3 of the Most Important Parts of Parenting (That aren’t Really about “Parenting”)
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!
If this post has encouraged, or challenged you in a good way, please use the social media buttons below to share with your community! Mahalo!!
We just found out we are having a baby. These words are so powerful to us as we prepare to start a family and what it looks like to lead and love like Christ. Xo!
I needed this read today! I’ve felt like such a failure at all 3 lately, especially in the area of living out my faith and Im married to a non-Christian and that makes it even more challenging at times. I’ve not been handling it well and definitely feeling the conviction while feeling reassured of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. Thank you thank you for the post!
I know this post is so old, but I always giggle to myself as I finally get around to reading it from the list of nearly-forgotten messages in my inbox and find that it’s exactly what I needed to hear for the day! My husband and I just read the passage together this morning from Philippians 1:6 where Paul and Timothy are encouraging the people to remember that “he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ”. How reassuring to know that even though we mess up as parents daily, we have the saving grace of Jesus that does the perfecting for us, and when we’re faithful to teach our kids in humility and ask forgiveness when we mess up, they gain so much more than worldly knowledge- they get Godly wisdom that’s far more valuable than anything that will fade in the earth!
Thank you for always being real with us in your posts as a wife and mother- it’s easy to get sucked into the “grass is greener” mentality when following bloggers, but you’re one of the few that I’ve found to be transparent and trustworthy when it comes to giving advice…I like feeling that you genuinely care about your readers and it’s as though you’re sitting and having a cup of coffee with us while we chat about family matters (even though it may be 1000’s of miles away) 🙂
I hope this encourages you today as your words certainly bring encouragement to me!
Love ya ~ Carmella
Carmel! Oh you totally encouraged me! Thank you so much! I love to hear how God brought that post up at just the timing you needed to hear it. And it’s my favorite when a message comes up in multiple ways and you just know it is something you’re supposed to hear (or pass on.) I agree with you and even receive YOUR Reminder today about God covering our inadequacies with His grace. Amen!! Much Aloha to you and thank you again for taking the time to encourage me!
Thank you so much for blogging! This post is just what I needed to read. You are a huge encouragement in raising my little boy. Thank you for continuing to prove that there is a better way to live.
Great post, Monica!
My daughter has been a subscriber for a while now. She recently signed me up. Living down the street from her I spend time with my 2 grandsons often .
In my 70’s sometimes I delude myself with thoughts that I have exclusive immunity against mind and body deterioration. These thoughts never last long…. not my nature. However they do exist.
Your article rang true for me. I do need to exercise my body and mind regularly. Still putting my principles and abilities in to practice inspire me and set a good example for my adult children and 4 grands.
I agree with all you have to say. You forgot one very important fact…that some of us are divorced and have an even bigger responsibility to set an example for our children. I am a single Mom of 2 boys. I enjoy your blog, just wanted to point that out.
Thank you for commenting Lisa! Not sure if you noticed that I did make mention of single parents in the “marriage’ section. That was really all I could do because I knew that I cannot speak for single parents much since I am not one (though I have so much respect for those of you who carry that load!) I wish I could be all things here, but can only speak what I know. 🙂 Sorry if I didn’t mention it throughout; unfortunately if I make mention of every unique situation my post would go on and on and on…:) (I have people reading who have kids with special needs, grandparents raising their grandkids, foster parents, and much more…) Hope you were still able to grab a few nuggets out of there regardless! aloha-
Thanks for the reminders, Monica! Love the pic of you on the swing by the beach – so carefree!
Thank you for this post. It reminds me that we are not all perfect , by learning from our mistakes and keeping God first in our lives helps us all become better people and role models for our children. God Bless!
This is just right! I needed the reminder about language after my homemade chocolate birthday cake batter leaked out of 2 different springform pans all over the oven!! My husband came to the rescue & brought humor to my bleak baking experience saying, “this is better to clean up than dog pooh!” We must remember to make light of our darkness because we are loved, always & we can be in the light, it’s our choice.
Well said, Sarah! And you have a good man! 🙂 Hope the bday celebration has been epic! Hugs to your boy from all of us! XO
Greetings from a snowy Missouri morning, I loved your post. First, I just celebrated 25 years of marriage to the love of my life. Second, I have an amazing son who has been a gift since birth. My husband and I tried for 14 years to have a baby. We had many losses and yet we made it to the birth of our son. I would say he is spoiled just a bit being an only child. He will tell you he isn’t an only child. He will instead tell you about his sister who died and how his mom has several kids in heaven. He knows about loss intimately and shared it willingly. I think he has overheard conversations about how hard it is to know your babies are with God. His sister was born in the second trimester and he held her tiny body. He remembers it and isn’t afraid to tell others. Why is it children are never afraid to speak about things we would never contemplate speaking about to anyone, and do it willingly?
I believe we show him life. The beautiful part and the painful aspect as well. We talk to him about situations we encounter, and I never lie to him when he ask me a direct question. He asked me point blank when he was 10 if me and dad was Santa? I hesitated and he said, “mom, you have never lied to me”, and he found out we were infact Santa. We have discussed everything from sex to playboy. He knows he is loved unconditionally.
Third, he has seen his parents argue, get mad and sometime leave the house. I’m not proud of that one, but he has seen us come together after and tell one another how sorry we are. We are showing him real life and how to handle imperfections we all have.
