So- I joined the TODAY show Parenting team, and they're asking regular moms like me for parenting advice. Seriously??? The only thing I know for sure is that, after eight years and three children, I still feel like I have NO idea what I'm doing. I consider the day successful if my kids go to bed clean and fed and mostly happy (and sometimes, clean is optional!). I married a wonderful man, and though we don't always agree on everything, we agree on the beliefs we want to instill in our children:
1) Our children will be respectful- to everyone; adults, peers, all of God's people.
2) Our children will be held accountable for their actions and learn that every decision made in life has a consequence, whether it be good or bad.
3) Our children will know that they are loved, regardless of where their lives may lead them. I frequently tell them that they can never do anything that will make me love them any less. No matter how mad I may get at them, nothing will diminish my love. Furthermore, as much as I love them, God loves them that much more. There's a game that my kids and I play. We call it "I love you to...." I will say "I love you to the stop sign." The kids will say "I love you to the street light" or anything that might be in our line of sight. The game always ends with us both saying "I love you to the heavens." We don't say "I love you to the moon" because that can be measured, and the love between parents and their children is immeasurable. (My 4-year-old, Bennett, has now started randomly started saying to me, "Mommy, I love you all the way to God." Such joy to my heart!)
4) Our children will know how to fail gracefully in life. Parents always want the best for their kids, and we are no different. However, I refuse to raise children who think life should be handed to them on a silver platter and that they will get their way in everything. We have been very blessed in life, and my children thankfully do not want for anything; this is a fact I do not want them to take for granted. I firmly believe one of the best things a parent can do for their children is to teach them that they will lose in life, and they need to know how to do it with grace. Whether it be in sports, board games, or later in life in school or at a job. Life does not often go as we plan, and we need to know how to roll with the punches and rely on God to help them through.
There are so many more things, and the list changes from day to day, but these are the things that always remain. I have a list for each of my children that I pray over often (though never enough); it's a list of characteristics that I hope to see in them when they are adults. In addition to those listed above, we strive to teach them kindness and compassion for others and a strong love for their God. As one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker, says, "If they don't love Jesus and people, it matters zero if they remain virgins and don't say the F-word. We must shepherd their hearts, not just their hemlines."We need to focus more on our children's hearts than on their actions, because it is their hearts that LEAD their actions.
I am so grateful for these little humans that have been entrusted into my care. They have taught me more than I ever imagined I could learn, and I want to give them the world. But more than that, I want to teach them how to make the most of this world- and show this world how much God loves it through how they treat others. Every night, I remind my children that God has big plans for them. To me, this doesn't mean that they will cure cancer or be sports starts or movie stars (though my 8-year-old has some big plans for herself in those regards). It means that whatever the plan is for their lives, they will make a difference to someone. Just like you do for your kids every day. So my advice- instill in your children now the qualities you want to see in them in the future. Model those qualities. Talk about why they're important. Mold those precious souls. You will be so glad that you did!