I am the proud parent of 4 strong young boys. I have been thinking a great deal about parenting this week because one of them is having a birthday. Today I want to share a few simple lessons I have learned on this journey.
1. All children desire attention, give it to them.
Talk to your kids. Listen to them. Ask them questions. Take an interest in their activities and achievements. If you do not give them attention someone else will. Boys and girls both turn to dating and sex because they desire someone to love them. Children turn to negative behavior if that gets the most attention. I encourage everyone to be their child’s biggest fan and supporter.
2. Be a parent, not a best friend.
I love my kids and I think my kids love me. I honestly believe we have a great relationship. But early on I realized I needed to be a parent more than their friend. This enables me to still hand out discipline and direction. I am not afraid to hurt their feelings and tell them no.
I see a lot of parents, especially divorced parents, who want to be their children’s friend so much that they will never say no or offer direction for fear they will be rejected. Then a strange dynamic happens as the child becomes the dominant player in the relationship and manipulates their own way. I have come to believe that I am the only one who can be their father and they can find friends anywhere.
3. Who you teach them to become is more important than what you teach them to do.
Character building is more important than skill building. I have been thinking about how my boys are very good at sports and I am so poor at them. I know that they have inherited their mother’s athletic ability and not mine but I think there is something deeper. Michelle and I have tried to teach our boys to give 100% to anything you do. Work hard at everything. We do not make excuse and blame others, we just do the work. This character lesson has translated into all kinds of skills. My boys are good at school, at sports and pretty much anything they do, because they give it their all.
4. You will always feel insecure about your parenting
While I write this article with some amount of confidence, I am still very unsure in my mind. Did I do the right things? Have I taught them enough? Did I instruct their character without them resenting? I could go on and on and on. None of us are sure as a parent, no matter how much we proclaim to be.
5. Enjoy the ride.
With every passing year you enter new phases of a child’s life. They go from toddlers to teenagers very quickly. I have often found myself longing for the next phase. I have wanted them to get out of diapers or through that whiny phase. I have wanted them to be less dependent and I have wanted them to be more dependent. Then I realize that with every phase there have been moments of sheer joy. Stop and enjoy those moments if you can, they will soon be gone. Every phase brings new challenges but also new joys.
This is not an exhaustive list of all that I have learned, but these are some of the big lessons that God has underlined to me over and over again. Hopefully they help you in some tiny little way.