As the fall approaches, I’m preparing for church responsibilities, homeschool, and the overall shift in gears that lies ahead. As a part of women’s ministry leadership, I’ve been having coffee dates to talk about how we can best minister to women in our congregation. I sat in Dunkin Donuts with a woman whose children are in their late 20s the other morning. As we talked, I shared about my writing, speaking, and coaching ministry to moms. She said something powerful in the middle of our conversation: “I think there are only two absolutes when it comes to parenting advice.” Oh, she had my attention then.
You know, as young moms, we often grasp for a plan or method to help us raise our children. We are deluged with books, websites, and the opinions of friends and relatives. We get input about how we should do everything from feeding our infant, arranging for sleep, and handling misbehavior. It’s overwhelming to say the least. Parenting young children could be in par with some of the worst episodes of Fear Factor! We bear the responsibility of their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Of course we want a plan and protocol! Some days I wouldn’t mind if The Nanny showed up at my house to take over and get things ship-shape.
Leaving God in the Dust
As I sat with this woman in the donut shop, she and I talked about how each of our children is so different. She shared how she got accustomed to the strong will of her older daughter. Then her son was totally a different child altogether. The approaches that worked with one child didn’t apply to the second. I reflected, “We just love directions, don’t we?
I mean, if God would just give me a step by step guide, I’d be off and running to do my very best. But, that’s the trouble. I’d look behind myself and find God in the dust. When I get a clear cut plan, I often lean on the plan instead of leaning on Him. It’s amazing how quickly that happens. Ultimately, motherhood has stripped me of my illusion of control and given me so many lessons in dependence and trusting God.” She wholeheartedly agreed.
The First Simple Rule of Parenting
That’s when she shared her thought about the two absolutes of parenting advice. She said, “First of all, we need to be the person we are trying to encourage our children to become. They will always do what they see us doing more than they will do what we say.” For years I’ve been sharing this point with moms in the famous quote, “More is caught than taught.” It’s so true.
We can try to tame our children’s tempers, yet, how do we respond to stress and frustration? As we tell our children to put God first, where is He in our daily priorities? We can tell our children to be kind, patient, thoughtful, and every other good thing, yet how do we act when we think they aren’t looking?
I pondered the importance of her advice. The first place for us to “work” on in motherhood needs to be in our own hearts, with God. The more healing and growth we experience there, the more will spill over onto our children. As we abide in Him and His love for us, we are transformed. That transformation bears witness to our children in ways we can’t imagine.
We Can Change Our Parenting Habits
With my first born, I had issues carried over from childhood. Though I had done a lot of work in therapy and with my mentor, I still struggled with anger and impatience. The beauty of God’s work through motherhood is that my oldest son has seen me continue to pursue growth. I have become a gentle and patient mom – over time. He has seen the hand of God active in my life and seen me change over the years.
I would love to press a delete button on some of my explosive seasons, but I know God has done much to redeem and progress us all from those places. Even if we aren’t where we’d like to be, we can move forward with God’s help. We can look back a year from now and say, “I’m not where I was.” Our children will be watching our cooperation with God and the changes He brings about.
The Second Simple Piece of Parenting Advice
The second thing my friend said was “… and we have to raise our children to know God.” That’s it. We have to be the example we want them to follow, and we have to raise them to know God. I thought about the simplicity of having these two beacons on the horizon as we mother our children. Doesn’t it make things come into laser focus?
I mean what if we were to wake up thinking: I need to be the light in our home, letting Jesus shine through me as I walk well with Him, and I need to point my children towards Him. The deepest parts of motherhood are not about issues like whether “to spank or not to spank.” Motherhood doesn’t hinge on whether we use cloth diapers or disposable. The heart of motherhood involves being the mom God is empowering you to be, and pointing your children’s hearts towards Jesus in ways that connect and draw them near.
Last month I surveyed some moms. One of the questions I asked was what their biggest goals were in motherhood. So many said something like, “Raising my children to know and follow God.” I was humbled and blessed by those answers.
So, keep it simple, Mama. Put these two pieces of parenting advice securely in place and watch your motherhood move to another level of focus and intentionality. Be the person you want your children to become. Keep pointing their hearts and minds upwards towards God.
I’ll be here cheering you on as you do.