I have been a parent now for almost seven years, and I consider myself still to be a rookie at this. Yes, my husband and I have navigated the baby, toddler, and preschool terrain, but we know nothing of what is to come beyond age six. I have always prayed that God would help me to do this mothering thing well and to allow my children to grow up relatively unscathed by my mistakes. He has been faithful to send a handful of wise women into my life who are a few steps ahead of me and are willing to share what they've learned. One of these dear women is our pastor's wife, Deb. She was kind enough to share with us at our MOPS meeting last week. She and her husband have a three year old son, whom they adopted from Mexico and two grown girls, both of whom have genuine hearts for Christ and who "let His light shine" in their lives.
I scribbled furiously as she talked with us, and I want to share some of these nuggets of parenting wisdom with you. The outline that I type here does not include all of the wonderful stories and examples she gave us from her own mothering experience, but I pray that it will still be a blessing and a help to some of you.
1. Be a student of your child rather than a passive observer.
-Discover their learing style.
-Discover how they respond to discipline. (This may change as they grow and develop.)
-Figure out their personality type.
-Figure out their besetting sin (the sin they struggle most with). Ask God to reveal that to you.
2. Be proactive rather than reactive. (Be purposeful in your parenting. Come up with a plan. Think about what you're doing and why you're doing it.)
3. Live it out - Don't shout it out! (Live what you want your kids to be. They will be you when they grow up, so work on your own spiritual walk. Remember - more is caught than taught.)
4. Discipline attitude not action. Attach an attitude to the action: Was this action disobedience, dishonor, etc.? Or was it merely a childish behavior with no sinful attitude attached? (ex. having permission to play baseball in backyard and accidentally breaking a window with the ball)
Psalm 119:9-11; Prov. 4:23; Luke 6:45 - Attitude is born in the heart.
5. Train your kids' conscience rather than just enforce rules. Guard their eyes. We are the gatekeepers of what goes in. Without our censorship the conscience quickly dulls. We want them to keep a sensitive conscience. Their relationship with God motivates them. ("God is happy when you..." or "God is sad when you...")
Develop a non-negotiable reality where there are consequences to actions.
Encourage quiet - an invaluable tool in their spiritual growth. (Ps. 37:7; Ps. 46:10)
6. Train your kids to think rather than tell them what to think.
-Develop convictions - use life as a teaching tool.
-Give them explanations - tell them why it's displeasing to God/what the consequences of that sin are.
7. Share your own spiritual walk with your kids.
-Admit when you're upset, sad, frustrated. Say you're sorry when you're wrong. (Be the lead repenter.)
-Encourage questions - especially spiritual questions. Spiritual curiosity is great! Open up conversations about God. It's O.K. to admit if you don't know the answer. You can find the answer together.
8. Train your kids to take responsibility for their faith rather than just waiting for it to happen. (When they sin, have them ask forgiveness. Around age 4 or 5, they should also ask God for forgiveness. This nudges them to take responsibility for their relationship with God.) The meaing of repent: "Be sorry for the sin. Hate it, and stop it!"
9. Use positive and negative reinforcement. Praise, praise, praise them when they make good choices. Set them up with opportunities to succeed. Use mercy and grace.
10. Teach them Bible stories and the basics of the faith. Don't just assume they'll get it at church. Bring out the life lessons in the Bible stories.
11. Teach your kids conflict resolution NOW instead of using one-way communication with them (i.e. "I will tell you what to do and you WILL respond.")Teach them to respect others, and model it in my own relationships with them and others. Teach them to say "I forgive you."
Remember, as a Mom, I was not born perfect. I do not have the right to push my children's buttons. Give your kids permission to say to you, "When you say something or ask something of me in that way, it makes me want to sin."
12. Parent with the end in mind!