Welcome back to the End Average Fundamentals series! If you are new to this, please begin reading the series from the beginning by clicking HERE. Although the messages work on their own, there will be more context for you if you follow them in sequence. Make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter and I’ll send these directly to you so that you never miss a new post. You can sign up right on the EndAverage.com homepage. Now let’s get right to it!
Raising kids right is hard, man. Aside from actually keeping them alive and fed every day I also have to make sure they turn out well?! That’s a lot of pressure! So aside from hearing myself say things like “stop licking that shopping cart!”, I’ve done some searching and praying about what I need to focus on to make sure I give my littles the best parenting I can. I have four children, and my oldest is about to turn eight years old, so I approach the topic of raising children with a combination of lessons learned through experience and also a sense of eagerness for what is to come. I am also fully aware that there is such a wide range of parenting styles that to try to say that mine is right would be ridiculous. What I’m about to talk about is the approach my wife and I are striving for as we raise the next generation – our own children, and also any others we get to influence as we move through life.
The parenting goal
My goal as a parent is to raise my children up to be God-fearing, responsible, productive, and well-rounded adults. That sounds like a tall order! I’ll deconstruct that statement as we move through this, but in short what that means is that I’m much more preoccupied with making sure that my focus is long term. I could spend all my time focusing on threatening or forcing my kids to behave and appear to be good kids in public, but I think that we can encourage good behavior now while also focusing on the long term goal. That being said, I am not a perfect parent nor do I have perfect kids. All I’m saying here is that my wife and I consciously decide our reaction to new behaviors or situations by looking at the future. This means that we have a lot of discussions with the kids about why we do things a certain way, instead of just giving them orders. We’re not negotiating, we’re explaining. These lessons do not end when they move out, but it is our job as parents to lay the foundation of understanding down while they are still in our home. Let’s look at the big areas that we can’t afford to miss while raising kids.
Your children’s faith
As Christians we have a core set of beliefs and morals that we get from the Bible. If I only had one thing to choose to teach my kids it wouldn’t be finances, it wouldn’t be relationships, it would be to pass on my faith and to help establish their own. In Ephesians 6 we read, “train them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (v.4). The Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20) is to make disciples as you go through life. That mission starts at home with your family! In my home we do our best to read from an age-appropriate Bible study or book daily and we pray with the kids before meals and bedtime. We also take advantage of situations that come up to explain faith concepts to them. A lot of these lessons will be learned by us modeling proper behavior and then explaining why we do or do not do certain things. Recent conversation topics in our home have been why we do our best at work even when no-one is watching, why we give to the church, and why we tell the truth even if it could get us in trouble.
Your kid’s individuality
Every one of our kids is completely different from the other. This seems so crazy to me, but it definitely makes our home much more colorful and rounded. Staying consistent with the lessons we are trying to teach them means that we have to be flexible and teach them all with their own learning style. Each kid has their own individual way of feeling loved and appreciated. Sure, they all love to go to the park or out to eat, but one loves to snuggle in front of a movie, and a different one deeply desires doing things like coloring or Lego-building time with me. Each kid draws their security and stability in a different way, so it becomes the responsibility of my wife and I to try to show them love and discipline in the specific way they need it. We are blessed to have variety in our life and I believe that it’s our duty (Proverbs 22:6) as parents to see their natural desires and tendencies, and to encourage them to pursue things they love as they grow. Shoehorning all the kids into one behavior or career path is counterproductive and will foster resentment.
The second part to the individuality topic is that each kid will have their own relationship with me one-on-one. So aside from encouragement and discipline tailored to each kid, I also have to remember that they will relate to me differently. My wife and I are the “sherpas” guiding these mountaineers as they summit “mount adolescence”. But my relationship with them does not end once we see the top, nor will it end once they move out. The strength of my relationship with them early on will dictate how our communication and guidance will be once I start letting go of the reigns and allowing them to make decisions on their own. You can’t control a teenager like you can a seven-year-old, so if the relationship isn’t in place before you get to that phase then your guidance will fall on deaf ears. Rules without relationship fosters rebellion. Jenna and I intentionally foster each individual relationship now so that later on they will know we are there to guide when they really need it – especially after they make mistakes. As the importance of their decisions go up (how to use money, choosing spouses, etc.) our control is less and less, and the only thing holding our ability to guide in place is our trust-based relationship.
You control your kids’ influences
This is something that used to be a normal and expected part of parenthood, but recently has become something that doesn’t get addressed. We as a culture are failing here and I constantly see kids engrossed by iPhone screens instead of engaging with their own family at restaurant dinners. I’ll get to the point: YOU are the parent. YOU can limit screen time and the content they are exposed to. YOU are responsible for choosing the people your kids hang out with and what friends they play with. YOU are the gatekeeper for the content of their minds until they become their own gatekeepers. There are absolutely no excuses here, children are not equipped to decide what is and isn’t good content, or what people they should or shouldn’t surround themselves with, so they absolutely need you to be part of their life in a very active way. It’s ok to say no to play dates with the disrespectful child your kid knows from school. It’s ok to say NO to movies that don’t align to your values or your kids’ age, even if it seems like all of the other kids their age are seeing it.
Embrace the process
Out of all of the challenges of parenting this the hardest for me. I value efficiency, conciseness, cleanliness, and low drama. Kids are the opposite of all those things. I’ll be honest, contentment and appreciation of the phase of life we’re in is hard for me. But you know what? This is one daily decision that I can’t afford to mess up – it’s up to me to choose to embrace the imperfections and the process of raising littles. The more I allow myself to align my expectations to reality, the more I end up enjoying my life exactly where it is instead of where I hope it will end up. It’s entirely a mindset choice, and we can control that part about ourselves when we choose to do so.
In the end, I think that it would be impossible to impart values, morals, and guidance into my kids if I myself didn’t believe in the lessons I’m teaching. Far more is caught than taught. My growing relationship with God needs to be my primary focus, my relationship with my wife is a close second, then come the kids. The short amount of time and energy I get to spend preparing my children for a God-fearing and productive life will be intensely more powerful if I can remember that order of priority. They will see, observe, and learn – my words and lessons will reinforce.
Let’s end average parenting that perpetuates mediocrity. Let’s end average together.
Special P.S. for dads!
Dads, just because this is a fundamentals post doesn’t mean I won’t get deep. I want to remind you that your presence and voice in your kids’ lives is the most powerful influence in the world. TV and feminism have given us stereotypes of passive and dopey dads for many years and people believe this to be the norm. It is absolutely not normal, or healthy. We are not replaceable, we are not dispensable, we are not incapable. When my wife isn’t around I don’t babysit my kids with a grimace, I parent my kids! It’s time to dispel the lies by living by example and setting the tone in our homes every single day so that the next generation will know what right looks like. I don’t give a rip if you’re tired after work, dig deep and make time for the people that really matter in your life – your amazing wife and your crazy kids. They need you right now, not after that next raise or promotion, now. Don’t make excuses, make a legacy.