Our oldest daughter is about to turn 13 and we’re crossing new bridges at an alarming rate. She got a phone today, is at a sleepover tonight, and there have been quite a few times lately where we’ve had to say, “Hold on! We’ll get back to you on that one…” Fortunately, we have some great friends and mentors who have traveled this road and are able to help us.
These recent conversations have led me think about the question, “What have we learned so far?” Here’s a shot at the best we’ve read and discovered up to this point…
Choose connection before correction
Healthy correction rides on the tracks of healthy connection. If there’s not a healthy connection, our attempts at correction will default to power, fear, or manipulation and break trust rather than build it.
Discipline over Punishment
Discipline means to “teach.” Punishment means “to inflict damage” or “rough treatment.” Give re-do’s. It’s ok to say, “Try again with respect.” Kids need to get in the habit of good form, which takes lots of practice.
There’s no ‘quality time’ without quantity
Children learn when they’re ready, not when we’re ready to teach. They speak when something is on their mind, not when we’re ready to listen. You can have quantity without quality (present but inattentive), but you can’t have quality without quantity.
Consistency matters, good intentions don’t
Kids are incredibly perceptive and detect inconsistencies like cookies in the oven. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and walk your talk.
Pray often, daily!
Pray with your kids. Pray for your kids. You’ve been entrusted with the most incredible gift in the world and you need God’s strength and wisdom. “God, help him to know you and to know who you’ve created Him to be.”
Great parenting isn’t intuitive
Each child, each stage requires a separate learning curve. There’s no one-size-fits-all, but there is timeless wisdom and great principles that can be applied with discernment.
Look below the behavior to the heart
Behavior is a form of communication. Try to attend to the deeper message.
Say yes when possible, apologize when necessary, and explain why when asked
Each of these three can be difficult, but they help keep your connection with your child strong.
But say “no” when necessary too
Be a great parent, not a great friend. Connection is critically important, but there may be times that you have to care enough to risk their rejection or misunderstanding. When such times come, stay there like the Prodigal Father–always waiting, hoping, and praying for their return, ready to welcome them back and celebrate!
Hold open conversations more than one-way lectures as much as possible
Be quick to listen, slow to anger, and slow to speak. No one takes advice or correction well from someone they think doesn’t understand them or refuses to listen.
Two more things…
Laugh a lot
Well-timed humor and light-hearted play are boosters for connection. They can also drop the temperature in stressful situations or times of correction.
Start a bank account for their future therapy:)
Face it, no matter how hard you try, your parenting will never reach perfection. Work hard, remain humble and motivated to grow, but be gracious with yourself, and trust God to fill in the gaps.