How to Navigate the Parenting Journey

Being a parent is probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.  About the time you realize what you should have done during the last phase of your children’s lives, they have moved on to the next phase.

Being a parent is very humbling.

I still have much to learn about being a parent.  (Right now, I am trying to learn how to be a good parent to two adult children and their spouses.)  When our children were young, I read, listened to audio/video presentations, and watched other parents in order to learn how to be a good parent. Charlotte and I learned a great deal by paying attention to what others did with their children.  I can’t emphasize enough the simple practice of observing other parents and processing what you see. Periodically, I would ask some more experienced parents questions about child rearing. 

In recent years, I have observed a few things that encourage me greatly.  I can think of a number of younger couples who seem to excel at what they are doing as Christian parents.  On the other hand, I have also observed some parenting that causes me great concern.

What makes me nervous?

A mom and dad who seem to think they have arrived in their understanding of parenting.There are some people who have been parents for two, three, or four years who almost seem to think they are a cut above other young parents.  Sometimes they will have read one book on parenting and see that book as the definitive work on parenting.  No reason to read anything else or listen to anyone else.  After all, they have read the book (not referring to the Bible).  Really? Such a spirit does not reflect advanced intelligence about parenting but naiveté or worse.

A mom and dad who have basically placed their child in charge.  This family has become child-centered.  Whatever this child wants, this child gets. Such child-centeredness is to the detriment of the child.  This happens regardless of how many other people are inconvenienced by the desire of these parents to please this child at all costs.

How does a person navigate this parenting journey?

1.  Pray for your parenting and for your child.  If you aren’t praying for your children regularly, who is?

2.  Be intentional about your children and their faith journey.

3.  Lighten up!  Every parent has messed up.  OK, you lost your temper or you said that word. Maybe you were impatient with your child and snapped at him.  Receive the grace of God and leave the past in his hands.

Question

What have you learned by observing good parents?

 

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Charlie Coil

    You’ve likely heard me mention this before. What I’ve observed, like you, as the father of two grown daughters with spouses and two grandsons, is how much more my wife and I pray for others who might come into our children’s lives to provide a positive spiritual influence. We know that evil will always be lurking around their hearts as it also lurks around our own hearts. This, of course, is the prayer of Jesus in John 17:15 “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” Here’s the completely unexpected thing I’ve discovered watching my oldest daughter and her husband try to cope with the challenges of parenting an 8-year old special needs child. I’m still praying this prayer of Jesus but now with the painful awareness of what it means not to be ‘taken out of the world’ or that is, not to be shielded from all suffering. And I pray this prayer with a far more urgent sense of their need to be protected from the Evil One. The ironically beautiful and spiritually rewarding outcome of their having to cope with this particular type of parenting challenge is that they have grown spiritually NOT despite this adversity in their lives but BECAUSE of it! No one prays to God to have a special needs child born into their family. But, when that child comes, something happens to prepared hearts. God always seems to appear more powerfully or vividly in a difficult circumstance. So, I guess my point is that I’ve counseled some parents of adult children who seem to be praying for God to sort of keep their children in a bubble, shielded from the real world. They may not express this verbally in their prayers but their actions suggest this is really their heart’s desire since they worry and fret over every little adversity in their children’s lives. It’s as if God is not answering their prayers whenever they see their children suffering just by being ‘in the world.’ I would challenge that approach by proposing that parents in this stage of our lives instead pray like Jesus prayed for his disciples. “Please God, use this suffering in their lives, use it to build them spiritually and bring them closer as a couple. Use this difficulty to show them who You are in a deeper more profound way than they’ve ever seen before. And most of all, protect them from the Evil One who is always trying to use suffering to bring us down.”

    • Jim Martin

      Charlie, I really like the point that you are making. And there is great opportunity to pray for our children through adversities that are obvious and for those that are hidden or are quietly dealt with. Years ago, it was revealed that a family was really dealing with some heartache. Few people would have known this. When it did become known, a friend of mine said, “You know you never really know what people are dealing with.”

      I think about this sometimes as I pray for another person or family. Sometimes there is deep suffering in the life of a person and yet few people would know it. I wonder if they have allowed God to take that challenging issue and shape their lives in a very positive way by this.

      Thanks so much.