I don’t have to tell you that parenting is hard—you already know that.
Hundreds of thousands of books have been written on the subject, and I’ve read probably dozens of these. I don’t know about you, but all that information can be more overwhelming than helpful.
I don’t claim to be an expert; but as a parent to a 9-year-old, 7-year-old, and 4-year-old, I’ve figured out a few basics…
Food. Clothing. Roof over head.
Totally just kidding. Of course, they need those. But I’m talking about non-tangibles today—essentials to every child’s well-being.
I’m a lover of simplicity, so over time I’ve boiled my strategy down to these five things every child needs to flourish.
Children need to know that they belong in their family. This seems obvious, but hear me on this. If they feel unaccepted or disapproved of, they will search for belonging somewhere else. God created us to belong—first, to Him. But also in community. Studies have proven that belonging is essential to happiness (not loads of toys).
So how do we make sure our kids know that they belong?
You’re probably already doing it.
Be their biggest fan.
Embrace every part of them, quirks and all.
Celebrate who they were created to be.
Tell them how your family wouldn’t be the same without the unique personality and strengths they bring to the table.
Be a person with whom they can share any thought or feeling without fearing judgement.
When we are a safe place for our child, they won’t be tempted to lower their standards or pretend to be someone other than who they were created to be just to fit in… because they already will.
2. Apologies. Lots of them.
Brace yourself; this one hurts. The last thing I want to do after I—ahem--justifiably lose my temper is to apologize. The same goes for when I make a false assumption or fall short of a promise or… the list goes on.
You and I, we mess up all the time. And our children are watching to see how we handle those mistakes. They need to see us live out the Jesus way of handling them: humility.
When I apologize to my daughter for yelling at her, I’m communicating more than just “I’m sorry”. She sees that mommy messes up sometimes, but that it’s not okay to belittle others.
When I apologize to my son for jumping to wrong conclusions, I’m telling him that our relationship matters more to me than being right. By lowering myself, I’m raising the standard in our household by showing my children what’s okay and what’s not.
The times when I’ve apologized—even when I didn’t feel like it, have been some of the most impactful parenting moments of all. When we give ourselves permission to be human, we give our children permission to be human, too, while leading them in God’s better way of living.
Read my lips; your children need to be bored. Bored, bored, bored.
Not 24/7 of course. But as much as they will try to convince you otherwise, this is not a bad thing and you do not need to feel guilty about it.
What are your best childhood memories? Probably not when your mom and dad dragged you around to every festival, sports game, and theme park known to man.
My parents failed in the entertaining department, and I became better for it. My brothers and I spent hours creating games, stories, and toys in the basement. We built forts in the woods in the backyard. I collected paper, cloth, pipe cleaners, and other “goods” and would sit creating for hours on end.
So maybe my parents didn’t fail after all.
What I’m trying to say is this: Boredom breeds creativity.
It’s okay, mom and dad. Let them be bored.
This one’s harder than apologizing, because it allows the pain to fall on my kids, instead of me. And oh how badly I want to come between the two.
Just last week one of my children, who shall remain anonymous, got into a little situation at school involving his mouth. Oh, how the Apostle James was right when he said, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” #preach
Anyway, part of me wanted to sweep the situation under the rug, writing it off as a “just a kid” incident. But inside I knew my child was old enough to understand the power of his words and their impact on others. We talked. He cried. For two hours, to be exact. He felt the full weight of his consequences that week, but he came out better for it.
Situations aren’t always that serious, though, and sometimes it’s easier to write off our kids’ sin and disobedience or pay the price ourselves.
Johnny didn’t clean his room, but you let him have dessert anyway.
Brittney broke her phone, so you just buy her another.
Billy failed an Algebra test, so you e-mail his teacher and ask for a do over.
Are you coming between your children and the consequences needed to grow them into healthy and productive human beings?
I’m not discounting grace. Have grace. But, also have consequences. Pain can be a powerful teacher.
5. A Healthy You
Healthy children come from healthy families, and healthy families are made up of healthy individuals. You simply cannot sacrifice your well-being “for the sake of the kids”. It doesn’t work that way.
Are you stressed and overrun?
Are you financially strapped?
Do you feel far from God?
Are you severely overweight or suffering from a medical condition?
Is your marriage falling apart?
It’s time to put first things first. Stop running your children to every activity under the sun. Make time to have coffee with a trusted friend, see a counselor, or take a class that will get you to a healthier place.
Your children may not understand now, but they will thank you for it down the road when they have a physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy parent or guardian.
Being a parent doesn’t have to be complicated. For more simple guidance, I like to read the Proverbs. Conveniently, there are 31 chapters which makes for an easy habit of reading one per day. Who knows, after a year of reading through 12 times, they might start to sink in. Maybe.
Lastly, I know many of you are reading this from a place of discouragement. You feel like you’re not a good enough parent.
Know this, mom or dad: If you have the desire to get better, you’re already a good parent.
Give yourself some grace. This is a hard job.
Pray and ask God how you can fill one of your child’s five needs today.
A little about me...
Hi, I'm Katie!
Wife to Craig, mom of three, author, writer, Jesus-follower, Bible teacher, and coffee enthusiast.
Follow me as I follow Christ and share my heart throughout the journey.
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