3 Principles that Impact My Parenting {Part 1}

Long before I had my own children, I served with my husband as dorm parent, first for teen boys and later on for teen girls, at a Christian boarding and day school.

I had to meet these precious teens right where they weremoving uncomfortably through puberty, wrestling against academic expectations, and pushing back from parental control — and learn how to love them in the midst of our sometimes messy, definitely unusual, and always eternally beautiful relationship.

Mamas Need Jesus and the Word

I have to admit, it was never easy being “in locos parentis” to teens when I hadn’t yet navigated through that territory as a parent, but as I look back, I’m incredibly grateful for the experience. 

I learned the power of consistency and long-term, eternally-focused parenting.  A teen who hated me in the moment, often thanked me in the long run…sometimes two or three or more years later. Sure, it hurt my heart at the time, but because I wasn’t mom, it was easier to let it go and trust God with the results. And then I got to see the results!  Wow, talk about motivation!

So as I’ve embarked on my own motherhood journey, I’ve found myself living by these three principles gleaned from my dorm year experiences. Now with teens of my own, I can attest that these principles make sense, and pray they will become a source of encouragement to you.

Principle 1:  There’s Nothing a Mom Needs More than Jesus

Balancing life with little ones while working hard in the late evenings caring for the teen girls living in the dorm left me strapped for time. But God used three key people in my life to show me how get my priorities straight. My friend Lisa invited me to sign up for my first Beth Moore Bible Study and my friend Jodi showed up at my back door with a devotional book by Ruth Myers. At the same time, my precious friend, Julie, who was going through a massive life trial, basically told me that my relationship with the Lord was a joke because I didn’t put any time into being with Him and reading His word.  She was right.

Until that point in my life, my faith was my identity but not my reality, which left me running on empty, emotionally and spiritually empty.

Something had to change. So I did the illogical. The minute my little girls went down for a nap, I ran to the couch to meet with God. With a cup of tea in hand, to keep me awake, I read Scripture, did my Bible study homework (feeling clueless!), and began the habit of using a prayer journal. The lunch dishes stayed in the sink. The laundry didn’t get folded. Calls didn’t get returned.  But God blessed that commitment richly, growing my faith and refueling my empty tank.

Literally, that was the point in my life where I realized that there is nothing but Jesus and the Word for sustaining the life of a mama. {click to tweet this thought}

That was nearly 10 years ago. I’m still running to the couch for my quiet time with the Lord.  I need the word to dwell richly in my soul, because it transforms my mind and my mind decides how I’ll live, speak, love, and parent. {click to tweet this thought}

If I want to do this motherhood thing God’s way, I’ve got to give Him time to teach me each day to show me how.


This first principle is so important, that I want you to dwell on it for a bit and start your Jesus-time habit before considering any other parenting principle.  I encourage you to download From Overwhelming to Overflowing from elisapulliam.com, which will give you creative ideas for how to meet with God and get into Scripture. Then join me next month for Part 2, where I’ll share about parenting tots-to-teens and a being a mom with a mentoring mindset!

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  1. Stina says

    I’m a little over a year into step parenting three teen girls and this was just what I needed this morning. Recommitting every morning to draw near to The Lord, seek him in his word and prayer… And waiting for part two.

    • Elisa Pulliam says

      Stina, thank you for sharing how the Lord encouraged you this morning to draw close to Him. I will be praying for you as you fulfill the call of parenting your step-daughters.


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