“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.”
We have one child out the door and the last one still living at home but mostly independent. We are beginning to taste the joys, and sometimes the sorrow (speaking for myself, not my husband) of a quiet home.
Like most parents, I am no expert. Most of the lessons I’ve learned were actually acquired because I did it wrong the first time (sometimes the 2nd, 3rd, 4th…you get my drift).
We will always be parents and the demands will always be there, they just change. And the pressure releases. And the house gets quiet. And there are more date nights. And it’s hard to watch your children make the occasional unwise choice. And I’m still learning to bite my tongue. And it’s a beautiful thing to see them make wise choices. And build their own self confidence.
Stating again that I’m not an expert (just ask my kids), I became a parent 22+ years ago, and here are a few things I learned along the way.
- Marriage comes first. If you are married, your children are watching how well you love each other. Your children are watching when you think they aren’t. They are smart. They will learn your weaknesses and plot and scheme at times to drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Do not let this happen! You chose each other before that child came along. You will only raise your kids for about a third of the time that you are doing life with your spouse. Don’t let them interrupt your conversations. Go on dates and tell them where you are going and why. You get the drift.
If you are a single parent…this applies to you too. God is a husband to the husbandless. Keep your relationship with Him first priority.
- Relationship over rules. It took some time to learn this one (maybe I’m slow). We had a strong-willed child who really, really needed immovable boundaries. A child who could be very argumentative, who exhausted us. There were days that frankly, we just wanted to isolate him, or ourselves, from one another. We had to make the conscience choice not to (unless it was for his personal safety lol…just kidding…not really). Even as an adolescent teen, he was still a child and it was our job to keep teaching him and shaping him into a man. It was important to keep conversation flowing with both of our children whether they liked us or not (that still applies today). Sometimes, even if they were deserving of discipline or correction, we would explain what the word grace meant, load them in the car, and go out for an ice cream. I don’t regret any of those times!
a : approval, favor <stayed in his good graces>
b archaic : mercy, pardon
c : a special favor
d : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
e : a temporary exemption : reprieve
- Practice self-control. Especially when they are young and it seems that the only way to get their attention or get them to behave as you wish is to raise your voice or shock them with an unexpected yank of the arm. Be self-controlled! They need to see that they can trust you in the big picture. They’ve got to know that you know what you’re doing (even if some days you feel as if you don’t!). Take a breath. Count to 10. Whatever you need to do. Just hold it together!
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
- Start letting go early. Our goal as parents should be to prepare them to be well adjusted adults that won’t just survive adulthood, but thrive! The younger that you can start giving them a little responsibility, the more opportunities there will be to build their self-confidence. If we do everything for them, they can’t take credit for anything. If we allow them opportunities to make choices, then they get a chance to revel in the good feelings that come with owning their decisions and be proud of themselves.
- Do it God’s way. He created family. It was His idea and He wouldn’t give us a task and not teach us how to do it. God’s word is an instruction book on life, a treasure chest filled with wisdom on how we should treat people. Your children are small people. Over the years if when my husband and I have disagreed over how to handle a situation with our children, we’ve been able to turn to this book and learn what to do, and we don’t argue about it. It’s our common ground. These precious ones are God’s children that have been put on loan to us. Surround yourself with other believers and watch, ask questions, learn. We did that. We did it deliberately. Be deliberate in this.
If I could take all of these lessons that I learned and put them under one giant umbrella…it would be to mind my own business. It is so easy to look around at other families and begin comparing one parent’s style of parenting with ours and compare one child’s rate of maturation or social skills or whatever it may be, and either a. point out their flaws or b. point out my flaws. STOP! We answer to one. THE One.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
Parenting is one of the most important privileges on the planet and we were hand-picked to raise our little ones. Hand. Picked.
There are different challenges that lie ahead in their young adult years. Our kids will still need us, but we are no longer responsible for their actions. It’s different…and I’ve still got a lot left to learn…and we are still surrounding ourselves with people whom we can trust and glean wisdom from.
If you are still raising your children, I am praying for you. Hang in there!
Fellow empty nesters…what am I leaving out? What advice would you give to other young parents?