Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a secret formula that we could use to become the perfect parents? Just do x and y and it will result in perfect children. It would be so convenient, so if one of you has one, let me know! I’m pretty sure no such formula exists, mostly because there are no perfect parents or perfect children. In the meantime, I think I’ve figured out the secret parenting formula for being the best parent you can be. It’s 3 simple (yet at times immensely difficult) steps.
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Step 1: Put God At The Center Of Your Parenting
What is your focus in your parenting? Is it to raise well-behaved children, or children who are seeking and serving God? Before you ask, no, these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Children who are seeking and serving God will likely be fairly well behaved (though far from perfect). The point is, what is the intention behind what you do as a parent?
I can honestly say that I have spent most of my time as a parent on the wrong side of this. My focus was on getting my children to behave, because we’ve all seen the looks of judgment that come when your children aren’t well behaved. I wanted them to obey because a) that’s what children are ‘supposed’ to do and b) because life as a parent is a lot harder when your children don’t obey. Notice how both of those are rather selfish motives?
Parenting should point our children to God and His love. The goal of teaching our children to obey should be to prepare them to be obedient to God. That means that we, as parents, need to be obedient to God. If we want our children to put God at the center of everything they do, we have to let them see us putting God at the center of everything we do. That includes at the center of our parenting. Do you admit when you have sinned against your children? If you don’t, how will they learn to do the same? Do they see/know you have time with God each day? Do you model going to God when you are struggling or having a hard day? I am SO far from having this piece down, but I’m sure working on it.
Step 2: Always Strive To Do Your Best At Parenting
Notice how this doesn’t say “Always strive to BE the best”. That small difference is very important. If you are always trying to BE the best, your focus is on the outward and how you compare to others. It goes back to those self-centered motives for what you are doing. Your focus is turned toward what other people are doing rather than what God wants and what your children need.
When you always strive to DO your best, it is different. First of all, there is room for grace. When you strive to be the best, if you see anyone you think is better, you have failed. When you strive to do your best, you recognize that perfection and competition are out. It’s ok if you aren’t doing the same things as everyone else and it is definitely ok to feel like someone else is doing better (just try to learn from them, but we’ll get to that in a minute). If you are doing the best that YOU can do, then you are being successful. Even if others are doing it differently, or even ‘better’ (FYI, better for their family may not be better for your family). When you find that you have messed up, that’s the time to step in, admit you were wrong, and seek forgiveness.
Step 3: Be open to learning different ways of Parenting
They say that comparison is the thief of joy. That’s why it is important that we don’t focus on being the best. That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from others, though. Part of doing our best is knowing that we are not perfect! That means there is room for improvement. If something isn’t working well for your family, find a different way of handling it. Pray and search the Bible for answers. Seek out advice from other parents you trust. Look for Christian parenting and marriage books, but be sure to test their ideas against Scripture. Claiming to be a Christian book and following God’s commands don’t always go together. Currently I’m reading Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions For Gentle Biblical Responses. Even just a short way into this book it has already changed my perspective and my parenting!
As a note of caution, the advice you get from other people and books won’t always work for you. That doesn’t make you a failure or a bad parent. Sometimes, what works for one family doesn’t work for another. Each person and each family is unique. Also, avoid anyone trying to sell you a magic formula/fix to create perfectly obedient children. No such thing exists.
It’s Not About Perfect Parenting
I’d like to say I’m writing this because I’ve got it all down and perfect, but that would be a lie. A giant one. I still struggle with all of this. It is as much a reminder to myself as it is advice for you! Even over the days of writing this post I messed up with my kids. Kayla did something she shouldn’t have and I yelled at her. I’m working on remembering to stop and apologize immediately when I lose my temper, so I stopped mid-sentence and said, “I’m sorry I yelled, but you…”. Ummm, way to blame-shift, Heather! Once again, I stopped mid-sentence and said, “No, no ‘I’m sorry but’. I’m sorry I yelled at you. Can you forgive me?” Of course, we still dealt with her bad choice after she forgave me, but I had done something wrong and needed to admit my own sin before addressing hers. As it says in Matthew 5:7, “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” So, please know that I am right here in the trenches with you, trying to figure out how to be the best parent I can be.