Family is so important when one is going through tough times. They can be a source of true solace or terrible strain. In my case, it’s the former. I’m related to some of the best people in the world and their love sustains me.
My immediate family is going on a camping trip this weekend. Nine adults and two kids. No electricity, computers or cell phones, just, tents, campfires and mosquitoes. We genuinely enjoy being together and not many families can say that, for which we are extremely thankful.
I credit our closeness to the grace of God and to some basic precepts Susan and I learned from her parents and other wonderful role models. We made some mistakes along the way but managed to get the important things right.
We live in a broken world and many parents find themselves in less than ideal circumstances and my heart goes out to them. Lord knows parenting is hard enough with a partner, much less single or divided. What they can do is focus on the things under their control, asking God to magnify what they do right and minimize what they do wrong.
Looking back, I can condense over 30 years of parenting experience into 200 words of sage advice based on a few self-evident truths:
- Children are born in God’s image, not ours. Parents are responsible and accountable for raising them but we do not own them, nor are they indentured servants.
- Children learn how to be human by watching their parents from day one. Loving their mother or father unconditionally is the greatest heritage we can give them.
- Spend quality time with your tots if you want to have quality relationships with your teens. The adolescence years can be a wonderful season if you approach it as good friends, not strangers.
- No matter their age, always treat your children with dignity and respect. And require them to treat you and others with the same.
- Be your children’s greatest fan. They get enough insults and criticism outside; they need support and encouragement from home base. Their self confidence begins with your unshakable belief in them.
- A parent’s job is to figure out how each of their children are naturally gifted and to help them reach their full potential. Work with the grain, not against it. You will get fewer splinters that way.
- Say “yes” as often as possible and “no” only as often as necessary.