I absolutely love being a parent. But just like any family, it’s not always easy sailing. With four kids born in six years, I’ve had my share of challenges. I’ve experienced moments that have left me speechless and wanting to pull my hair out. I’ve even cried on my mom’s shoulder a time or two. But I have also experienced moments of sweet victory where consistency has paid off. It’s in those moments when I capture my kids helping one another or showing kindness without being prompted, I think, “Ok, I got this. I can keep going. The hard work is paying off.” Through it all, I stand amazed not only at how much my kids have grown, but how much I have grown as well.
Here are eight lessons I have learned along the way that have shaped me into the parent I am today.
1. “Take a deep breath” is great advice for parents, too.
When my children’s tempers are escalating, I teach them to take a deep breath and calm down before saying or doing anything. That’s great advice for us, too! In a heated moment, a deep breath can prevent you from saying regrettable comments to your child.
Within that deep breath, remind yourself that this moment will pass. Your child will eventually calm down. You will calm down. Once you return to a more controlled state of mind, then proper discipline and teaching can occur. But in the moment where your head is releasing steam, taking that deep breath is invaluable.
2. Don’t get embarrassed ~ You cannot control everything they do.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the fact that you cannot control everything that comes out of your child’s mouth. Nor can you control the unexpected tantrum (great lesson for those toddler years). Moments will occur when you want to hide your head. You may even feel embarrassed by the onlookers. Judgment may be passed onto you and your parenting skills.
Remember this one thing: God created you for this. He gave you the responsibility to raise and nurture a precious life. Don’t parent based off of what others may be thinking or saying. Focus on what your child needs and what God has called you to do. Your job as a parent is to raise your child according to God’s plan and not other people’s approval. And don’t think for a minute that your kids are the only ones who behave this way. It’s a part of raising kids.
3. It’s okay to laugh at yourself.
Laugh big. Laugh often. My grandpa understood this well. I can still hear his deep voice telling me, “Laughter is good for you” followed by (you guessed it) his laughter. This advice is very true in many cases. Laughter is so good for the soul. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, it’s great to do things with excellence. I’m a big proponent of living this way. But we can’t possibly be perfect all the time. We will make mistakes. As much as your child is growing each day, so are you. Make space for laughter in the journey.
4. It’s okay to cry in front of your kids.
When a situation saddens you, like a death in your family, it’s okay to let your kids see your emotions. It shows your kids that you are human, too. In times when my kids have seen me cry, they pose many questions, and I see empathy building inside of them. I allow them to ask those pending questions. We talk. We process. We may even cry together. Many times, I have felt their loving arms wrap around me to offer me comfort. In these moments, we get to teach our kids how to grieve when they hurt and how to express empathy for one another.
5. Embrace the unexpected as an adventure.
Have you ever had something unexpected happen to you that caused you to change your plans spontaneously? I’m sure you have! Within six months of each other, we had a broken water pipe that shut down the plumbing in our house for a week. Then, a tree limb pulled the power box from the side of our house, causing us to lose power again for a whole week. In both situations, we had a moment’s notice to pack up our family of six and head to a hotel. We lived in a hotel room while our usual routine of school and work continued.
Our kids never complained because we have taught them to embrace the unexpected. We focused on the adventure rather than the inconvenience. To make these unexpected moments an adventure, it first begins with us. Choose to have a positive attitude and make the most of every situation. Pray together as a family, and then trust God through the process and the outcome. “Everything is an adventure!” has become a saying in our family. If you treat your circumstances that way, your children will, too.
6. Do life with other families.
Don’t try to do this parenting thing alone. It’s not as much fun. Get involved in a small group where you can do life with other families. A great place to start is your church. Get together with other families who share the same beliefs and values as you. Be a source of encouragement to other families and allow them to do the same for your family.
One of the best ways to grow as a parent is to surround yourself with other parents who are on the same journey. Together, you can ask questions, laugh at the mishaps, grow spiritually through prayer and Bible studies, and support one another. It’s a great way for your child to build lasting friendships as well. It’s a win for your whole family!
7. Do life with your kids.
One of the greatest joys I have in parenting is when my kids are by my side learning something new with me or serving with me. My kids ask PLENTY of questions everywhere we go. My husband and I want to be the ones to guide them through life. What better way to do that than to share all kinds of experiences with them.
Don’t be afraid to involve your kids in every area of your life. Allow them to ask questions; encourage them to explore the world with you. In this process, not only are you giving them a positive perspective, you are also nurturing a close relationship with them. Yes, it takes more energy. It is more time-consuming. It takes a lot of patience. But the results are priceless.
Make sure to also be intentional about sharing fun moments with your kids.
When I made this mental shift in the way I parent, a new world opened up to me. I became less frustrated. Now, I see the world through their eyes. And I enjoy them so much more.
8. YOU are the greatest influence in your child’s life.
Whether this statement evokes excitement or concern, it’s 100% true! Our kids watch us closely. They pick up on behaviors and attitudes without us or them realizing it. No one will have greater impact on your children than you.
Allow this statement to sink in to your heart.
Then ask yourself these questions: How can I be intentional today with the conversations that I have with my kids, with the things that I do with my kids? What kind of person do I want them to become? Am I modeling it for them? Are there things I need to start or stop doing to be a greater example to my kids?
Well, there you have it. A few lessons I have learned along the way. Is there anything you would add to the list? I’m sure there is! Feel free to share in the comment section below.
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