We certainly aren’t perfect parents and have made our share of mistakes as we’ve “learned on our feet” – but we place an extremely high value on our daughters and nothing is more deserving of our time and effort than seeing them become the women that God has created them to be.
As we’ve participated in various parenting support groups and training, we’ve often been surprised at the number of parents who are at their wits end with parenting. I know a lot of parents who are great individuals and love their children dearly, they are just simply at a loss when it comes to actually parenting them.
Like us, our daughters certainly aren’t perfect and they do make their fair share of mistakes, but overall they are great girls who see the value in themselves and others. Here are just a few of our parenting values, “rules” if you will, that we are consistent in following:
Love Comes First & Second
In order for any parenting “rule” to work consistently, your children must know first and foremost that you love them unconditionally. We tell our girls that we love them multiple times everyday. However, it’s more than just the simple words “I love you” – we also have to understand who they are as individuals and what their love languages are so that we can also show them how much we love them in the way they receive love. For instance, Kelsey’s love language is quality time, Kristan’s love language is words of affirmation and Heather’s is touch – so we have to show our love for each of them in different ways. For Kelsey, it’s spending time with her and listening to her as she talks about things in her life, for Kristan, it’s telling her she did a good job on something (you should see her face glow) and for Heather it’s lots of hugs and kisses, she loves being close to us. We are intentional in loving our daughters and they know that no matter what they do we will never stop loving them – ever. We’ve seen lots of parents use love as a tool in their parenting, giving it or taking it away based on the child’s behavior. Our children need a foundation of unchanging love to properly grow into the men and women God designed them to be. God doesn’t remove his love from us when we misbehave (and we all do) – so why would we do that to our children?
Love is definitely first in everything we do. And, it’s also second. We’ll talk more about discipline in some of our other rules, but – as it relates to love – we have a rule. After discipline, love is always next. It is extremely important that our daughters know that we love them, even after they’ve just screwed up. We always go back and reaffirm our love for them and the value we find in them after we’ve disciplined them. Many times we begin our correction with statements of love and end with statements of love. Yes, it’s that important.
We Aren’t Parenting Children
This is a major paradigm shift for many parents, but it’s critical. Even though our daughters are 12 to 16, we aren’t parenting teens. Our daughters are teens and we have to adjust our parenting style to recognize their growing independence and need for new freedoms, but it’s not the teen that we’re parenting – it’s the women that they’re growing into. We tell our girls all the time, “We aren’t parenting the 12, 13, 16 year-old that you are right now, we’re parenting the adult that you are one day going to be.” When you see it this way, it changes how you view the importance of what you’re doing today. By viewing our parenting as molding adults, we don’t tolerate or accept a lot of the behaviors that are often associated with “that’s just how pre-teens… teens… etc..” are. If our daughters have a problem with lying, we address it quickly, because I’d rather deal with it now than ignore it or accept it and let them grow up with a problem that hinders their lives as adults. If they have an issue with respect, we ask them, “When you’re an adult, do you think your husband or boss will accept disrespect? or do you think it might cost you your marriage or your job?” You see, it’s critically important that we think about the adults that they will one day become because I don’t want to wake up one day and the opportunities to help them craft their futures are behind us. They have tremendous potential – it’s our job to help them understand that and be the best individuals that they can be.
Value vs. Behavior and Behavior = Consequences
This is a biggie for us. As parents, it is extremely important that we learn to separate the value of our children as individuals from their behavior. We view our daughters as important, valuable individuals with great gifts that God has placed in their lives so that they can make a difference for others – we try to always see them as God sees them. This view is especially important when it comes to behavior. I’ve said before that they’re not perfect and, believe me, they do misbehave and break the rules. We just make sure that we separate the bad behavior from the good child – we even make it a point to say, “You’re not a bad girl, but your actions/behavior in this instance was bad, and that is what we’re going to talk about.” Intentionally separating the behavior from the person helps them maintain their dignity and value as a person and focus solely on the choices that they made that got them into their current situation.
