Isn't it funny how, before you have kids, you think you know everything about parenting? You watch, pretending not to judge but you're totally judging, and making mental notes of the things you approve of that you will take with you into your own parenting venture; and the things you disapprove of that you "will NEVER do." Then you become a parent and you switch into survival mode and you find yourself doing anything and everything you swore you would never do! (Or is it just me?) My sister tried to warn me not to judge but I didn't listen and now I'd like to take this time to tell her, Lisa you were SO right!
Several years ago, before I had kids, my grandma took my whole family to Cancun, Mexico for her 80th birthday. It was such a fun trip and beyond generous of my grandma to take us all for HER birthday. Any way, me, my 3 other siblings, and our spouses were at the airport with my parents getting ready to fly home and my dad decided to have a heart to heart. My dad does not waste moments, and it's something I hope to mirror from him! He asked each one of us what we would change about the way we grew up or what he could have done different as a parent. My personality is one that doesn't live in the past, I don't have regrets because I don't see the point. You can't go back and fix it so why focus on it. Also, I think my dad is pretty much perfect so I really had to reach to discover an area for growth. :) What I came up with is something I often think of now that I am a parent. It was easy before becoming a parent for my self-absorbed mind to judge the way my parents did things and think I could have done it better however age and maturity has shown me the error of my ways!
After a few minutes of thinking I said, "I wish you guys had explained things to me more." I grew up in a Christian home knowing what is morally and Biblically right and wrong. However, that was kind of where the conversation ended. It was kind of like, "God says it's wrong so it's wrong." Now granted I am the youngest of four and I'm sure that by the time I came around they were exhausted and the answer to most why questions was, "Because I said so!" But my little brain needed more. I needed to understand the why behind all the rules. I needed to understand that the rule was about protection and not deprivation. I needed to know that, just like in the garden, my parents didn't want me to know the pain of shame or hurt or temptation so they were trying to steer me away from “eating of that tree.” Maybe not every kid operates the same way as me but I think we will never regret taking the time to explain our heart to our kids, about the rules and expectations we have for their lives.
My husband is a systems guy and he is always asking me the question, "Why are you doing it that way." The answer is either: because it's the way I've always done it, or It's the only thing that came to my mind. My husband thinks strategically through almost every situation in his life and he thinks of the best system to make that work efficiently. It was so nice when the triplets were babies because he came up with so many time saving systems! (that's for another day) I, however, am not. I do things the hard way because it's the way I've always done it and I don't stop to think that maybe there is an easier, faster, more efficient way to do it! Parenting takes strategy and planning. It takes being purposeful in what we set out to accomplish. If we don't have a vision then how can we parent? How do they know what's not acceptable and what is? I think that by taking the time to explain our hearts and the why behind our rules it causes us to also be introspective and talk through whether or not that thing is actually something we care about. I have found myself so often parenting based on what other people think that I forget what matters to me. Also, I need to be a direct representation of the things that I expect from them. If I expect them to be respectful and honoring of other people, then I need to make sure that the words coming out of my mouth are respectful and honoring. If I expect for them to be a good friend then I need to be a good friend. If I expect for them to respect themselves, then I need to respect myself. If I will not allow them to talk negatively about themselves then I can not talk negatively about myself. Also, and this is a big one, if I expect them to admit when they are wrong then I need to admit when I am wrong. I think it's so important for kids to see us apologize when we do something wrong. I know that I have lost my patients before and reacted in a way that was not ok, and I needed to apologize. I actually went up to the school one day and pulled my daughter our of class so that I could apologize for the way I acted that morning getting everyone ready for school. I think it’s so important for our kids to see us being a real human that makes mistakes some times. I think that it helps them know that perfection is not the goal.
For our family it looks like this: we have a family verse, "Let all you do be done with love." (I Corinthians 16:14) Love is what we base everything off of. My kids are expected to speak and treat each other with love. My kids are expected to treat others with love. And my kids are expected to treat us, their parents, with love. And Brett and I do our very best to model those same expectations for them. Jesus said, “30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”
Determine the road map for your family. Decide where you are going as a family. Have clear expectations, and take the time to explain your heart to your children. Then, hold them accountable to your expectations. 15 "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. 17 Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul. 18 Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law." Proverbs 29: 15, 17-18