For the past several weeks, I've been pondering about what kind of parent I should be. About what kind of parent God wants me to be. I began thinking about this here.
There are millions of really great things that we can do as parents, but nobody can do everything. I'll never be perfect, and mistakes are a given - even from this list.
But these are the things that I think are most important in our household. To us, as parents, and to our kids. So far, these practices are calling our names, and so we're going to work to be intentional in these areas specifically.
1. Listen to your kids. Kids love to tell stories, to share news about their day, to give you reports on their stuffed animals and other friends, and to provide flash updates on boo-boos and other items of severe importance. It can be hard to give those things full attention sometimes, especially when we're together all day. Sometimes I just want to say, "I know that." Or to keep my eyes - and my thoughts - on what I was doing prior to the interruption. But they don't want my half-hearted attempts, and if I don't prove the value of their news now, how can I expect them to share with me when they're older and life brings them bigger challenges?
2. Start the day off right. I want to teach my kids the value of spending quiet time with God, but they'll know if I'm saying it and not doing it. My daughter started reading her Bible on her own a few years ago because she came and sat with me on the couch at the end of my study time each morning, and she wanted "to be like Mommy." She now has deeper reasons for her own quiet time, and those will continue to grow as she does, but I need to set a good example.
3. Read scripture together. We've begun to read the Bible together at breakfast each morning. This provides a great opportunity for listening to God's word together, spoken aloud, and discussing it.
4. Make God an integral part of the day. God doesn't exist in a vacuum. He created the world and everything in it, and talking about that in a natural way invites God into our day. We make a point to talk about exciting things that we see in nature and to talk about how God might have made them. When the sunset is particularly vibrant, we might say, "God painted a beautiful sunset tonight!" Or when we watch an animal move, we wonder how creative God must be to make so many different animals.
5. Pray together. This is the hardest one for me. I'm not used to praying out loud with anybody, but the kids like to pray together, and I think it's important that we do so and have the bond that only prayer can create.
6. Date your kids. I love spending time as a whole family, and I'm thankful that God lets me stay home with them each day. We enjoy our time together, but there's also something special about having one-on-one time. Each child is always especially excited when we head out on a date, and I enjoy being able to do their favorite things just with them. This is also a great way to teach them how to handle themselves when they're out and about and on a date. Someday the time to date/court will arrive, and it will be smoother for all of us if we've practiced and set expectations for proper behavior. Should our daughter expect to be treated with respect and chivalrous behavior? Should she be kind, polite, and attentive? Yes and yes. Should our son be respectful and protective of his date, being a kind, chivalrous escort? Yes. Those are expectations we can build now, and we can have fun doing it.
7. Discuss the world around you. I want to protect my children from the craziness of the world all around them. It's fallen, and evidence of that is everywhere. Keeping them from all knowledge of the many ways in which we've messed up God's creation will only cause them to be in shock when their bubble finally bursts - and it doesn't allow them to be used by God as a force for good. How can they help feed the homeless if they don't know that homeless people exist - or how many of them there are? How easily could someone trick them into taking a drug if they aren't aware of the severe drug problem in our country? Making them aware of these issues as they're developmentally and emotionally ready to handle them is important. We're not going to bash the people around us, but we can make them aware of these issues in small ways, talking through them whenever they need, so that they can learn how to make wise decisions as teens and adults. Perhaps someday they'll be able to make a difference in these areas!
8. Make time for conversation. Sometimes I get impatient with talking. It's not my favorite thing, and a mom's to-do list is always so long that I have trouble focusing on conversations that don't feel important to me at the time. Selfish, right? I know. But just like I need to listen to what my kids want to share with me, we also need to make time to talk things through. Scripture. The news. What happened at their school events and field trips that day. We need to talk through things, not just to discuss big world issues, but to teach them how to think things through and how to analyze things. That movie we watched, the one that was different than the book we read? Why was it different? Why did the producers change the plot from that of the book when it's been popular for more than 50 years? What message are they trying to send? What do they want you to think/feel/say/buy? What does the Bible have to say about this issue? I think that we're going to be doing a bit less doing and a bit more talking in the months to come.
Our kids are still fairly young. I'm sure I'll be adding to this list as they grow, but for now, this will get us started.
What would you add?