Parenthood changes everything. It certainly did for me.
Parenthood has affected me physically. . . emotionally. . . spiritually. . . It continues to; it will affect me forever and ever. Whether you lovingly carried and gave birth to your children or lovingly adopted them into your home and heart, your children will stay with you, in your heart, for the rest of your life. Every parent knows this. The relationship between a parent and a child is magnificent, terrifying, overwhelming, and fulfilling.
And it should be. The relationship between parents and their children is a loving reflection of the relationship between our God and us. One of care, affection, hope, and love.
I had so much to learn when I became a parent; truly, I am not sure anyone is prepared for parenthood until it actually visits them.
I still have so much to learn.
I have successes and failures, and most days I seem to sense more failures than successes. But we parents stay with it – day in, and day out, because we know it is worth it, whatever may come our way.
Our children are always worth it.
So with that in mind, here is a list of 10 things I had to learn when I became a parent.
1. As often as you can, read out loud to your children.
I know this is a difficult task. Believe me, I know. I love reading to my children, but do I always feel like it or have the opportunity? No way. Still, I know in my heart that each time my husband or I spend time reading out loud to our children, it forges a stronger bond between everyone.
Studies have also shown that the biggest direct identifier of a child’s success is how often their parents read aloud with them. It helps their growing minds with language development. I am so thankful my parents read to me and with me often – it created in me a love for reading and books and that love has served me well and will continue to, and I hope to see that carried on in our children too.
2. Your words as a parent can bring life or death to your child’s heart. Speak life!
The Bible tell us in Proverbs 18:21 that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
So, have you gone through life thinking that was only a cute little catch phrase God used? I know I did! It took me far too long to realize that when God lovingly showed us this in His word, He meant every word. Your tongue, your words, hold the power of life and death.
That’s pretty powerful, don’t you think? I mean, most Christians believe only God holds the power of life or death, right? But look what His word tells us! I have had to learn the hard way to speak LIFE to and over my children.
Even when it’s hard, even when my emotions and frustration are stirred (and you better believe me, they get stirred!) – I need to speak LIFE over my children. I can’t count on anyone else to do this. I see them every day, I am with them day in and day out, and I owe it to them as their mother and caretaker.
Have you ever had someone speak death over you? Maybe they made fun of you, or maybe you were labeled derogatorily? We all have. I am not trying to use our painful past as an excuse for anything, but words do hurt and they do affect people, and they have the power to affect us for years, and even lifetimes. Use that power to speak life and not death over your children.
- Speak God’s will for their lives over them. Tell them they will accomplish everything God brought them to earth to accomplish.
- Speak their strengths over them. Tell them they are so creative, so generous, so compassionate. Any positive trait you see in your children – determination, thoughtfulness, etc. – take an opportunity to tell them who they are! They need to hear who they are from you, and they need you to see them as the best version of themselves, so they have the foundation to grow into that version. I feel so blessed to have parents who always told me I could achieve anything I set my mind to – I still believe it, because they believed in me!
- When disciplining, use that time to speak their best over them, instead of bring their weaknesses to light. I have learned over time to say things such as, “When you hit your sister, that wasn’t showing her love. I know you, you have so much love in your heart! Let’s show her that love!” There is an opportunity to speak life over them and inspire them to better behavior with each measure of discipline! And truly, discipline exists to point the way to improvement.
3. Along similar lines: After discipline comes love.
I know this one goes against the very nature of a tired and frustrated parent. If I’ve just disciplined my child – the most difficult lesson is that this is the time to get over myself, humble myself, and remind them whose side I’m on. I’m on their side!
Always bring reconciliation after discipline, if you can possibly manage it. Kneel down to their level, invite them over, and love on them. Hug them, remind them who they are in the Lord, and who you think they are. Remind them that you discipline them out of your great love for them.
Try to eke out a little smile from them before you let them run along. 🙂
4. Give your children LOTS of opportunities to learn to obey you.
Ohh, mean mama, right? The more opportunities I give my children to obey me, the better they get at obeying me. Are they perfect at obeying me? HEAVENS NO. None of us are perfect and that is never an expectation.
But if I let my children practice at obeying me, there is much less resistance than if I don’t give them very many opportunities. Does this mean I become a nonstop bossy drill sergeant? Well, no. (They might think that, though! 😉 ) When I kindly, calmly give them directions or a list of chores to do, they grow. They develop character.
Hopefully, they come to terms with what it is to be an adult, over time: that is, when you’re a grown-up, you’re going to have to do things you don’t want to do! Truly, not all of life is fun and games, and usually the greatest reward is in the things no one wants to do. Help their future selves out, and give them a little practice.
When they balk and fuss, remind yourself inside that you are doing them a favor. Sometimes, the more fussing I encounter, I take as a sign that I need to give them even more opportunities to obey me. 🙂
The greatest battle for a Christian is the battle between self and selflessness. Give them ample opportunity to sow to the spirit, instead of their flesh. Take them out of themselves.
5. Make traditions.
Traditions are so fun! The best part is, they don’t have to be traditional traditions. Make them as quirky as you want. But traditions are special memories.
Every year, when we put up our Christmas tree, we take a special trip to the store and have every one pick out their own unique ornament. With six of us, that adds up quickly, year after year, but it is such a fun and special memory for us! We try to find the ONE ornament that most speaks to us at that time in our lives, and it’s so fun to reopen those memories, year after year.
What is your tradition? Do you go on a special family trip every year? Do you make a big deal out of birthdays? Whatever it is, I encourage you to keep it up. When your children reminisce as adults, they will always remember how mama made the best cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, or how daddy would always take them on a daddy/daughter date, etc.
6. Make conversation at meal time.
I have a post coming up of several fun things to do to keep conversation going at meal time. The easiest thing for kids is to answer questions, usually. Ask them tons of things about themselves: favorite movie, favorite color, favorite memory. . . play games like Twenty Questions. . . anything to make the family bond stronger and learn more about one another.
7. Often (but not all the time), you end up with the behavior you reward.
Ouch. This one hurts even me, and I’m writing the post! 😉 Trust me, I am NOT saying that every time your child acts up, it’s your fault! Not in the least. But I have found that constantly giving in to my children’s less-than-desirable behavior results in more less-than-desirable behavior. It seems that a lot of the time, if I unknowingly make it worth their while to disobey – yep, why on earth would they stop? I must make it not worth their time and energy to disobey.
Why do I give in? Oh, fatigue, habit, the desire to just have the whining stop. . . but I really am not doing myself or them any favors when I give in to undesirable behavior.
Hm, maybe go for an 80/20 rule here? 😉
8. Look your children in the eyes with love, and do it often.
There is something interesting about eye contact, isn’t there? Why is it so easy with some people and so difficult with others? Why does it, at times, feel like you are baring your whole soul to look at someone directly in the eyes? I don’t know, but I honestly believe we should look our children in their eyes when we are talking to them, especially when we are showing them love.
There is one caveat here, and this is just a personal belief. I try not to look my children square in the eyes when I am upset or frustrated. I don’t have any scientific evidence to back me up, it’s just something I strive for. I believe there is a lot of power in eye contact, similar to how there is power in your words. I want my eyes to convey love, acceptance, hope, faith, and affection to my children. I don’t want my eyes to convey anger, fear, control, or disapproval to them.
Parenting is hard, I’ll say it again. And can I get an amen?
I started off my parenting journey wanting to do it perfectly, wanting to do it the right way from the start. Ha! There is no such thing as perfect. Unfortunately, I also expected perfection from my first born. Oh, I wish I had learned this one much sooner: relax. Just relax.
It’s okay if your child doesn’t get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the forty-second. Hey, I mess things up every single day, multiple times a day. I can’t expect my babies to come straight into the world getting everything right.
The good news is, the more I learned about God’s grace and understanding towards us, remembering that we are but dust, the better I was able to lend grace to my children, and to myself. It’s not the end of the world if we mess something up. We get to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try again.
10. Your children will teach you more than you can ever imagine.
I honestly don’t know how I ever walked around on this earth without my children. How did I ever remember to marvel at the wonder of blowing a dandelion? How did I ever know there could be such sweetness as a tiny hand inside of mine? How could I have realized that I would carry four hearts inside of my heart? And that this love would only grow deeper as the days went by? How did I learn patience? How could I have known how much it would hurt, when they hurt? How would I have known that I wanted to be the best mommy I could be, because four pairs of eyes are watching me all day long?
My favorite thing parenting has taught me? The way God feels about me, because I am His daughter. And I love these kiddos so much and take such delight in them – can it be? That God feels the same way about us? It’s one of the best things we can learn.
Let me make it clear: I am no perfect parent. I mess up every day. I have so many more lessons to learn, through experience, and through the wisdom of other parents who are more experienced than I am. There’s so much we can learn from each other.
Parenting has taught me so much, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of our journey will teach us.
What would you add to the list? Did you have to learn different lessons? I’d love to hear.
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