When I first anticipated becoming a parent I determined that I would be a great one! How many of us have said that?! I read everything I could get my hands on, studied families around me, prayed for divine intervention, and swore I’d get the hang of this parenting thing…. atleast better than MY parents did. The only thing good about that attitude is that I did TRY. I have always wanted to parent on purpose. Luckily I’ve remained fairly open minded, and have enough children to keep me humble. So I haven’t turned into one of those ‘know it all’ parents spouting the perfection of their offspring, while the rest of the world rolls their eyes and sees the truth. We are all just people trying to do our best.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got…” You can’t take all the blame for what they do wrong, and you can’t take all the credit for what they do right..” That comment alone helps to keep my pride out of the way so I can be more objective when dealing with a child. I think we have too many “Experts” out there and not nearly enough parents just willing to be honest, transparent, and helpful. Good Lord, why can’t more people be less critical and just have a sense of humor about this crazy journey of parenting?! And I mean less critical of themselves too. Because really when we are scared of being found out as a failure…that’s when we make the dumbest mistakes.
So my goal is to always be authentic. I’ve said that the only thing I want on my tombstone is “Dang, She tried hard!” Because really, win or lose, it’s the effort that makes the journey meaningful and worthwhile.
I’ve had people tell me “Thanks for being Real”. Wow! That’s an incredible compliment to me. I’ve had so many parents over the years tell me things like…
“No one else ever admits they feel that way.”
“Your child did that too?!”
“I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t do this!”
And as I get older I feel compelled to share more of my experiences. I also feel my children are old enough that it’s ok to rehash some of the old mishaps….mine and theirs. And ultimately they are old enough to give their ok now. People need help. It really does take a village, and I’d like to be that friendly neighbor, willing to share a story, a little wisdom, and a glass of sweet tea (with a dash of Southern Comfort as needed) to help those coming behind me to do this parenting adventure just a little easier.
So when I’ve thought about what have been the most important guidelines for raising my kids I’ve decided it really is all about LOVE. Loving your children goes without saying, but what does that mean and what does it look like? I’ve come up with an acronym, although a little hippie sounding, is exactly what I go back to when I’m facing the latest parenting challenge.
Parenting with LOVE requires 4 main components: Limits, Options, Voice, and Encouragement. And frankly I think they need to be in that order.
Limits means guidelines, rules, boundaries for behavior and living. Do you doubt this? How much do you enjoy being around children, or adults, who have no concept of boundaries or limits? I vividly remember a conversation with a boy I grew up with when I was about 16. He said, “I wish my parents even cared when I came home. My mom just leaves a plate of food for me in the microwave every night.” It struck me as sad back then, and still does today. He just wanted somebody to care enough to set some rules, to have some expectations.
Options are how we teach our children to make good choices. We have all seen those hovering parents who keep their children on too tight of a leash, and then when the child is on their own they are crazy wild! These are the ones who make choices that are dangerous, or are simply incapable of making decisions independently. When they are little it’s something like.. do you want to wear the pink shirt or the purple shirt….but girl you have to wear a shirt! When they are older it’s do you want to do your homework now or do you want to do it in 30 minutes….but dude you have to do your homework! And later it’s…do you want me to help pay for college, then you will get good grades and stay out of trouble. Those are just examples but you get the idea. If a child never has to make decisions then they don’t learn how. And I wanted my children to learn decision making skills before the choices they were facing were life altering decisions.
Voice is all about honoring the individual that you’ve been blessed to raise. Sometimes when we are watching a game it’s evident that the coach isn’t calling plays based on the gifts or skills of the players on the field or court. It seems they have a fantasy team in their head, or they’ve worked out these really clever plays that they are just sure will lead to victory…only to find out their players can’t pull that off. You have to coach the team you have on the field, not the one in your head! Take the time to get to know each of your children. Value the gifts they have. Emphasize their strengths and help them to find their own path.
Encouragement is what we all need. It’s empowering to know someone believes in you and your potential. If there’s one thing I hope each of my children knows it’s that they are exactly who they are supposed to be. God don’t make no junk! We live with the expectation that we are too smart to settle for stupid. 🙂
So there’s a brief synopsis of the parenting keys I’ve found to be the most helpful. I plan to expand on each topic in later posts. Until then just remember that peace and patience aren’t always guaranteed….but loving and parenting on purpose is always worth it.