Don’t you wish you could have parenting “do-overs”?
You could hit pause after you have dealt with something badly and go back and do it over again. Hindsight is wonderful if we choose to learn from it and awful if it brings guilt or anger.
I (Joey) was talking to a parent recently who told his 17 year-old first-born child, “You are my experiment. I learned how to parent on you.”
You may feel like this at times too, but in parenting there are no “experiments”and there are no “do-overs”. When it comes to parenting, you get one opportunity per kid and one only.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he is to go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” At parenting conferences I often say, “Parents are training their kids in the way they will go, but not always in the way they should go.”
Some of the best advice we could give you is to be an intentional parent. This means you are parenting deliberately and purposefully in both words and actions. You choose to parent every single day rather than dealing with your kids when you are so angry or frustrated with them you can’t stand being around them any longer.
Let’s say your child’s heart is like cement. You need to mix the cement with just the right consistency to get it to harden just right. When it is ready you pour it in and smooth the roughness out, sealing it with your love and encouragement. Parents often hold their breaths, trying to be patient while it dries (a time-consuming process) wondering if what they put in “took”.
When you want to teach your child a new character value like patience, you need to think about all you want them to know about being patient (age-appropriate) and then determine how you are going to teach it to them including ways to be patient. You need to determine ahead of time how you will correct them for it when they aren’t patient and how you will encourage and praise them when they are.
Before cement is poured, forms are put into place so it will go where the contractor wants it to. You need to pre-determine what boundaries you want to put into place so the cement (teaching) goes where you want it to the way you want it to. Pouring it in so that it’s not too much information that will overwhelm your kids because they don’t have the age or maturity to understand it is a fine line parents walk every day. Just like us, your kids can only handle so much information at a time before they mentally shut down. When this happens, the cement will flow over the forms with no shape or meaning to it and it will harden this way into place.
Concrete takes time to harden. In the same way, when you give your kids some incredible information, it needs time to cure. They may need time to change bad behaviors or ask more questions to clarify what they think you told them. We always asked our kids after we knew they understood what we wanted them to learn to give us one way they were going to put it into practice that week. Doing this gave us something to look for to see if they were working on it and it put a concrete way into their mind to remember to do it.
Training a child takes time! I know a young father who, when his job moved to a new location, it cost him 3+ hours driving each day to and from work. He didn’t see his young children when they were awake, meaning his wife was a single parent during the week. Because they wanted to be intentional parents, they chose to move away from friends and their church to a much costlier area to live so he could be home with his kids when they were awake each day.
Intentional parenting means you have to make choices. When you are with your kids you are always parenting! This means when you yell at them because you are tired and frustrated, you may not remember what you said by the time you go to bed but they may and often do remember it for days, weeks, months or longer. When your kids are awake you are parenting. It is not “free time” for you to be on your phones or watching television.
In the parenting class Growing Kids God’s Way we learned, “Everything you do whether good or bad, is teaching your kids something.” We took that to heart and made our parenting our biggest priority (after our relationship with God and each other) and our jobs and hobbies came after those.
There were many things we wanted to do in life. Many hobbies, organizations we could volunteer with and creative interests called our names. We were invited by many friends and groups to join them and to help them out, but we kept our first and primary focus on our kids.
We did go on dates and take time to rest. We also kept working out at the gym, and even when we needed to get away for a weekend we did. Parenting is a season in life. We are now empty nesters and don’t have to think about our kids or their activities when we want to do something or go somewhere. We made mistakes when it came to parenting and so will you. But hopefully, when your parenting years are over, you won’t wish you could have a “do-over” when you look at your adult children.
As you start this New Year, what do you need to change so you don’t wish for a “do-over” in your parenting?
“Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)