“Parenting is a beautiful storm. Few endeavors are more life-giving and joy-filled. But its far from easy. Some days all you can do is hold on.”
Not long after my first son was born, someone came up to me and said something that changed my perspective on parenting. Enjoy every moment. The days are long but the years are short.
At the time, I was low on sleep and high on stress, and this wasnt the time for one-liners. Why couldnt he offer to babysit for a few hours instead?
But its been nearly four years since I held my son for the first time, and Ive thought about his comment hundreds of times.
Parenting is abeautiful storm. Few endeavors are more life-giving and joy-filled. But its far from easy. Some days all youcan do is hold on.The torrent of poop diapers and irresponsible decisions threaten your sanity. Other days, you see it. You see the hard work, late nights, and discipline finally paying off.
Parenting is hugely important. Strong families are the backbone of strong societies and cultures. Without strong parents building strong children, cultures becomeparalyzed and stagnant. Parents, youre shaping the eternal trajectory of your children.
But, lets be honest, children arent easy to read. I still cant understand why they dont come with instructions. And the whole thing happens so fast. One minute a huge ball protrudes my wifes belly. The next moment the huge ball pees on the nurse. Here I am today, just days away from the huge balls fourth birthday.
The days are long.The years are short.
You have ashort time to prepare your children. And beyond the poker faces are real needs. For children to thrive in todays world, with its unique complexities andchallenges, here are some things they need.
1.) YOUR MARRIAGE TO TAKE PRIORITY OVER THEM
Children demand time and resources. You should serve them and provide for them. You should invest in their present and future.
And one of the best ways to invest in your children is to invest in your marriage.
If your children take priority over your marriage, you will lose your children and your marriage. Your children will become idols, never living up to your expectations, and you will always expect more from them than they can give.
In the Powell house, we arent perfect, but Tiffani and I let our boys know mommy and daddys relationship is important. I tell them mommy is important to me. When Tiffani and I talk, they cant interrupt. Were are affectionate in front of our children. I want them to see Tiffani and I prioritizing our marriage.
2.) TO SEE YOU LIVE OUT YOUR FAITH, NOT JUST TALK ABOUT IT
Your children might listen to your words, but theyll follow your actions.
Your children might listen to your words, but they will follow your actions.
You cant pass down faith you dont model. Jesus must impact your decisions. His ways, which are strange and puzzling to the world, must inform your walk. Read Scripture with your children. Talk about Jesus at home. But dont leave him there when you take the kids to the ballpark. Dont talk about justice and never help those in need.
You might think your children are naive. Maybe youre right. But youre also naive if you think they arent watching (and modeling) your actions.
3.) A LIFE WITHOUT CONSTANT CONNECTION TO TECHNOLOGY
Whether your children are newborns, toddlers, or teenagers, its your job to disconnect them from technology. When your default response to boredom or public tantrums is technology, you build a craving in them for entertainment. Youre teaching them that life is a never-ending Disneyland experience. And youre the tour guide. Its not your job to entertain your children every waking moment. And its not your job to protect them from boredom.
Im not against technology. But you need boundaries. Establish times when technology isnt allowed, starting with the dinner table. Allow your children to feel boredom and work through it. Its fun to visit Disneyland every few years. Its exhausting when you try to bring Disneyland to your living room.
4.) ENCOURAGE THEM MORE THAN YOU CORRECT THEM
Certain days, my vocabulary shrinks down to two words: no and stop. Its so easy to highlight the negative. When your children mess up, its obvious. But what about the things they do right? Are you highlighting those?
As a parent, your yeses should outweighyour nos.
How often do you say, Im proud of you, I love you, or Im thankful for you? You have no idea of the power in affirmation. As a teenager, I longed for this, especially from my dad. I wanted to hear I love you from him so bad.
I knew he loved me, but I rarely heard it. And this left a seed of doubt in my mind.
Every day, your children make good choices. If you dont verbalize them, its not just unfortunate. Its bad stewardship. James 3 says words are like a destructive fire. Well, the opposite is also true. Words build up. Affirmative words that go unspoken are equivalent to extravagant gifts that go unopened.
Are you affirming your children? Do you build up more than you tear down?
5.) TO KNOW LIFE ISNT FAIR
Theres a disturbing trend in America, especially in youth sports culture. Its called the participation trophy effect. I just made that up, so dont cite some copyright law. I wont respond to you.
The participation trophy effect says everyone is a winner.
Its okay, Billy. You didnt win the game. But you still get a trophy. Everyones a winner out here.
No, theyre not.
Im so grateful for my background in sports. They taught me about life. And I learned more from defeat than victory. Participation trophys dont prepare your children for real life. In real life, not everyone gets a trophy. There are winners and losers. But, through loss and rejection, you learn. You develop perseverance and grit. Defeat might break you down, but you have an opportunity to rebuild stronger than before.
