Our four children have been a constant source of joy, exhaustion, difficulty, laughter, and many other emotions I cannot list. Our oldest daughter will be eleven this year, our second daughter celebrates her eighth birthday Friday, our youngest daughter turned three a few weeks ago and my is fourteen months old. People see our family and say, “your hands are full.” They are, so is my lap when we read. My heart is also full, and because of our children my knees are calloused and my hair is turning grey.
Below is a list of scattered thoughts on parenting and being a parent. Some come from hard lessons I have learned along the way. Others come from watching other good parents so I can learn from them and I gleaned the most from listening to my amazing wife as she has helped me while we walked through journey together.
1. Parenting is difficult, but it also brings much joy. Persevere when times are hard and enjoy the good times when they come.
2. Men, if you are with your children while your wife is away from home you are not babysitting, you are parenting.
3. Don’t count to three, you’re just giving them a few more seconds to disobey.
4. Every stage of parenting is difficult and at every stage you will be greeted by overwhelming grace.
5. Don’t think family devotion has to be the length of your church’s worship service. Read, sing, and pray. Never underestimate the impact consistently doing these small things will make. Nothing good can happen when you discipline out of anger.
6. Write this over all your parenting, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
7. Do not ignore your spouse once you have children. Continue to cultivate your marriage. This doesn’t just mean date nights either. Look for the opportunity to spend consistent quality time.
8. Disciplining your children is difficult, but dealing with what happens when you don’t discipline is worse.
9. Start teaching your kids the Bible when they are young. They will drink in more than you think.
10. Sing with your kids everyday.
11. Teach your kids about their family tree, especially by telling stories. It’s good for them to know who and what came before them.
12. Go for walks together as a family, and in the woods when possible. There’s something wonderful about being outside together away from technology.
13. Encourage your kids to serve in the church. They need to learn how to work for something bigger than themselves.
14. If you have multiple children, don’t shame the overwhelmed parent with just one child. You were overwhelmed when you were in their place.
15. Give your spouse lots of grace. Give your kids lots of grace, and allow yourself to experience grace.
16. Teach your children how to carry on a conversation with adults.
17. Yes ma’am. No ma’am. Yes sir. No sir. Your kids need to know how to respect adults and people in authority.
18. When your child trusts in Christ your job as a parent is not done. They need to be taught how to follow Jesus, and you can’t farm this responsibility out to other people.
19. I cannot think of any circumstances under which you should criticize your spouse to your children.
20. Establish an allowance as soon as your kids are old enough to understand so they associate earning money with work.
21. I only remember two birthday parties from my first ten years of life. Keep them simple and have a great time.
22. Eat dinner together as a family often. This gives you the opportunity to talk, laugh, and tell stories.
23. Make your kids go to bed early so you can spend time with your spouse.
24. If you sin against your children ask them to forgive you.
25. Teach your children to admit when they are wrong and to forgive when they are wronged.
26. What will it profit if your child earns a scholarship but you forfeited their soul?
27. I’m not exactly sure of the best way to say this- stop freaking out about your kids so much.
28. Read The Chronicles of Narnia with your kids when they were young. The reaction my kids had when Aslan came back to life and Mr. Tumnus was no longer a statue is one of my favorite parenting moments.
29. Teach your kids to bring their hard questions to you and do your best to answer them. They’ll learn to trust your wisdom as they get older.
30. Do not push your child to be baptized before they are ready. Make sure they understand their need for a Savior and that that Jesus is their only hope.
31. Your kids don’t need to specialize in a sport when they are five. Let them play around with lots of different activities and discover what they like on their own.
32. Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same team when it comes to disciplining your children. Talk about your childrearing disagreements behind closed doors and then back each other up.
33. If your child starts a sport or activity, they don’t have to do it again but they must finish out the season or the year. This will help them learn perseverance.
34. When you have little kids do not get obsessed with them reaching milestones by a certain point. As long as they are healthy and growing they will do everything they are supposed to do eventually. Every child progresses at different rates.
35. The Bible teaches us to love, teach, correct, and discipline our children. Outside of that it does not have much to say, so we should hold the strong convictions which we use to look down on other parents loosely.
36. Even if you were to do a perfect job of parenting it would still take God’s grace to make it effective in the life of your child, so pray for them often.
37. Read to your kids as often as possible. What else can you do which provides great time together, expands their vocabulary, teaches them about life, and enlivens their imaginations?
38. Whatever is going on right now on social media is not nearly as important as your children.
39. If you asked me to hand my child a smart phone or a loaded gun, I would have a hard time deciding which one was most dangerous. With either of them I would teach them how to use it wisely and the dangers associated with misuse.
40. Let them jump in the mud puddle every once in a while. In a few years they will avoid them on purpose.
41. Your kids will not announce, “this is the last time I’m going to climb into bed with you on Saturday morning.” Enjoy the times of laughing and snuggling while you can.
42. Teach your kids that Mom and Dad need time together for their sake. Help them understand their lives will be better when Mom and Dad have a strong, happy relationship.
43. You can do chores and tasks around the house fast and correct without your kids or slow and incorrect with your kids. Many times the slow and incorrect way will be more fun.
44. Halfway paying attention to your kids while they are trying to talk to you will only frustrate you both. Either give them your full attention now or tell them to let you finish what you are doing and you will hear everything they have to say then.
45. Your kids will not take you seriously if you make empty threats when they disobey. Do not make outrageous claims like, “I’ll never let you watch TV again” when you know you aren’t going to follow through. Exercise self-control and only promise discipline you know you will do.
46. Teach your kids how to behave around a dinner table so your experience of eating with them in public will not be the most miserable experience of your life.
47. Make sure your kids know your love for them is never contingent upon their performance.
48. When my father-in-law preached his father’s funeral he said, “when Dad got home from work, that’s when the fun started.” This has always seemed like a great rule of thumb.
49. Make sure your children know it is always better to tell the truth and face the consequences than to lie. The best way to build this into them is for the discipline to always be more stiff if they lie.
50. Do not feel guilty if you need to let your child watch TV so you can get some rest. Parenting with your tank empty will almost always lead to a breakdown.
51. Some of the best parenting advice I have ever heard is to remember your child is your neighbor too. Everything the Bible says about how we are to treat our neighbors applies to how we treat our children.
52. Pray for your children’s salvation in their hearing. Let them know that one of your heart’s greatest desires is for them to know Jesus.
53. Never, under any circumstances, belittle your children or call them names. If you are so angry you think you will say hurtful things to them, walk away and talk to them after you have calmed down. You may forget the things you say in anger because now you feel better but your children will not forget.
54. Fathers, you will wake up, go to work, come home to play with your kids, spend time with your wife, and your day will be over. This is what it means to be a man, so learn to embrace it. Please dispense with the idea that you need a day a week for your hobbies and two nights a week to watch sports. You will not remember the game in a couple of weeks, but what you do with your wife and kids will last past your lifetime.
55. At the same time, you do need time with other adults for fun, encouragement, and recharging. Don’t feel guilty about doing this, but also don’t let it be an excuse for neglecting your family.
56. If you do not feel sufficient for the task of parenting, that is good. You can only parent effectively by the grace of God, so trust in him and pray for his strength.
57. Always point your children to Jesus as the source of their hope, joy, and salvation. Look for every opportunity, as you sit down and as you walk along through life, to proclaim to them the good news of his death, burial, and resurrection. Labor to help them understand their hope is not in being a good kid, but can only be found through faith in Jesus who loves them.
There was no way this list could be exhaustive, so what did I miss?
“The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting“
“To the Parents of Young Children“
For Further Reading:
Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp