A friend and work colleague of Debbie asked us something that I never thought I would be asked as someone who never had children: Could you please write some tips on good parenting? Well, could I ever! Those of you parents out there with childless siblings already know that those of us without children are the best at giving parenting advice…at least that is the impression we sometimes leave. Nevertheless, I’m about to enjoy this exercise. Debbie will follow with her version in part II.
What I know about parenting I really did learn first hand–from my mother! Her example taught me the following:
1. Model, model, model! Demonstrate acceptable behavior. And do it consistently. Practice what you preach. When you walk your talk, it becomes ingrained in your children as the gospel truth.
2. Apportion to each child the same amount of love. This would seem a challenging goal. Not only is each child different, but also his or her own unique daily experience in socialization is different. Any parent may wrestle with hidden feelings of favoritism for one child or frustration with another. But equal treatment of their children communicates their value and self-worth. What equal treatment is, of course, is subject to interpretation–by both child and parent. Good luck!
3. Communicate your expectations clearly. As in other facets of life, you most often get what you expect. Make sure your child understands the standard you set. Be patient with correction, but ultimately don’t tolerate unacceptable behavior.
4. Build a spiritually nurturing environment. Allow your child to explore and experience who God is and what He made him or her to be. For best results, see #1 above.
5. Ask for God’s help. As I watched my mother raise her children after my father’s death when I was just nine, I learned that relying on God’s help works. Then, as I learned to apply that same model, I found that it works well in all aspects of life. Why go it alone when you can have such a powerful Advocate by your side?
One of the best parenting tips comes naturally. A parent can appropriate the innate quality of self-sacrifice for their children, which will communicate the deepest love. Let this love, and the wisdom and maturity gained from your life experience, position you as the leader. If it is the other way around, you may end up living with regret–and a wayward child.