Written by: Dawn Estep
When I was pregnant with each of my children, a new kind of love switched on in my heart. With this love came the incredible desire to be an amazing parent, and to provide for all of my children’s needs (not wants…sometimes hard to tell the difference). What also comes are incredibly wonderful, and sometimes painful life experiences. I’ve chosen to share with you some things I’ve learned along the way on this amazing journey as a mother:
1) Best Gift to Your Child? For you to love Jesus… I’m not talking about “being good” or going to church once in a while. I’m talking about confessing your sins, asking Jesus into your heart, and living in a way that would please Christ. Ask Him for your “daily bread” as He teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer. A mom’s daily bread can be patience, wisdom, forgiveness, self-control, etc.
2) Treat Your Child’s Father with Respect: If you’re married and your child knows you respect and openly support your husband, it causes your child to feel emotionally safe and to also respect their father. If you’re divorced, do not let your child hear you criticize his/her father. Even if he has glaring faults, he is still their father. If, on the other hand, your child needs to vent about his/her father, ask God to give you wisdom in how to guide your child through these conversations. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
3) Pray for Your Child Every Day (or most days): James 4:2b says “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” If your requests line up with God’s will, He will fulfill them. I don’t know what God’s will is for your child regarding the outcome of a sporting event, or which teacher he/she will have in school, but I guarantee you the most important thing to God is for your child to give his/her life to Christ. If you are praying for your child’s salvation, you are praying in the will of God. “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9b)
4) God Forgives You, Now Forgive Yourself: There has never been a perfect parent. When my children were small, I was stressed that I might do (or not do) something that would cause a lifelong hurt for them. My dad said to me one day, “Dawn, if raising a child requires a perfect parent, then we’re all stained.” Each day, ask God to continue to form you into a great parent. If you mess up, ask God…and sometimes your child to forgive you.
5) Identify False Guilt: There will be many times when you feel guilt as a parent. Sometimes, you need to identify whether or not you’re experiencing “false guilt.” Here’s an example: On our last family vacation, I came down with a terrible stomach virus. My husband and daughter caught it from me. I felt guilty for causing our family vacation to be much less desirable than any of us planned. That’s life! There’s no way I could have anticipated or prevented our illness. At times like that, let it go!
6) Keeping Adding to the Pot: Your relationship with your child is being developed every day…in the little moments and the big moments. You are continually adding to the “pot” of that relationship. You took your child to the zoo. Add it to the pot. You were tired and lost your temper with your child. Add it to the pot. You apologized. Add it to the pot. You get the idea.
7) Teenager Patterns Start When They’re Toddlers: Set the pattern early. If they are mouthy and defiant with you or others when they’re toddlers and your response is to laugh, or do nothing, get ready. It won’t be cute when they turn 12 or 13 and the pattern is already set.
8) Do What You Say You’re Gonna Do or Don’t Say It: Did you tell your child that you were going to take them to get ice cream after school? Then do it. Did you tell them that they’d would have to go to bed early if they continued a defiant behavior? Then do it. Follow through the first time instead of continually warning them. Children learn at a very young age if they can believe their parent. “If you do not punish your children, you don’t love them, but if you love your children, you will correct them.” (Proverbs 13:24) Remember that the word “discipline” is a form of the word “disciple.” As Christian parents, our greatest task is to guide our children into being one of Jesus’ disciples. Discipline is not just correction. It is affirmation. It is placing them in “faith-building” situations.
9) Daily Disciplines: Pray together as a family (even a short prayer) before everyone leaves in the morning and before everyone goes to bed. Keep a bedtime that is age-appropriate most days. Eat healthy. Limit t.v. and computer. For preschool age: studies now recommend that children under the age of two should not watch ANY t.v., videos, or computer due to the negative impact on the brain. Teenagers: At bedtime, have them give their phones to you. Best plan…keep laptops and televisions in the main family room and NOT in their bedrooms. Trust me on this. There are also great, inexpensive laptop/smart phone filters you can download. Right now, I prefer one called Mobicip.
10) Make Church a Priority Every Week: This overlaps #1. If you want to know what’s important to people, take a look at their bank accounts (how they spend their money) and their calendars (how they spend their time). Is your child getting the message from you that they can’t miss sports practice or another extra-curricular activity, but it’s okay to miss worshipping with their church family on the Sabbath? Mediocre commitment is prevalent among American Christians. Ask God to give you PASSION and DEVOTION to Christ!
11) Rules Without Relationship Causes Rebellion: Wise rules and reasonable boundaries are a great thing UNLESS your child doesn’t know that you love him/her. They need to be shown this every day through affirming words, warm hugs, providing for their needs, listening to their stories, going to their events, making a favorite food, etc.
I pray that each one of you reading these words will continue to become the parent in whom God would be pleased. You are not alone. Call out to Christ at any time. Blessings.
Dawn Pardue Estep loved growing up in Texas in a Christian home with her father, mother, and six siblings. She shares life and ministry in Kansas City, Missouri with her best friend and husband (Brad), 18 year old son (Chris), and 16 year old daughter (Kat). She loves music, movies, pedicures, and chocolate.