Three Principles for Being a Successful Parent
A few years ago I became a grandpa for the first time. Before she was born, I began to think back over almost 30 years of my life as a parent in an effort to offer some advice to my daughter as she begins her new role as mommy. She’s had the same jitters that all new parents go through and as we’ve talked, one of the things I have tried to encourage her with is that everyone feels overwhelmed. Often, new parents feel so overwhelmed with trying to do everything right and their efforts can soon become counterproductive.
So, here’s what I’ve shared with her as I look back over my time being a dad; 95% of the things you worry about as a parent make no difference at all, it just causes stress for you and the child. For example, I’ve seen parents be so uptight about their children being cared for properly that they don’t feel comfortable leaving them with their own parents. If that’s you, may I ask you to consider this question, “If they can’t take care of children, how did you make it through?” I say that tongue-in-cheek recognizing that there are some who had terrible experiences as a child that gives them just cause to be cautious, however, that aside, consider the logic of what I’m saying.
I’d like to offer four suggestions to parents, whether they be newborns, toddlers, or anyone along the way to adulthood. Focus on these three things and you’ll do just fine.
Live for Jesus
There’s no more important thing about a person than what they do with Jesus Christ’s offer of grace and forgiveness by repenting of sin and turning to follow Him. I’m not just talking about praying a prayer or being baptized, I’m saying we need to have an authentic faith in Christ that changes us. This doesn’t mean you’re perfect and don’t make mistakes, we all do, but it’s simply seeking a growing relationship with the God who made you. For more details read 1 John or James to give insight on what this looks like. One critical aspect of this is raising your family in a Bible-teaching church and this means modeling for them the importance of being in the church by choosing to be there rather than the dizzying number of other activities that are available for kids on Sunday and Wednesday.
Keep their belly full and their bottom clean
I put these two together because they are responded to following the same principles. My daughter was concerned over something she heard about making sure you feed children at certain times, so she wouldn’t damage the baby. To which I said, after snickering, “Honey, I promise you the baby will let you know when she’s hungry and if she’s not hungry and you try to feed her, she’ll spit it out.” I know that there are all sorts of “professionals” that have various opinions but we, as the human race, have been at this baby-raising thing for a while and it’s not that rigid a requirement.
Something I’ve noticed about children, they have no social graces. Most of us learn social graces as we mature which keep us from doing things like carrying on when we’re hungry or need to use the restroom. We’ve, again most of us, learned to handle these situations politely and in a way that doesn’t cause a disruption to the community. Kids aren’t like that, if a baby is hungry, they’ll let you know. If the baby is dirty, they won’t be polite about making you aware even at 2:00 AM. So, keep this in perspective and know that you’re not going to get it wrong, it’s just not that complicated.
This is important because we learn so much about how we respond to difficult situations from how we were raised and what was modeled by others. Teach your kids to forgive by being lavishly forgiving of others. Start with them. Children are learning how to navigate life and it’s easy to become frustrated with them, here’s some great wisdom I learned from watching the Disney movie Frozen 8,265 times, (I have two daughters) “Let it go.” Take a deep cleansing breath and just “Let it go.” What is it, you might ask that I should let go? Ninety-five percent of everything that comes down the pike, “Let it go.” Realize that if you have children, things in your home are going to be damaged; if they matter that much put them in a safe deposit box. Realize your car is going to have French fries ground into the carpet, juice box stains all over the seats, and it will acquire an increasingly odd odor. Don’t try to figure out what’s going on, just roll down the window and “Let it go.”
In addition, you’ll need to practice the “Let it go and forgive” principle with others, namely your spouse. Never, no matter how silly a thing your spouse does, put them down to your children. If daddy turns everyone’s underwear pink by washing everything in one load with his new red t-shirt, “Let it go” and talk about how nice that the whole family can have matching skivvies. When your wife thought that the temperature light on the car was really more of a suggestion rather than a warning to stop the engine, “Let it go” and think of how many articles from hunting and fishing magazines you’ll get to read while you wait for the mechanic to fix the overheated engine. Practice forgiveness by extending it to other family members, friends, church members, and yes even your pastor. The practical application of Matthew 18:21-35 should be well-walked ground in your home.
So, parents, I understand your fears and frustrations, I’ve traveled the same roads and these three principles will pay great dividends and greatly reduce your stress if you’ll practice them. God bless you and I hope to see you in church on Sunday.