When it comes to bad behavior, we have a very low tolerance level. While we base everything on the same mercy and grace that Christ shows toward us, we’re also very quick to address behavior issues. If it’s a first time offense we will talk with them about the behavior and give them clear direction on how we would have expected them to behave/respond, then we let them know that the next time this behavior occurs, there will be consequences. After that, we follow the rule that ‘behavior = consequences.’ In our house consequences range anywhere from spankings (our girls are getting too old for this one, but it’s quite effective on younger children) to grounding. We’ve even been known to completely empty one of our daughter’s rooms (seriously, down to white sheets and blankets on the bed) to address behavior. (Eventually the items were given back, but it took a while.) The reason this is so important is that it provides our girls with consistent accountability. As we’ve already discussed, our girls know that we love them unconditionally and we know they are going to screw up. They also know that it’s our jobs as parents to discipline them fairly and appropriately so that we can help them overcome the behaviors that would hinder them later in life. No, they don’t like consequences, but they understand it. So, in that respect, we’re all on the same page.
Keep Our Word (Do What We Say, When We Say It)
o.k., I saved this one to the middle of the list, because really – it’s my biggest pet peeve. I absolutely want to scream when I see parents saying things like, “If you do that one more time, I’m gonna….”, “We’ll leave if you keep this up…..”, “You’re about to get it big trouble….” and then not following through with their words and, instead, continuing to issue the same warning multiple times. What on earth? This only teaches our kids that we don’t do what we say and that they can ignore us without consequence. Not only that, but it then drives us to a place of complete and utter frustration where, finally, we get so fed up with the behavior that we lash out in anger and frustration causing even more damage to our kids. They see us as unpredictable time-bombs and are completely at a loss on how to gauge their behavior around us.
When we teach our kids to ignore our instructions, we fail as parents in giving them a measuring stick by which to moderate their behavior. This rule is a simple one for us, if we say we’re going to do it – we do it. Both of our girls know that if we say, “If you _______ then _______” we will absolutely follow through on our words. This teaches them to obey instantly without question and it also gives them a safe measure for how far they can go. By being predictable, we give them the ability to make fully informed choices on their own behavior. Because they know that we will follow through, they also know that if they choose to continue with the behavior, they are choosing the consequence too. This puts the proverbial “monkey” on their back and not on ours to decide when we’re just fed up. It also helps keep us out of the place of anger because we don’t allow ourselves to get pushed that far.
WARNING: This rule is tough on parents too. Steve and I have to be constantly aware of our words, because we know that if we say it, we have to do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve issued a warning with a consequence that really was just too stiff for the “crime” but had to stick with it because I’d said it. Occasionally, if we do this, we’ll tell the girls that we’ve decided that there is still a consequence for their behavior, but that we realize the one we stated is a bit too tough. You just don’t want to make this a habit – so you must weigh your words before you say them – being careful not to mouth off in haste. Yes, mom & dad, we still mouth off too.
Model What We Teach
This one is easy to say but harder to do. As parents, if we’re teaching our children the values of being honest, respecting others, obeying authority, having a relationship with God, etc.. we must be willing to model those same values in our own lives. This is in both big and small ways, because whether you realize it or not, your children are watching your actions more than they’re listening to your words. Be prepared, you will be tested in front of your children, and they will notice if you fail to follow your own rules. You can do it – practice what you preach!!! Your children will have a much greater respect for your rules when they see that not only do you, as an adult, still have to follow them, but that you actually do! As an added benefit, they’ll respect you more too!
Talk, Talk, Talk
Alright, I have girls, so I know this is probably a bigger issue for us than if we had boys. However, no matter the gender of your children, you must realize the importance of talking with them – about stuff that interests them. Do I really care what Zac Efron’s (that’s Troy Bolton in High School Musical for those uneducated of you out there) favorite fast food is? No, really, I don’t – but I know it’s Quiznos (he’s Heather’s dreamboat). You have to know what interests your kids and get interested too, if you don’t they’ll find friends who are and you can’t always guarantee that it would be friends you’d approve of.
