1. Every Person is Valuable
If there’s one thing that I remind myself and other parents about on a regular basis it’s this – EVERY person is valuable.
Let’s be honest, sometimes we devalue our children. We do this by…
Not looking at them when they talk – instead we’re too focused on our computers, phones, televisions, etc.
Shuttling them off to do something else so that we can continue whatever we’re doing.
Not investing quality time discovering their hearts and listening to them – especially when we disagree.
Thinking of them as “just children” rather than an individual with value, ideas, dreams, thoughts and feelings.
There are probably a thousand other ways that we devalue our children, these are just a few that I’m most guilty of doing. This is the foundational mindset that I needed to adjust to become a better parent. Seeing my children each as a valuable individual who was worthy of my time, investment and understanding was critical.
Each of us would say, “Of course I value my children!” But, I challenge you to ask yourself some defining questions…
Do I give more time and energy to adults in my life – co-workers, friends, family – than I do my children?
Do I really listen when they’re sharing something with me?
Do I discount their problems, issues and concerns because they are “just children” and I have “bigger” things to worry about like bills, work, etc?
2. Their Behavior Doesn’t Define Your Success & It Doesn’t Define Them
I’m so much better at this now than I used to be. It’s so hard not to feel like a failure as a parent when our children act out and do things that are embarrassing. It’s also hard not to feel like a failure when I’ve legitimately messed it up and made a mistake as a parent. But I’ve found great freedom in understanding that neither my own mistakes nor my children’s define my ultimate success as a parent. My ultimate success as a parent is measured not by a standard that I see around me, but by a standard I set within me.
If my children know that I love them with all of my heart and that my role in their life is to lead, guide and shape them to the best of my ability – I’ve succeeded.
If my children know that they can always come to me and entrust me with their deepest, darkest failures and I will neither judge them nor enable them – I’ve succeeded.
If my children know that I don’t measure success by what “so and so’s parents do” but rather our own family values and needs- I’ve succeeded.
If my children know that their father and I are always united in our desire to make the best decisions on their behalf – even when the decision is “no” – I’ve succeeded.
The bottom like here is that for me to be “successful” I must know my children and they must know me – success, in our home, is relationship.
In regard to my children’s behaviors, one of the best decisions that I ever made was made when our daughter, Kristan, was 2. I made the decision that I would never, ever say, “You’re being a bad girl” or any other phrase that attacked her as an individual. What my children “do” is totally different from who they “are.” Their behavior doesn’t determine their worth. I’ve always made it a point to recognize that the choice they made may have been “bad” but they are really, really good kids. When we can speak to the goodness that we see in our children as individuals, even in the face of poor decisions and behaviors, we empower them to succeed rather than condemning them to further failure.
3. It’s Not About You
I vividly remember a heartbreaking moment with one of our girls. She had done something really, really “bad” – and I was hurt, angry, scared and confused as to what could have possessed her to even think it was an okay option. In the moment, out of my emotion, I said, “How could you do this to me?” Her response floored me and is still painful to remember. She looked at me with eyes full of rage and said, “That’s what I hate… you think this is all about you.” That moment forever altered me. She was right. In the midst of one of her darkest hours, my attention was squarely focused on me.
Somehow along the way as parents, we can often feel like everything that we do is all about us – our time, our money, our jobs, our schedules. We invest in our children – but do we do it because we simply want to see them succeed, or because we want to them to return gratitude and tell us how amazing we are? It’s not about how much money I spend, how much time I give, how much sacrifice I’ve made. It’s about them – their hopes, dreams, failures, hurts, fears and plans. When my attention is focused on me, I’m naturally more prone to to evaluating them through lenses of distraction, inconvenience and lack of gratitude. I learned this the hard way – it’s not about me.
4. You Don’t Get To Choose Their Path
This is another lesson that I learned in the trenches. Apparently, I’m pretty stubborn, I have to learn things the hard way. My poor children.
Last year, something happened with one of my girls that was very frustrating to me. After years of dealing with a particular negative behavior it surfaced again following an extended period of financial, emotional and loving investment on our part. We had arrived at a place where I thought things were turning around and was completely blindsided when suddenly everything went seemingly back to zero. I took my frustrations into prayer and was mid vent when a simple thought came to mind, “Who told you that you get to write her story?” Well, it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to hear mid pity party, but it was quite profound. I then came to the scripture in Hebrews 12:2 that says that God is the author and the finisher of our faith. Quite simply, the Lord gently reminded me that it was He and not I who is in control of her testimony, story and life. He loves her more than I do.
As parents, we often think that we somehow get to control our children’s destiny – the life path they choose, the faith journey they must travel or the decisions they make. We don’t get to choose their path. We just get to be guideposts along the way. If they choose another road, then we pack up our guides and try to run ahead of them and point them in the right direction from there. That’s hard for me, and I’m definitely still learning.
5. Your Relationship Needs a Rest
Parenting is hard. Growing up is hard. We all need a break.
I had to change my mindset on consequences a long time ago. Relationships are strengthened in moments of shared memories and laughter. I discovered that sharing memories and laughing were difficult to do when one child is grounded for grades, the other one has had all going out privileges removed for failing to do chores and another one is under restriction because her attitude has been sour grapes for weeks. We had to make a conscious decision to allow for what we call “pressure valve moments” in our family. These are moments when, regardless of the behaviors, we decide to “release the pressure” and just have a day of fun. We may go to the mountains, we may have a game day, we may simply sit around and chat in PJs all day – but we choose to forget about who’s in trouble and just laugh.
In order to grow, your relationship with your children needs rest. Give yourselves a break and have some fun.