God knows what we need, and we don't always need to go to every event that comes our way.
Beware: If you are not ready to give up your own agenda or your own wants, don't be a parent.   

9. Get Over Being Easily Embarrassed.
Many, many times, my children have asked me things that can either make my cheeks burn, my heart palpitate, and my knees weak, or can be a teaching moment. For everyone present, ha!
"Mommy, he has an ugly tattoo." (Very loudly in a store.) "Well, I don't prefer that tattoo either, but apparently they did. That's a choice they made." 
Let them learn early that they don't have to agree with everyone's choices. 
"Mommy, why does that man have a wheelchair?" (Loudly, while pointing.) "Because he is not able to walk. God designed everything to be perfect, but sin has made things imperfect. Sometimes that means people can not walk or talk properly, and we can show compassion and kindness and honor the Lord Jesus. Even though they have trouble, God loves them very much. Pointing and speaking loudly is rude, and you may ask me quietly next time you have a question. Why don't you smile and say hello if we pass them."
Walk through the value of a person with them; help them see others as God does.
I had to realize very quickly that my decision in a situation sets a lot of ground work for how my children will handle future situations.

10. The Longer You Live, the Faster Life Goes.
I looked at my 2-year-old Lucy today, and saw how capable she is, how verbal she is, how grown up she is. I am so excited for the independence my children are gaining, yet at the same time I feel as though I merely blinked and 4 1/2 years whisked by. 
Value every moment, and don't sit wishing your time away. God has designed life to be well lived; make choices that reflect your desire to honor Him.

Thanks for reading along. Again, these are simply things I have personally learned. 
If you have something you have learned that you would enjoy sharing, I would love to hear it!


1 comment:

  1. Hannah, you are such a treasure. Thanks for being real and for being awesome :) Love you!