Parenting is tough and if we’re not careful, often times we shift the focus on the wrong things. Parents sometimes make discipline their primary focus—and while I'm not against discipline—there are many things that are equally valuable in shaping our children lives.
RELATIONSHIP: The relationship we have with our children is the single biggest influence on their lives. If we have a healthy relationship based on respect, empathy, and compassion, we set those standards. They will grow to expect every detail we instill, and will likely not settle for less. If our relationship with our kids is based on control, coercion, and manipulation, well you see where I’m going with this.
YOUR LENS: When you look at your child, who do you see? Do you see the positives or the negatives? The way you think about them influences the way you treat them. “He is in his terrible twos!” will cause you to look for terrible things, to focus on them, and therefore try to correct them, constantly.
YOUR ACTIONS: Watch your tone and language. Be mindful of the language you use to describe your children, not just to others, but to them. They will come to see themselves through the filter you design. Be careful not to place labels such as “stupid” or “clumsy” or "lazy" on your child. Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful humans on earth; for what they believe, is what they become.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT: Your kids are watching. The way you and your spouse treat each other sets a highly respected standard. Happy parents make happy kids. The single, most important thing you can do for your children is to do everything in your power to have the best possible relationship with your spouse—or your ex if you are divorced. Kids tend to mirror what they see and every ounce of energy you put into [your] relationship bounces forward to their future.
THE ATMOSPHERE OF YOUR HOME: Should forever include the Lord. Every detail mentioned above creates the atmosphere in your home. If you have loving and connected relationships at home, you likely have a warm atmosphere in your home. But did you know that a home infused with God is a child's sanctuary? Make your home so inviting and positive, so refreshing, that your children look forward to coming home.
HOW YOU TREAT OTHERS: How do you treat the bank teller or the store clerk? What about your parents and your in-laws? Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”
YOUR CUP: How full is it? If your cup is full with worldly things, to-do lists and fulfilling other people, you may not have enough time in the day for your children. "Never get too busy making a living that you forget to have a life." Your children grow up faster than you think.
MEDIA. TELEVISION. VIDEO GAMES. SOCIAL MEDIA: These entities are always sending messages to your kids, good and bad. Now, I'm not knocking you or taking a big anti-stance against you, just be aware of what your kids are watching and what sources are feeding their brains. It takes as much effort for you to monitor and limit them as it does for the world to influence them. Make your choice!
SLEEP AND OTHER BASIC NEEDS: Adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise are not only essential for your child but also influence their behavior throughout the day.
When my boys were in elementary, no joke, I had them on a routine schedule that never faltered. From homework, projects and back-pack paperwork to dinner and bedtime by 7 p.m., that was my rule. And I didn't enforce it with authority, I incorporated it into our daily patterns with positive reinforcement. In time, it became so habitual, my boys would do it on their own, without being told. As they got older, Jr. High, per se, of course sleep schedules were increased to later at night, but I still encouraged a specific time for lights out.
As parents, we create the atmosphere in our homes. We encourage our children's behaviors. We encompass their good will. And we form the adults they will become.
All good things start when your children are little. And it starts at home. If you want to have strong-minded, successful adult kids, raise strong-minded, successful children.
NO! I'm not perfect; many mistakes were made. But believe this: God entrusted me with two little boys. To raise them and empower them. And I'm so grateful that He gave me the wisdom to see it early.