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My new philosophy on parenting

I’ve been thinking about parenting a lot lately. I don’t know if it’s because Father’s Day is coming up, or because I am about to become a new parent again, but it’s been on my mind.

So on Wednesday night two weeks ago, while Jason was preaching, I had a little bit of an epiphany. To say it’s a “new” philosophy might be a bit misleading, because I think maybe I have always felt this way. But I have never put it into words in quite this way before.

I think the key in parenting is to only make a big deal out of things that really matter.

You see, being in youth ministry, Jason and I see a lot of different kind of parents. I see parents that don’t make a big deal out of much of anything. Promiscuous clothing, disrespectful attitudes, violent video games, distasteful music, and the like are no big deal to these types of parents. They’re too laid-back to be bothered with correcting their children.

And as you can imagine, these are the kids we have trouble with in youth group. And unfortunately, they are also often the teenagers who have fallen deeply into sin and are leading other kids astray. I certainly don’t want to make that mistake as a parent.

But then there are other parents, the ones who make a big deal out of EVERYTHING. They worry and overprotect and push and prod and control until their children are either too shy and afraid to ever try anything or finally get fed up and rebel wildly. I don’t want to be like that either.

So I’m trying to find a balance somewhere in the middle. I want to identify what matters so I can make a big deal out of those things, and equally importantly, identify what doesn’t matter, and try to let it go. Here’s my list so far.

Obedience matters.

I want my children, someday, to be obedient to the Lord in whatever he calls them to do. But I can’t teach them to do that without teaching them to be obedient to me. So when they follow the rules and do what Jason and I ask, I will commend them for it. If they disobey, no matter how small the request, they’ll face the consequences.

What other people think doesn’t matter.

Comparing myself to other moms is never helpful. This is especially tricky with Jason being a pastor, because our lives are so public. I worry too much about what other people think of me as mother. But I want to be careful, in raising my kids, not to put expectations on them that are solely based on others’ opinions. Because what those people think of them is not anywhere near as important as God’s opinion of them.

A good attitude matters.

Even if my children dutifully followed my every request (and I know they won’t), if they did it with a lousy attitude I wouldn’t be pleased. I’m learning, in my own life, how much my perception of my circumstances hinges on my attitude. I want my boys to approach life with a good attitude, so that they can get the most out of every experience.

Stuff doesn’t matter.

When I was a teenager, I totaled my car. I was so distraught over what my parents would think, and I was blown away by how gracious they were to me. “It’s just a car, and it can be replaced. You can’t,” they said. I want to have that perspective. With two little boys running around, I’m sure lots of things in our house will be broken, stained, or ruined over the years. But they’re just things. I don’t ever want to place more value on them than on the people I love.

Safety matters.

This one gets a little tricky. Because parents vary widely on where they draw the line between safe and unsafe. And I don’t want to be overprotective. But my boys will wear seat belts every time they get in the car. And if they start crying hysterically because of the loud voice I use when I yell “NO!” as they crawl towards an open oven, that’s okay. Because their safety is a big deal to me.

Those are the things I’ve thought of so far. I’m sure the list will grow the longer I’m a parent, but this is what I am working on for today. Now you tell me, did I miss anything important? What matters and doesn’t matter to you?

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