Ten Things I Think I Think About Parenting

Last week I took a stab at ten things I think I think about marriage. Today let’s shift to parenting.

1. I think I think that parenting is more difficult than it looks. When my wife and I didn’t have kids, it was easy to look at those who did and think, “We’ll do it better.” Now that we have 4 kids (6, 8, 12, 13) it’s easy to see that we’ve done some things well and at other times we’ve made some mistakes that we wish we could do over. Parenting is a humbling task that exposes our flaws, sins, and idols. More on that later in the list.

2. I think I think that the best books on parenting are written by the Tripp brothers. Because parenting is such a difficult task, we’ve always found it helpful to read books on the subject. Here are the best resources that I’ve found: Ages 0-5 Growing Families International, Ages 2-8ish Shepherding Your Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, Ages 12-18ish Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp.

3. I think I think that in addition to good books, it is essential to find at least one person to get advice from who is a bit further along than you in the parenting process. A friend is different than a book in that you can ask your friend specific questions about what you are dealing with at the moment. When Christine and I had kids, we looked for people we respected who seemed to be doing a good job as parents and asked them lots of questions. That’s something that we still do today.

But this isn’t as easy as it should be. The reality is that parenting is such a personal issue that often we aren’t open to other’s input. Therefore it is unlikely that someone is going to approach us to give us advice on what we could do better with our kids. If someone does give unsolicited advice to you about your parenting, how do you react? My guess is that even if you are polite on the outside, on the inside you’re a bit offended and are left wondering what right they have to say that to you.

So my point is that if you want someone to give you honest, frank, blunt input (and you should want that), then you are going to have to give them permission to say hard things to you. And you’ll have to let them know that you won’t be hurt, defensive, or offended by what they say.

4. I think I think that it is easy for parents to forget that the real goal of parenting is influencing your child’s heart. Trying to manage a busy life and a household of 6, it is easy for me to value order and obedience more than anything else. But when I do that, when I focus primarily on outward behavior instead of what’s going on in the heart of my kids, when I focus on them doing the right thing more than wanting the right thing, when I focus on actions and ignore motives, I run the risk of raising little Pharisees. In Matthew 15:8 Jesus said of the Pharisees, “They worship me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” In other words, they looked good on the outside while rotting away on the inside. If I’m not careful as a dad, I will promote that kind of dangerous dichotomy by rewarding or praising the outward performance without asking about what’s going on inside their heart.

5. I think I think that reaching a kid’s heart is very hard thing to do. There are only a few tools that parents have available to them that will actually affect their kid’s heart: prayer, the Bible, and a relationship.

6. I think I think that in today’s society many parents substitute driving kids to events for a real relationship. I know from personal experience that that’s easy to do. With four kids involved in a variety of activities and then them being responsible for doing their homework, it’s easy for me (and them) to just “get through the day.” It’s easy to look at a day and say, “Sure I’m with my kids a lot. I drove them to soccer, piano, and made sure they did their homework.” While all those things may be necessary and even important, they aren’t the same thing as a relationship. I want to be a dad not a taxi driver. I think that I’m afraid that I will wake up one day and realize that I don’t know my kids as well as I want to. They will have found someone else to share their deepest thoughts with. They will have asked their questions of someone else.

Maybe one practical step is when you are in the car, consider turning off the radio and not talking on your cell phone. Instead talk to your kids.

7. I think I think that one of the hardest things for parents to deal with is how their relationship with their child changes. As kids grow up, a parent becomes less and less of an authority figure and more and more of a coach. Now I don’t mean to say that a parent of an older kid doesn’t have authority because of course they do. But I’ve found that as my kids get older, I need to use my authority differently. If I treat my 13 year old the same way I treat my 6 year old, then there’s going to be some significant problems. To oversimplify a bit: I need to transition from telling my kid what to do to helping him want to do the right thing. I’ve got to help him make the transition to responsible adulthood so that he’s prepared to make the right decisions whether or not I’m around.

I’ve found that this is difficult because often kids aren’t responsible with their freedoms. In that moment, it’s tempting to “crack down.” While that might be the right response, it’s more likely that the parent should be patient and help the kid learn from their mistakes.

8. I think I think that parents expect their kids to have the maturity of an adult. Most kids aren’t going to see the importance of homework in quite the same way their parents do. They aren’t going to possess the self-control of a mature adult. Growing up is a process and parents need to have the right expectations.

9. I think I think that if you don’t remember what it’s like being a teenager, then you are going to have a difficult time raising one. What were you like when you were a teen? I sure didn’t value education like I do now. I didn’t see the wisdom of my parents like I do now. I didn’t appreciate all that I had like I do now. So it seems a bit silly for me to expect my kids to see the world like I do now as an adult.

10. I think I think that when I get frustrated with my kids, it says at least as much about me as it does them. In Age of Opportunity, Paul Tripp lists several idols that exist in parents lives and are revealed by how they respond to their kids. The idols are comfort, respect, appreciation, and control. When my idols are threatened, I tend to see my kids as enemies of what will make me truly happy. If you have kids 12 and up and haven’t read this book and discussed with other parents, you’re missing a great opportunity to develop as a parent.

The more I think about this topic, the more I think there is to say. Maybe I will come back next week and add a few more to the list. In the meantime what are some things that you’ve learned from your parenting experience?

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