“When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles
and the bottle’s on a poodle and the poodle’s eating noodles…
…they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle
bottle paddle battle.”
From Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
Isn’t this sometimes how being a parent feels?
Don’t you sometimes wonder how to cut through the deluge of advice and information?
Especially, in the day-to-day activity of living life as a parent?
Below we offer a few goals to consider that might simplify your thinking.
Almost any job we have at any point in our life encourages us to set goals. Every school we attend has goals for us to reach. As adults, we usually have goals, both big and small, that we would like to accomplish. Sometimes my goal for the day is just to get out of bed. And maybe get dressed. Later on.
When I think back to my early years of being a parent, if you had asked me what my goals for my children were, I would probably have said “Oh, I just want them to be happy!” or “As long as they are successful at what they do!” How many of us have said that at one time or another? I think probably quite a few.
I am not suggesting that happiness and success are bad goals, but they are kind of vague. Well, actually they are very vague. Ensuring our children’s happiness as a goal is pretty unrealistic. And how do you actually measure success? And are happiness and success really that important to live your life well?
As we know, hindsight is usually 20-20 (my children are grown) and our life experiences can definitely change our opinions. So with that perspective in mind, here are four goals for parenting derived from slogging through the trenches as well as thinking and listening to God. Hopefully, this list will be an encouragement for those of you still in the parenting game.
1. We need to prepare our children to love and to be loved.
Wow, that is different from wanting them to be happy, isn’t it? Notice the action verb “prepare” in this goal. This implies that there are some actions we can take as parents. So, how do we actually do this, prepare our children to participate well in the act of loving? The best answer is found in our previous parenting blog
If we are attempting to love God well, love others well, and understand ourselves well, we will most likely model love to our children on a daily basis. This prepares them to love and to be loved. I like to think of this as the “grace” goal.
2. We need to teach our children to follow rules and set limits.
This is pretty self-explanatory. To get along in the world we need to understand that wherever we are, there will be rules. If a child understands that the rules are for his protection, he may be more inclined to obey (although he will rarely let you know this by his actions). Children also need to know how to protect themselves by setting boundaries. As children grow, they should be taught to set appropriate boundaries. Parents can model this behavior for their children by the way they interact with rules and set personal boundaries. I like to think of this as the “truth” goal.
3. We need to empower our children to perform the daily tasks of living.
What this means is that over time we transfer power to our children. To do this, a parent must understand a little bit about age-appropriate activities and a lot about their child’s own unique personality. Empowering children involves exploring solutions, having faith in your child and letting go. When we help children explore solutions and make their own decisions, it gives them the message “I can do this!” I like to think of this as the “anti-entitlement” goal.
4. We need to prepare our children to make a decision to follow Christ.
As followers of Christ, and as parents, one of our greatest desires is to see our children become true, devoted followers of Christ. This requires input from several different sources. We need to involve our family within a community of believers so that our children will have various Godly adult influences in their lives. We as parents need to provide spiritual direction and guidance for our children. This means that we must be continually growing and learning in our own relationship with Christ. And of course, we need to daily model our faith, to reflect the image of God to our children. Most adults form their conception of how lovable they are to God based on how lovable they were to their parents. I like to think of this as the “Supreme” goal.
I think that striving for these basic goals for our children and achieving them in some measure, might actually lead our children to happiness and success the way God might define those terms.
Stay tuned for some thoughts on how to implement these goals.
What are some ways you have empowered your children?
What are some of your experiences with preparing your children to follow Christ?
What have you seen other parents do that worked? Or didn’t work?