My kids are in 2nd grade and Kindergarten this year. I feel like “I’ve arrived” as a parent. My job isn’t done, but it is changing and I’ve been reflecting on the good advice I’ve been given that has gotten me this far.
Disclaimer: Parenting advice can be so contrary, but there’s not just one right way to raise a kid. You may disagree with the advice I like to model how I parent in this post. You may see contradiction in it, that’s easy to do, but I’m a woman, so living in contradiction is second nature. I hope (if what I like, you don’t) you can simply say, “Good for her, not for me.”
“Babies are resilient,” was the very best advice (when I was pregnant with my first and scared of messing everything up) was from a seasoned dad at our church. I don’t remember the conversation that led up to him telling my husband and I this, but we adopted it as our own and repeated it to each other along the way. It is so true. Yes, babies need to be kept clean and dry, warm and well-fed, but whether I had a perfect playlist for the nursery or read every parenting book beforehand wouldn’t matter.
“We weren’t raising kids, we were raising future adults.” My dad says this a lot when he sums up his and my mom’s parenting philosophy. They disciplined us with some would call strictness, but they talked with us about what they expected from us. They were always teaching us about how our character mattered and how table manners would help us get past a first date. No seriously. That was said. Many times.
“Never lie to your kids.” My husband brought home a sermon manuscript titled with this phrase that he printed and asked me to read it. We decided that if nothing else, that would be our parenting strategy. Yes, that means that we do not exchange gifts specifically “from Santa” though we watch claymation Rudolph and all that for fun, and the kids ask Dad to put something special under their pillow when they lose a tooth. We do give our young kids a simplified answer for now and an invitation to ask later, or a “we’ll talk more about that when you’re older,” but they know that Mom and Dad will always tell me the truth.
“Don’t try so hard.” This one I love, and I needed it at the time it was said. A dad of four and a life-long friend of my husband’s told me this as I was failing to coral my two kids and make them do my bidding. (Read: yelling at my kids who weren’t listening as they sprinted ahead of me after church.) He saw that I was being flustered by my kids’ behavior because I was getting embarrassed in that, “your actions are a reflection upon me,” kind of way. But that’s kind of a personal choice. I can yell at them and cause a scene that both embarrasses them and me and oh all the effort… or I can let them run ahead of me to their grandparents and follow at a normal pace behind them and not try so hard just because they’re running instead of walking like cherubs. “Chose your battles,” is another version of this, but I love the playfulness of “Don’t try so hard.”
“Capture your kid’s heart daily.” I heard this in the last year on the Every Thought Captive podcast that some professors from my college make. One of the guys said he was trying to capture his kid’s hearts. Then he said that he heard this from my teaching professor and friend Peter Buckland, who is a huge role model of good parenting to me. His kids were young when I was in college, and I loved how he would spend time individually with each of his three, hiking with his daughter or camping with one of his sons. It didn’t surprise me to hear that, “capturing their hearts,” was out of his playbook.
It’s interesting to me that these five phrases that stick with me and guide my parenting were all said by dads. I am blessed to know many men who take such an interest in their children and reflect the Father’s heart in their homes. I love the wisdom that my husband shows in parenting and the way he leads our family.
How about you? What are your one-liners that echo like a mantra in your parenting?