We like to talk about parenting around here. There’s something satisfying about learning new tips and tricks and adding fresh methods to our parenting tool box.
But there are a few other things that I believe are really foundational to raising good kids. These things are a little trickier though, because they are…well, more personal. In fact, they’re all about us. The list could be long, but I am breaking it down into three main categories. I know I’m hitting on a few touchy subjects here, so find a comfortable chair and let your defenses down.
You can be assured: I’m preaching to myself first.
So, without further ado…Here are three of the foundational elements of raising good kids.
1. Our own happiness.
As parents, we set the mood of the home. Sure, we often talk about fussy toddlers and sulky teens, but if we’re honest: It’s us who establish the tone of the home.
You can practice all of the parenting tips in the book, but if you walk around your home negative, bitter, or just plain grumpy, even the best parenting methods will not be effective. On the other hand, a happy, gracious Mom (or Dad) can fill a home with light and joy, and cover a multitude of parenting flaws.
Most of us have experienced the snowball effect of a really bad mood: One parent takes out their frustrations on the other…who lashes out at a kid…who punches the brother…who kicks the dog…who chases the cat..and on it goes…
Predictable. And preventable.
An angry parent makes for a very unpleasant home. Yet a happy, relaxed parent makes a home comfortable and inviting. Even if it’s not a perfect home (because none are) kids will grow up with memories of a peaceful and happy place.
I know this one can be challenging. As parents, it’s easy to get out of balance. We might put so much time into our work, kids, and other responsibilities and neglect taking care of ourselves. But ignoring your own needs isn’t doing anyone a favor. Burnout is a very real thing and it can make for a very grumpy parent (speaking from experience.) Kids benefit from seeing parents who pursue a balanced life — who get exercise, find social outlets, serve, and get rest.
Being super mom (or dad) at best sets unrealistic for your kids’ future, so do everyone a favor and just be human.
Or even better: Be a happy human.
PS> a helpful post about “what a Mom needs most from her family” right here.
There is no way around it: A kid’s sense of security is largely dependent on the state of his or her parent’s marriage. We’ve heard over and over again that healthy marriages produce kids that are more secure, successful, and overall satisfied with life. Your marriage is worth a lot of effort–for your sake and the sake of the kids! (If you are a single parent, this might apply to how you co-parent, or even your relationship with other family members or those close to you.)
When there is tension or anger between parents, the kids are affected. Some kids show it, some hide it, but guaranteed: they are all affected by it. Marital strife is known to cause a child to feel insecure and unstable.
On the flip side a child that sees his or her parents love and serve one another is filled with a sense of security. The world is good when mom and dad get along well. Date nights and little getaways as a couple give our kids a strong sense of stability that mommy and daddy love each other.
We all have challenges in our marriages, (if you don’t, please email me your secret) but we must…MUST be wise to handle things well. Nurture your marriage. Love your spouse, in private and in public. Speak well of one another. Deal with your issues (seek help if you need it.) But take the time to work on it! The reward will go on for generations.
PS> I am planning to write a few short posts sharing some of the things I am currently doing to work on my marriage, so hopefully you’ll tune into those in the weeks ahead.
3. Our Lifestyle.
We all know this, but it bears repeating:
When it comes to parenting, much more is caught than taught.
Our values…those things we tell our kids matter in life? They must be lived out in our own lives if we expect our kids to embrace them.
This is a big responsibility, but let’s not forget: Raising kids is a big responsibility.
The important question is: Are you living out the kind of life you want your kids to one day live? Whatever your personal value system is, modeling it honestly to your kids should be a daily goal.
If you’ve taught your kids how to make friends, and handle friendships, do you model that in your own life? Do your kids see you choose quality friends that are a good influence? Do you treat them well and speak well of them, or do your kids hear you cut others down…gossip, or be critical. Don’t be fooled, kids can spot a hypocrite in a minute.
How about your language? If you tell your kids not to swear, but you cuss like a sailor, it will eventually have an effect. Sure they might hold it in for a few years, but in time, they’re most likely to model after you.
Before you blame peers or some outside influence on your kids’ behavior, keep in mind that what they see (hear) in the home is still the greatest predictor of their future behavior.
Big responsibilities, I know.
(and hold on…I’m not done yet.)
If you (like me) call yourself a Christian, then please…please be sincere in your faith. The quickest way to chase a kid away from Jesus is to call yourself a follower of Him, and then live a defeated life. If you aren’t finding meaning and purpose in life through knowing God, then it is likely that your kids won’t either…
…If you spend your downtime reading steamy romance novels, flipping through gossip magazines, watching trashy reality television, or anything that doesn’t honor God, you’re sending your kids some very mixed messages. If you claim to be a Christian, but drink too much or are dependent on any substance, your kids will be confused at best. Kids sniff out a phony in a second, and when you’re misrepresenting a relationship with God, the consequences can be heavy.
I’m not suggesting legalism or never having fun again, but I am suggesting that you take your personal convictions…personally.
It might help to look at kids like a convenient, live-in accountability system. Everything I’ve covered here is really just about living your best life, and knowing there are eyes on you. We are all pretty good at putting our best self out there for others to see; most of us could improve in the area of walking it out for our own family.
Of course the examples and the list could go on and on, but the bottom line is: If you take an honest look at yourself and find inconsistencies in how you live and what you teach your kids, it would be wise to make some adjustments. If your kids are older, you can humbly own up to it, and they will respect you all the more for that. In fact, it will likely inspire them to do the same.
In closing…(if this helps any), I confess that in the last week I have had to correct myself in all three of the above areas. More than once. And each time I have been reminded that I will never be perfect, but I can absolutely keep improving. I love my kids so much it hurts. They are more than worth my efforts.
So as for me: I want to keep striving to live the best life I can. I want to make my home a happy place, keep building a strong marriage, and show my kids what it looks like to have a sincere and fulfilling faith.
And it’s true: Striving to do all of this is not easy. But then again: Being unhappy, miserably married, and living a defeated life also sounds hard…and pretty rotten, too.
I’m happy to stick with the first.
I hope you will comment below with any thoughts, confessions, or added experience related to this topic! 😉 I appreciate how positive you all keep the comments and especially when you encourage one another through the comments! This is your community and I’m so glad you’re here!
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