When I first became a mom back in 1993, I was pretty sure that was a huge mistake, because I didn’t know the first thing in the world about being a parent, and I was pretty sure I was going to fail at it. In some ways this was probably a good thing, in hindsight, because it caused me to throw myself on the grace of God.
Fast forward more than 20 years and five kids later. My youngest child, of the five born within 7 years, is almost 16.
I can look back and see mistakes we made in raising our kids, and yet I’m also super proud of how awesome my kids turned out. I also know I can’t take credit for it entirely because God’s grace, which I originally fell on when feeling inadequate in my task also helped me in my shortcomings.
This website was around (originally as Joyful Momma) since 2004, and originally contained articles mostly geared towards moms of many. Even though the content and focus has changed, I decided to dig deep into the vault and pull out my own fifteen thoughts (and tips) for raising great kids.
I hope this helps encourage your heart.
1. Parent with Grace in Mind and Empowering Us
If we believe that we are justified before God by God’s grace alone, we need to reflect that in our parenting.
What we believe is more revealed in how we live and how we react to what is going on around us than in what we say we believe. God can be trusted with our kids. We don’t have to worry about doing everything perfectly.
Along these lines, it’s also important to keep in mind one of my favorite Bible verses for parents: James 1:5, which promises us wisdom if we’d only ask for it.
2. Parent Your Kids with the End in Mind
The toddler years may seem like they’re going to last forever, and some days feel like a thousand years long. Believe me, I know. However, we’re not raising kids per se. We’re raising future adults.
I’m pretty big on setting goals, because I’ve learned that I have a better chance at hitting something if I’m aiming at it on purpose. The same is true with parenthood. My husband and I had to take the time to sit down and decide what specific things we wanted to aim at while raising these five amazing future adults.
3. Parent Your Kids while Respecting Their Unique Personalities
The goal in parenting our kids isn’t to mold them into who we think they should be. I’m all for training for great character, but we also need to respect their unique abilities as we raise them into adulthood.
4. Treat Your Children With Respect
I despise seeing anyone, especially children, treated with disrespect by adults. If you want people to respect you from the heart instead of just out of a sense of duty, you need to treat others with respect. No one genuinely respects a bully.
5. Set an Example Worth Following
The thought occurred to me recently that, whether I like it or not, I’m setting an example. Now, that example might be a warning or “cautionary tale” or one that is worthy to be followed. Our children are going to learn more from our example than any lessons we try to teach them verbally. We need to make sure our example is the best it can be.
6. Present a United Front with Your Spouse
Even if you and your spouse don’t completely agree on things, it’s best not to disagree in front of the kids, simply because they will try to pit parents against each other. If you disagree, try to do so privately.
Parents are going to disagree from time to time, but it’s better to agree in front of your children than to undermine each other to the kids.
7. Make Sure Your Kids Know You Love Them
Most parents love their kids and assume their kids know this. However, sometimes it’s as if we’re speaking different languages in how we show love to each other. Make sure you’re demonstrating your love for your loved ones in such a way that they understand what you’re saying.
8. Be Consistent
No matter what rules or discipline methods you establish in your household, the most important part of training your children is to be consistent. No one can obey rules that are constantly changing based on the moods of the person setting them. Have clear cut rules and consequences, and life will get much easier.
9. Be Careful of What You Say
Our words have power. Too many times, we find ourselves saying things like, “Don’t let me catch you….” Or “you’d better hope your dad doesn’t find out about that!”
Do you realize the logical implication of such phrases? What we really mean to say is “Don’t do that” but what we are saying with our words is, “Don’t let us catch you doing that.” That’s not the message we want to give our kids!
10. Take the Time to Train Them In Practical Life Skills
I went to college knowing algebra but not knowing how to balance a checkbook. True story. My husband, until we had been married a few years, didn’t know which one was the washer and which one was the dryer.
One of the goals we set for our kids included a list of practical life skills we felt everyone must learn to help them function as an adult. This started with doing chores around the house of course , and it includes many other things that we feel help prepare them for life.
11. Slowing Give them More Responsibilities and Freedom
I posted before about the three best pieces of parenting advice I ever received. One of those was to be stricter with your kids when they are younger, and slowly lighten up as they get older and prove themselves responsible and trustworthy. Most people seem to wink at their toddler’s bad behavior, then tighten down when they have a 14 year old who is out of control. That doesn’t work so well.
People used to warn me that one day I’d have five teenagers, but that hasn’t been as bad as everyone made it out to be. I prefer five teens to five toddlers, frankly. They’re fun. We have a ball.
I’m pretty sure some of this comes from having a good balance between sheltering and letting go.
12. Obedience is a Small Parenting Goal
Many of the parenting books that I’ve read seem to focus in how to make your kids obey and listen. This is good to some extent. You need to be able to do that. However, obedient kids shouldn’t be our end all goal. We need to striver higher, as Christian parents.
Obeying mom and dad and their rules out of fear of punishment will only get you so far. After a while, your children will grow up and no longer be under your control.
13. Exercise Discernment and Wisdom
Not everyone who calls themselves a Christian or a parenting expert is either, sadly. I’ve sat in on some parenting classes that were so far off base, I’m glad the little sirens went off in my head, though I lost friends when I walked away.
There are many programs, books, and movements that sound so good and so holy, that make grandiose promises, but which are no substitute to parenting your children in the love and grace of God, praying for wisdom instead of looking to others to give you step by step instructions.
More than 22 years later, I look back, and my heart aches for families who were involved in programs that promised them godly kids but who now have reaped the rotten fruits of a works based religious system including rebellion and heartache instead of blessing.
14. Don’t be afraid to Rest
What is it with us moms? It’s good to take some time to rest and recharge our batteries. In other parts of this site, I’ve shared my thoughts on Mommy Me Time and taking advantage of children’s ministries at church.
15. Be Thankful for Others Who Help Influence Your Kids for Good
For a while there, I noticed in my parenting circles a tendency to try to over-shelter (for lack of a better word) and keep all child training and influence within the family. Though I respect the sentiment, I have some to see that God has worked wonders through others who are involved in our lives as well.
Some people consider this anathema, but I for one am thankful for the Sunday School teachers and Youth Group leaders who have had a great influence on my kids. Don’t be afraid to allow others fill in gaps.