One thing I’ve learned through this parenting journey is that there is no formula for producing well-behaved, God-fearing, lovely to be with children. It’s not like math, where 2 + 2 = 4 every time. There are too many factors involved, like:
- personality types
- spiritual gifts
- learning styles
- birth order
- cultural impact
Our children are “under the influence,” and so are we, making parenting each one a totally unique and often a subjective experience. However, as I consider my experience in mothering four very different children plus a spiritually adopted daughter, along with seeing parenting at work as a mentor to teens for twenty years, I’ve come to land on a few rules of parenting that I believe work universally and bear incredible fruit.
1. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
Our words greatly impact our kids and they need to know that what we say we really mean. If we give an instruction like, “Time for bed in five minutes,” we have to follow through on that in five minutes, not ten or twenty minutes later. If we say, “Be kind with your words,” then we need to be kind with ours too. Oh yes, this rule calls us into account! But through heeding it, we can keep from exasperating our children. (Ephesians 6:4)
2. Always seek forgiveness and give it quickly.
We’re sinners parenting sinners. When we sin against our children, the best thing we can do is seek God’s forgiveness AND also our children’s. It’s not a sign of weakness to say "I'm sorry" and express godly sorrow with repentance, but rather an opportunity to model a Christ-like faith lived out. When our children sin, we need to not only be quick to forgive them but also in seizing the training opportunity by helping them walk with humility through the process of forgiveness. (Colossians 3:13)
3. Praise a God-given strength whenever possible.
As we seek to train up our children, one of the best gifts we can give them apart from the love of God and hope in Jesus Christ as their Savior, is a vision for the way God made them and might use them in this world. One way to cast that vision naturally is to praise their God-given strengths — not their features — but their character, skill, integrity, and potential. Even in the middle of difficult situation or a disciplinary issue, calling out what they are doing right that pleases the Lord can do great things for their sense of identity in Christ and need for a Savior.
4. The Three Finger Reminder
The "Three Finger Reminder" is something I started doing with my oldest daughter around 5th grade, but now it’s a family thing that even the littles get. When I flip up three fingers toward my children, usually as they are heading out the door or when I catch their glance while they are hanging out with friends, they know it stands for these three Biblical principles:
ONE: Talk Less
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
TWO: Listen More
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
THREE: Don’t Follow the Crowd in Doing Wrong
Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong . . .
For the chatty, social type, this type of reminder helps them to steer away from trouble through talking less (therefore gossiping less), listening more while seeking to discern the Holy Spirit's leading, and not following the crowd in doing wrong. Ahem, it’s also a good rule for a momma (like me) to follow, especially when she feels frustrated with her kiddos and prone to giving a tongue-lashing.
Isn’t it interesting that these rules depend on the commitment of the parent to put them into place?
Oh yes, motherhood is an “all in” all the time responsibility!
So, momma, may I encourage you to take time at the start of this new year to consider where you’re at emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
If you’re weary and worn down, now is the time to get the help you need to be fully engaged. It’s also okay to pull back on commitments that distract you from this holy task of motherhood. You won’t be a momma of littles and tweens and teens forever, so be brave with your “no” and put on hold anything that distracts you from investing 100% of yourself in this motherhood calling.
If you need help getting yourself into a good place so that you can parent consistently, I encourage you to find a mentor, friend, pastor, or counselor for wisdom and guidance. It's okay to get professional help. Focus on the Family can guide you to recommended counselors in your area. If you simply need a boost of focus and a fresh perspective, I encourage you to check out these life-coaching, biblically steeped resources, Equipped: Because You've Been Made to Live on Purpose and Abide: Because It's the Secret to Thriving. I’m also happy to set up a free life-coaching consultation with you see if life coaching could help you get going in the right direction or if counseling would be a better option.