But it’s not just the small stuff that you have to talk with them about. It’s the big stuff too. Our girls talk to us about sex, boys, friendships, fights, struggles in their relationship with God, when they hurt, when their confused and when they just simply want to rattle on-and-on-and-on-and-on about their day. No subject is off limits in our house (and believe me sometimes they shock us), if they’re coming to us for advice, we’re all ears and we want to help them because we want them to know the truth from a place of wisdom and love. Moms of daughters, when’s the last time you curled up in bed beside your daughter and just said, “Wazz up?” – try it sometimes, they love it. (by the way, Heather made me change ‘What’s up’ to ‘Wazz up’ because she said I wasn’t being cool…hmmm…need to work oh my ‘cool factor’, I guess.)
The Word is Our Bond
This is a bit of a twist on the saying, “Let your word be your bond” – we believe that The Word is our bond as a family. It’s the Word of God that binds us together, keeps us whole and complete. We have a love for God’s Word, we study it, we pray it, we journal about it, we read it at the dinner table. Every single problem that we might encounter with our kids is already addressed in the Word…. selfishness, deception, disrespect, obeying authority, putting others first, loving unconditionally, sexual desire, protecting yourself from sinful influences…. yep, it’s all there. In parenting, the Word truly is your sword and your shield, we couldn’t do it without it. Don’t be afraid to read the Bible out loud, together as a family…. then talk about what you’ve read. You’ll be surprised at the topics that come up and the struggles that you reveal and have a chance to discuss. Nothing digs deeper into our souls than the Word of God – help your children learn it, live it and love it. That’s your primary job.
Respect & Honor Required
We live in a society that doesn’t value honor or respect. We work hard to teach our children to respect themselves and others. One simple rule we have in our home is that our children are not allowed to address adults by their first names. They have been taught to call adults Mr. & Ms. (last name or first name), or by their family/familiar name (i.e. Pastor, Aunt, Uncle, Papaw, Mamaw, etc.). It’s a simple rule that has a profound impact not only on the way our girls show respect to their elders, but also in the respect they receive in return. You’d be amazed at how many people think extremely highly of our daughters, simply because they addressed them by Mr. or Ms. – from that point on most adults usually see our girls as respectful, well-behaved young ladies. You see, we’re teaching our girls that when you give respect and honor, you usually get it in return. Here are a few sub-rules as it relates to respect and honor:
- Treat every person with kindness and respect no matter their age, social status or race
- Always show respect to those who are older and wiser than you are
- Honor those in authority around you
- Obedience is a show of respect and honor, be quick to obey
Provide Opportunities for Growth
It’s important that we as parents realize our children’s need to gain independence and freedom from us as they get older. It’s our job to help make sure that the independence and freedoms they’re gaining are safe, appropriate, fun and provide opportunity for growth in their lives. I recently blogged about my daughters attending their first youth all-nighter and how much it ultimately changed their lives. We’ve Kristan travel to England & Scotland as a People to People Student Ambassador, she was gone for 3 weeks when she was 9 years old, but in both cases the experiences enriched their lives, helped them to mature and provided opportunities for them to find out for themselves what they’re made of. Yes, it’s sometimes hard. But, I’d rather them experience a bit of life while they still have our safe, loving arms and home to run to when it’s over. Will there ever be an experience that turns out bad? Yes, I’m sure. But, we’ll handle it together and, in the end, you grow from those as well, don’t you?
Have Fun Together!
Find plenty of time just to laugh, have fun and enjoy one another’s company. You never know what tomorrow holds so don’t miss today’s chances. It’ll keep you young too!
Remember that, when it comes to parenting our children, we get back what we train up and when we expect bad, bad is what we get – but when we expect good, good will be our reward.
Here are some phrases that you’ll hear often around our house:
- “I love you”
- “God has big plans for your life.”
- “You are better than the behavior you just exhibited”
- “What do you think about…..”
- “You’re doing a great job”
- “Thank You”
- “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?”
- “We’re not giving up on you, ever.”
Our kids are blessings from God that are given to enhance our lives, teach us to be better individuals ourselves and help us understand how God feels when He’s parenting us enjoy every minute.
Praying I get it right,