I want my boys to see failure, rejection, and loss as essential components of life. I want them to measure self-worth internally, not by ascore on a scoreboard. I want them to know excellence and hard work matter. Life doesnt give you a trophy because you show up. Sometimes you fail. But failure isnt final.
6.) TO SAY NO AND PROTECT THEIR BOUNDARIES
From the moment my boys could crawl, they pushed our boundaries. If we told them to stay away from the electrical outlet, they crawled to the electrical outlet. If we told them not to stand in the chair, they stood in the chair.
At first, I thought my kids were evil creatures who gained pleasure from my frustration.
Eventually, however, I realized they tested our boundaries because they wanted to ensure they actually existed.
Establish boundaries between your children and your expectations. They should clearly know what is appropriate. But you must also establish boundaries between your children and the endless barrage of activities and opportunities.
You cant do everything. Your children cant experience everything. To them, every opportunity looks good. Its your job to keep your children grounded and prevent them from drowning in activities.
Dont allow your family to worship the idol of overcommitment. Learn to say no.
Overcommitment is one of the great idols of American Christianity. We worship this idol because it tells us were important and our children are gifted. And, unfortunately, we sacrifice our children on this altar. We enjoy the satisfaction from our children being the best. This gives us importance. But it creates teenagers stretched thin, obsessed with outward achievements, and overcome with anxiety.
Your children might not say this, but they need you to say no.
7.) HELP THEM BECOME THE MAN OR WOMAN THEY WERE CREATED TO BE, NOT WHO YOU WANT THEM TO BE
Before becoming a parent, I dreamed about having a son. We would play catch. I would coach his little league team. He would grow into an athletic shortstop and play college baseball.
Somewhere between conception and birth, God started working on my heart. I realized my dreams werent about my son at all. They were about me. I wanted to relive the moments that highlighted my childhood. God challenged me to see my children like he does, without pre-conceived expectations.
Maybe my children will play baseball and golf like their old man. But Im much more concerned with helping them become the men and women God created them to be. As parents, this should be your goal. Help your children recognize their gifts, those things they naturally do well. Give them space to explore and try new things. Dont impose your expectations on them.
Dont compare your children. Theyre created uniquely, not equally.
And never compare your children. Theyre created uniquely, not equally. The barometer for your children isnt a sibling or your friends kids. Its the mirror. Teach them to compete against the person they were yesterday, not the person beside them.
Your greatest competition in the fight for greatness is the man in the mirror. Stop comparing your children. Start challenging them to be the best version of themselves.
8.) TALK ABOUT SEX AND OTHER HARD TOPICSEARLY AND OFTEN
My youngest son is almost three, but hes already curious about the body. He asks about different parts and why boy and girls dont look the same. So (cue the awkwardness) weve already had a sex talk with him. Not like the one hell receive as a teenager. But weve explained that God created boys and girls with certain body parts. We also explained that God created Micahs parts only for Micah, and Noahs parts for Noah. No one should touch their parts and they shouldnt touch others parts.
Thats elementary, yes.
But Tiffani and I are determined not to dodge the uncomfortable subjects. Growing up, I had one painfully awkward sex talk. Literally, it was painful. Its like an unexpected bombshell of private parts and words you cant pronounce blows up in your face, severing your desire to ever discuss sex with your parents.
Rather than dropping a bombshell on your children, why not teach them about sex like you would other things God created? Why not diffuse the awkward bomb with periodic conversations?
You cant avoid the hard subjects. Your children will inevitably learn about sex. They will hear about drugs and alcohol. The question is who will tell them?
To sit back and assume theyll figure it out is bad parenting. Sex is a beautiful gift from God. But when its used outside of Gods boundaries, sex destroys. And if you dont create a culture of open dialogue, your children will find a culture that does. And that usually doesnt end well.
9.) PRAY FOR THEM, WITH THEM, AND OVER THEM
I plead with you to pray for your children, whether theyre a few days old or few days from graduation. I would not be here without the flood of prayers from my parents and close friends.
Tiffani and I pray with our boys every night. We also pray over them, individually. We pray for their future spouse. We pray for God to surround them with a Christ-centered community. We pray for God to protect their heart and mind.
Prayer trumps any parenting style. Its also a blanket of grace, covering your mistakes and failures. When your children struggle, this blanket catches them.
Prayer changes things.
I dont have parenting figured out. Its incredibly weighty and difficult, but its also immensely rewarding. By Gods grace, youre shaping the eternal trajectory of your children.
Although the world is complex and loaded with pitfalls, your children can thrive if you give them what they need.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!
About Frank Powell
Devoted follower of Christ, college/young adult minister, husband to
@tiffanipowell, dad to Noah and Micah, avid blogger/writer, sports fan. You can follow him on twitter here and read more blogs here!