Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Before you have kids, you know everything. You judge other people's parenting styles and say profound things like, "When I have kids..." Or, "I will NEVER do that." And my favorite is, "Know what I would do? I would..."
Then, a 7lb9oz bundle of humanity enters your life and it hits you like a ton of bricks.
I don't know anything.
So, time moves on. You muddle through the mundane and fly through the fun times, and before you know it, you've got a kid walking across the stage, receiving her diploma from high school. And you hope against all hope you did it right.
I want my children to be amazing. Not just "good kids," and not just "great kids." I want their lives to be NOTHING short of amazing. Now, hear me out, all you "I want everyone to be fair" people. I'm not saying every person isn't amazing. The fact that you are one of two million sperm that met one teeny tiny egg is miraculous alone. The fact that the Creator of the universe numbered the hairs on your head and calls you by His own special name for you is both breathtaking and humbling at the same time. So, yes, we are all "amazing" in His eyes and in our own ways.
But what I'm talking about is raising children who are amazing- which by definition means "To overwhelm with wonder, to bewilder."
I don't know if you've noticed, but there's alot of bewildering behavior from children these days. But like I've said 72,488 times, we have a parent problem, not a child problem in this country. Parents are leaving the school systems, churches, Internet, television, and older siblings to raise their children, all for the sake of the almighty dollar. And as a result, we've got a group of kids who cannot carry on a meaningful conversation with another human being, have no moral compass by which to guide their lives, and are drifting aimlessly the closer they get to adulthood.
This is not amazing. This is sad. This is tragic.
So how then? How do we raise children who overwhelm the world with wonder because of the content of their character? How do we produce children who bewilder others with their style, their grace, their hearts?
1- Spend time parenting them on purpose. Fixing dinner, carpooling all over town, and bedtime routines are non-negotiable parts of most of our lives. However, we can parent on purpose through these moments. As you cook, employ little hands to help you mix it up, and sneak in a life lesson about patience. As you drive to yet another sporting event, find something out the window to talk about that exemplifies the magnificence of the God we serve. When you make a mistake, point it out to your children, and tell them what you did to correct it. Be vigilant about seizing the small moments because the big moments are rare and before you know what happened, life moved on in those small moments and you were on your smartphone.
2- Mandate manners. Manners are SUPER important in this world, believe it or not. I taught children for fifteen years at our church. Know the kids I naturally feel more generous to, more favorable to? The ones who say thank you for a piece of candy. The ones who call me "Miss Jill" instead of "Jill." We make Abi answer with "Yes, ma'ams," and "No sirs" when she is answering us. We make her say, "Yes?" instead of "What?" when we call on her. Know the looks and words of affirmation she gets from the cashier at Publix when she responds with "Yes, ma'am" or asks the man bagging our groceries how his day is on her own initiative? Fact is, where manners are, favor follows. And furthermore, what's wrong with teaching children to respect adults? Lord knows this is a dying virtue. I'm bringing it back. Period.
3- Teach them to go the extra mile. Kids have an innate pattern to do what's expected of them. So, it's up to us to expect their best, to draw the best out of them. Hear what I'm saying... not MORE than they can give. We need to demand WHAT they can give. While Abi is doing her homework, and I can see she's writing sloppily or giving 50% of her best, I literally tell her that I'll throw her homework away and she can start over if she can't give her very best. Sound extreme? Perhaps. But I know the boost she gets when she has done her best and can look at a sheet of paper done neatly and properly, versus one she gave little effort to. Until a child understands the pay-off of doing something right, we have to set them up for the pay-off. They won't do it on their own. But eventually, they'll become addicted to the success.
4- Quit with the handouts. My love language is gifts. So, I have to fight the urge to shower Abi with toys, clothes, and whatever else I can get my hands on. It's just innate to me to show her my love through cute things, fuzzy things, and fun things. But I have to reign it in. Giving her whatever her heart desires may be fun and all, but it's not real life. If she sets her heart on something and wants it badly, me rushing out to make it happen is only perpetuating the entitlement mentality that her generation suffers from. Now, does this mean that everything she gets, she has to work for? No. I'm all about gifts. But with BALANCE. She receives an allowance. Not for chores (though she can earn more money for difficult jobs). It's based on her age, ($1 per year), her attitude (her attitude stinks, she loses dollars), and her general level of responsibility. Then, when she sees that $40 toy, she knows she has about 6 weeks of allowance to save in order to get it. May sound sad, but that's real life, people. I ain't raisin' kids to think they can snap their fingers or pull out a credit card and make things happen.
5- Put God in the center on purpose. Those of us who are "Christians" may think that church is the main obligation we have to our children's spiritual health. Quite the contrary, my dearie. Church is an added tool to their health... it is not the main source. The Bible tells us that they should learn first about God "from their mother's knee." God created Adam, Eve, and the kids that followed. The church didn't come for many years later. This is the model He wanted us to follow! Talk about God's faithfulness as you deposit your paycheck. When a child's crying because of a skinned knee, pray first, THEN Band-Aid. Talk to God outloud when you're looking for a parking spot, then thank Him outloud when you find one. Remind your children of things God has done in your family that proves His might. These stories will die when we do if we don't keep them alive.
6- Create a motto for your child's life and speak it over them daily. Every single day, I speak these words to Abi (sometimes twice a day)- "Thank you, Jesus, that Abi is smart, safe, healthy, kind, and obedient. In Jesus' name, Amen." She says it with me. And lately, I've noticed her attaching it to her bedtime prayer on her own. I want MY voice, telling her what HIS voice says about her to be the loudest voice she hears. Because, in all actuality, there will be days she feels less than amazing. My prayer is that these words I've spoken over her for so long will resonate louder than the voices around her or the voices in her adolescent head.
Raising kids is tough. Raising amazing kids is even tougher. But, you know what? Growing old and gray and realizing that those overwhelmingly wonderful and bewildering kids are a product of our parenting (and the grace of a merciful God) will be worth it all. Guaranteed.