How many of us have brought home our first babies from the hospital and thought, "Do these guys come with an instruction manual?"
Me! I did! LOL! Poor guy. Our first son went through so many of our trials and errors as new parents. We had no clue what we were doing. We knew what we did NOT want to do, and did our best to give him what we never had, but over his 21 years of life, we have learned it's pretty much impossible to get it ALL RIGHT!
Our second son got a slightly better, improved, parenting style, and our third son got the best of all three. That seems to be how it goes, I guess. But if there are any young mothers out there, reading my rant and open to truly receiving what I have learned, I hope it can help others bypass some of the mistakes we made.
While our parenting needed a bit of refining when we adopted our two pre-teen girls, the principles are pretty-much the same. So here it is in a nutshell. Are you ready? It's real complicated, so maybe you should get a pen and paper and take notes...
Here it is:
DON'T BE A DICTATOR, PRINCIPAL, BOSS, OR OVERSEER! BE AN EXAMPLE, A MENTOR, DISCIPLER, COUNSELOR, AND A FRIEND.
Don't see your children as a project to fix, a piece of clay to mold, or an empty page to write on. They are not completely a product of our parenting. I say not completely, because of course our parenting does matter, but not in the way you might think. It is not our job to make sure they learn everything there is to learn on planet earth. Academics is something a small group of men decided every child needs to know in order to sell their curriculums. So don't make it your sole focus in how you relate and connect with your child. Each child is beautifully and uniquely made in the image of God! Not in the image of you or the school board. He saw each of us before we were even knitted in our mother's wombs and made plans for our lives! The most important "education" our children need is to KNOW who God is, and who they are to Him! That should be the foundation of EVERYTHING emphasized in the purpose of their existence. The second most important thing is to educate yourself on who God designed your child to be by observing them, playing with them, hanging out, going on dates and field trips, and seeing what makes them get excited. Then surround them with the tools to grow in those areas. When an interest takes a turn, follow! Don't try to lead them to like what you think they "should" like. And pursue your own interests! Let your children observe you taking up new hobbies and interests and enjoy who God created you to be! Be the example you want your children to be.
If children know they are deeply valued and treasured by the creator of the universe, that is how they will approach life. That is the filter they will have as they research their interests, pursue careers, look for a mate, and become parents themselves. Identity and belonging is every soul's cry. People who struggle with sexual identity, depression, insecurity, and anger do not know "whose" they are in their deepest core. They might logically know it from Sunday school lessons, but the only way for anyone to KNOW how much God loves them is by experiencing it. The most ideal way to experience it is through unconditional acceptance and love from mom and dad.
You might be thinking, "how in the world can I offer that kind of love perfectly all the time?" Don't worry; no one can! But what we can do is own when we have made mistakes and example how to receive forgiveness from God and others when we do. If you have your own relationship with our Heavenly Father, that will translate in how you live and treat your family. They will see how you handle hard things and know where to go when they go through difficult times, too.
These are the most important tools we can give to our children to live happy and fruitful lives. Love God and love them. The best way to "teach" is to live your life openly and honestly before an all loving God!
That's it. Treat your children the way you would like to be treated. Respect them as individual people, and they will respect you as their parent. Love them the way you would like to be loved, and they will love in the same way. As they grow up into young adults, your dinner time conversations will be so lively and delightful! Your hearts will be full of joy and no regrets!
But if you have any doubts or questions, I know a great book! Read it daily and let it define you. It's called the Holy Bible. Jesus is OUR example to follow. Even better than that, you can have the author of it live inside of you, the Holy Spirit. He is available 24/7 to listen and lead you. I would totally take advantage of Him! Seriously! He is the best! What I have learned is that those babies DO come with an instruction manual, but we must have the faith to trust it.