EARLEY: Ingredients for Being a Great Parent
Published 3:16 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021
By Al Earley
Here is the list of things parents would never say. “How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?” “Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too.” “Just leave all the lights on, it makes the house look cheerier.” “Let me smell that shirt. Yeah, it’s good for another week.” “Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I’ll be glad to feed and walk him every day.” “Well, if Johnny’s mamma says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.” “I don’t have a tissue with me … just use your sleeve.”
What are the ingredients of being a great parent? I volunteered to watch my grandsons while my son and his wife traveled. It brought back the important list of things my wife and I needed to be good parents: understanding, willingness to listen, unconditional love, parents on the same page, and forgiveness certainly make the short list. To celebrate the return of my son and his wife to take the parenting duties back I share with you four things I think played a key role in helping my kids grow to be healthy, confident adults. Your list may be different. I share mine as food for thought.
Love is the first ingredient. Of course the child needs to know they are loved, both by word and action. But that is not the most important thing. Our love for God is the first thing a parent needs to focus on. Then our love for our spouse is next. This allows the children to see love modeled by their parents, and helps the couple stay on the same page raising the kids.
The reason our love for God is first is because God is love (I John 4:8 & 16). His perfect love can redeem our imperfect love, and we will always need that perfect love because our love will not always be shared very well. God is always trying to teach us new lessons about love to understand the many facets of love, like the very difficult command to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:44). This is especially important at those times it seems those closest to us, our family, are our biggest enemies.
After love comes discipline. Kids love boundaries. It makes them feel safe. Kids love to try to destroy boundaries, and get very angry when they can’t. But they love when the boundaries stay in place because they feel safe. They will just never tell you they love boundaries. We practiced “Tag Team” parenting. When I was exhausted from enforcing boundaries I would go to my wife and say, “Tag, you are it!” She would grin, and with fresh energy establish parental authority in our home. I actually enjoyed watching the kids wilt into cooperation when the fresh parent took over.
Having a plan to discipline your kids that is consistent and consistently applied is also important. Also, the way we discipline our children can teach them a lot about our moral values. These things should be thought through carefully. Our discipline should also teach logical consequences and delayed gratification. Studies show that adults who learned to understand these two when they were children are much more stable, healthy, and happy.
Next, fathers need to be involved in their children’s lives. Absent fathers are at epidemic levels in our country, and our children are paying a big price. The highest percentage of children struggling with depression, juvenile delinquency, drugs, alcohol, sexual acting out, etc. are usually the children with an absent, neglectful, or abusive father. Dads, get involved in your children’s lives.
Finally, get the kids in church regularly. There are a lot of good reasons to do this, but one that is not always mentioned is that it gives your kids great role models. My kids know who the church men and women were who had a great impact on who they are today. I am so grateful for these church friends who were there when the last person they wanted to guide them was me.
What is your list of the most important ingredients for a good parent? Have you taken time to plan how to integrate that list into your parenting (and grandparenting!!!). How do you share love with your kids? What is your plan to discipline your children? Who were the role models that helped you through hard times growing up? Who is there to be your kid’s role models when they need someone else besides their parents? God blessed me so richly through the experience of raising the children He gave me. I hope you are having a great experience as well.
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.org.