Parenting may be one of the most difficult responsibilities we will assume in our lives. As I watch my boys grow up, I constantly ask myself, “Did I handle that correctly?” Sometimes, I get a pit in my stomach realizing that my kids will learn more from my wife and me than anyone else in their life.
If you are like me, you are always looking to another book or article for advice on how to be “the perfect parent.” Is there a formula for parenting that can guarantee the desired results? Of course not. (If there was, there would be a writer out there selling a lot of books.) So, what can you do to be the best parent possible? Here a few questions to ask yourself as you raise your kids.
- Do you put your kids in environments where they can experience God’s presence?
- We can teach them all we want about God; however, unless your kids experience God’s presence for themselves, they will only know the stories of their parents.
- Do you allow for other Godly leaders to speak into your kids’ lives?
- As a youth pastor, I have seen it happen again and again. It will seem like your kids will ignore you, but listen to the guidance of another leader. Don’t worry—they are hearing you. Allow other Godly leaders to speak into their lives and reinforce the principles you are trying to instill. This is a great reason to get involved in youth ministry and partner with your child’s youth pastor.
- Do your kids see your faith or just hear about it?
- Do your kids see you read your Bible? Do they see you pray in difficult times? Do they see you worshiping the Lord? If not, they should. It is not enough to just tell them to love Jesus if they don’t see you loving Jesus in your everyday life. Remember this principle: “You can teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.”
- Do you embrace your shortcomings and apologize for your mistakes?
- We are not perfect and our kids know it. By embracing your mistakes and taking responsibility for your actions, you teach your children through your example, not just words. It will teach them responsibility, as well as release them from the pressure of trying to be perfect.
- Do you give your kids enough freedom to try new things?
- Kids need the opportunity to explore, attempt, discover—even fail. I have learned my most powerful lessons through failing. Give space for your children to try. Sometimes they will succeed, sometimes they will fail, but through everything they will learn and grow.
- Do you create moments to have the “real” conversations?
- Yes, this means you will need to talk about sex, porn, drugs, bullies, and a host of other uncomfortable topics. Don’t run from these conversations—if you don’t answer their questions, someone else will! You don’t need to be an expert. Answer the questions you know and research together the ones you don’t. Remember, the Holy Spirit will be there and give you the words you don’t have.
- Do you watch and listen for your kids’ strengths and preferences, and encourage them?
- Every child is different: personality, gifts, passions, dreams, strengths. Listen to what they talk about the most and pay attention to what they say they like. Ask them about what you hear. Encourage them to be themselves and chase the dreams that God has placed in their hearts.
- Do you involve them in family decisions?
- Involving your kids in family decision will help them understand the why behind the what of the home. It will also train them on taking responsibility. Allow them to ask questions. Not everything has to go to a family vote, but involving them in the conversation will help them understand how to make those decisions when it is their turn.
By no means is this an exhaustive list. But regardless of what questions you do respond to, your answers will not guarantee that your kids will be perfect. The most important thing is whether you are asking the Holy Spirit to help you as you strive to become the best parent you can be. We are not perfect, nor will we ever be. There is not a foolproof formula for raising children. There is no measuring stick that can adequately evaluate your effectiveness as a parent. One day at a time, we trust God with the very best of our abilities to guide our kids into becoming disciples of Jesus. With God’s help, we will enjoy the responsibility of being a parent.