I believe we must let our children see life is not perfect, but life can be a blessing regardless. I know he sees God through us and how we pick our friends and how we go to church. I sing in our choir and he knows his home is a place where God dwells. I just need him to realize how important it is to have God in him. How can we minister to our son? I minister all day to my kids in my classroom which is a Christian school, but I have trouble reaching him. He is at the age now we’re he is more interested in being in his room than with us. I know it’s puberty, but it is hard to get him to focus on things.
Sorry it has been a long post, but I’m just needing to understand what comes next? How do you get your boys to actively engage in real and meaningful dialogue?
Hi Sara Mirtaheri ,
I was reading your comment and saw you mentioned you have a ten year old son. I too have a ten year old son . He too likes to spend a lot of time in his room. Is sometimes hard to get him out . What I do with my son to get him engaged in meaningful dialogue, I begin with things that are of interest to him. With my son is a little different, because he has mild version of autism. So I have to have things prepared sometimes ahead of time and show him a schedule of activities and things that we will be doing that day. Sometimes this is the only way I can get him to spend more time interacting with us rather than be in his room all day . Plus we take him weekly to the family night at the aquatics indoor swimming for an hour and skating once every other week. He likes these outings and it helps with getting him to have conversations with us. I hope this helps.
Hi Sara! Great comment, and I see that Melinda already left a really great reply! 🙂
I agree with her and suggest drawing your son out through things that he enjoys. I know my sons cannot resist certain games or activities….which often lead to conversations and great dialogue.
Also remember that you are the parent, and you can establish simple rules like how much time he spends alone in his room. If you are not feeling like it is right, perhaps he reads in the living room, or helps you more with duties in or outside of the house. Though he might resist you at first, he might find that he really begins to enjoy the fellowship.
Just keep loving him like you are–sounds like you’ve done an amazing job, and I’m sure you’ll continue to grow and he will too! Aloha-
My son is 12
I accidentally stumbled across something that has turned out to be a wonderfully fun, non- confrontational, creative way of connecting, communicating and engaging with him.
We moved into our new home and the previous owners had left a white board on the wall in a transition kind of space (not in public view)
I started drawing little cartoons with speech/ thought bubbles on this board. My son would respond and we would go back and forth before we change and write a poem or a quote for each other. It has proven to be such an amazingly lovely thing.
Another tip is to do something where your child is the “expert” or teacher and they are responsible for planning the activity. For me, this has been bush walking.
Hope these are helpful suggestions.
God bless your parenting journey
Excellent article. Had hubby read it and he also concurred! Thanks for putting things in perspective. I am definitely a work in progress an also strive to live the best life I can. Thanks Monica!
Thank you Sue. And indeed, we are all a work in progress. 😉 Keep it up!! aloha-
Loved this Monica. Thank you.
Thank you Cathy! Sweet of you to let me know you enjoyed the post. 🙂
thanks so much for your articles. I’m 81 and way past the age of raising kids, but we enjoy our grands and greats so much and seeing how happy positive influences make such a difference. Even the bad memories are good from a distance of 50 or 6 0 years and I treasure each one. Several years ago our daughter established a “bad day” gift and we look forward to it each year……..memories of those “bad” days that have turned into good. Your faith in the Lord is such a testimony. thank you
Patsy–I absolutely LOVE hearing from you. I have such respect for those who have walked many years and still love and honor the Lord and want to encourage younger generations to do the same. You just encouraged me greatly! I’d love to hear more about the “Bad day gift” How does that work? Sounds fascinating! Thank you for your kind words and bless you and your family. Aloha!
Love what you wrote here and I agree w all of it 100%. Thank you for the helpful reminders and I will continue to strive to keep these forefront in my mind each day. Thank you!
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Our marriage was in deep trouble when our kids were 5 and 3. God worked miracles. He healed us overnight. I am thankful they don’t remember. They are 11 and 9 now plus we have a 4 year old now. God is good. He is our peace and our joy and the reason we have a love filled home. Praise Him!
Thank you Jenni–So happy to hear that God did a miracle in your marriage, and with so many great years to raise kids in a healthy home!! 🙂 Love hearing your story. Aloha-
Love this! Seriously needed this reminder, especially coming off winter break with the kids being home. I am guilty of all three, and feels good to know I am not alone.
Thank you Danielle. And no, you’re not alone. We all need the reminders, so glad if this helps a few of us continue to redirect our hearts. 😉 Aloha!
Oh boy, it seems like you have had a front row seat to the last couple of weeks in my home! Guilty on every account, but also encouraged that I am in good company. Thanks for the solid strategies. My guys seem to be trying out “quasi-swears” ( crap, sucks,etc.) and if I look closely I tell them not to use those words but I do. And, I know my attitude is a barometer of the happiness level of my home. Thanks for the encouragement!
Shannon– You did know about my hidden cameras in your house, right? haha. Thank you for commenting. I’m with you in all of this and I just remind others of what i’m reminding myself. Keep up the great work! XOXO
This is one of the best articles I have read on parenting. Concise but straight to the point. It all resonated and sometimes we just need to remember what’s important.
Melissa–Thank you so much. That is a really big compliment. 😉 Yes we all need to remember. So glad you resonated with this!! Aloha.
How do you handle a narcissistic spouse? One who is stuck with reminiscing about the old days with friends & college football? One of is wounded from his controlling mother & couldn’t wait to get away to college & now transfers that wound onto his spouse?
Ellen, I am sorry it sounds like you’re really frustrated. I would absolutely seek counseling. I’ve heard many worse scenarios that are absolutely changed and redeemed when you get help! Don’t give up. 🙂