Encouragement for Parents

Parenting is a scary thing. You have responsibility for a precious little life, and there are a lot of things that can go wrong. The atmosphere of parenting is anxiety, and the family is a sort of anxiety generator.

The trouble with anxiety is that it is an emotion that is not always (not often?) based on reality. Anxiety leads us away from thinking and to action that is rooted in emotion rather than reality. Sometimes, anxieties about people become self-fulfilling prophecies. We may have had parents whom we thought were too strict. This may have led us or our siblings to act in ways that led to harm. Out of fear of this, we may not set boundaries for our children. This may end up harming them. So, then our kids go overboard emphasizing boundaries. Anxiety has a way of working through the generations.

I have seven kids from ages 5 to 16. I have tried to be a less anxious parent without disengaging from my children. As I have tried to look at reality and not just go by my feelings, I have seen quite a few things that have encouraged me. I would like to share that with you here.

The number one thing is to relax about parenting. In spite of the challenges of our times, parents do have a big influence on their kids. Most kids figure out how to deal with life and become relatively productive members of society. The long-term trends and statistics for parenting are good. There are exceptions, but the overall picture is relatively positive. You can influence your kids in a positive direction.

The statistics get better if you have a few things working for you. If both parents are together with their biological children, then the statistics improve. If you are not in poverty, then the statistics are a lot better. Even in those cases, the statistics are not as bad as one might think (just Google the statistics on the thing you’re worried about). So, relax. You have influence.

You are a Mother or Father. That is significant! That is weighty! It matters. Just think of your own parents. If they call you, it matters. What they say is significant. It usually makes you react positively or negatively. Parents make us react because they are significant to us. You are a parent now, and that is very significant in the life of your children (even if they are adults!).

You have influence, but influence generally works slowly. Don’t expect your child to immediately follow every idea that you have. However, they will as a general rule follow the long-term pattern of your teaching and living. If you walk in the right direction, they will generally follow.

You have two primary tools at your disposal. You have your words, and you have your actions. What you teach them repeatedly will stick with them, even if they don’t always follow it. The principles you teach them will impact their lives, but your actions will impact them even more. They will learn how to live by quietly and often subconsciously imbibing what you do. For example, you will teach them how to relate to parents by how you relate to your parents. This may be discouraging to you, if your relationship with your parents is not good. However, you can work on that relationship. Even if healing of a bad relationship isn’t possible, you can show them the power of forgiveness and a willingness to reconcile. Your actions will teach them.

You also have the opportunity to connect with them. They want to share things with you. They just need to know that you really care and want to listen. This means time and dedication on your part, but you have an opportunity to connect to the next generation through your children.

You can enjoy them and have fun with them. Kids are fun. Relax and enjoy them. This is not only good for you. It is good for them. Play is a child’s language of connection. Seriousness, on the other hand, is the language of anxiety. That’s not to say that you should never be serious. Just remember to punctuate seriousness with playfulness.

You can set boundaries for them. I would keep your boundaries few, clear, and firm, but you can set real boundaries. Let go of any expectation that they’ll thank you for it in the moment, but they will generally go along with them.

Your children will make mistakes, but . . . they will learn from them, just like you did. When they make those mistakes, you will be there to help them learn from them. Think back on your own life. You have experienced a lot of hard things. You’ve done a lot of dumb things. But you survived. You learned. You moved forward. You’re still learning. Your children will need to do this, too, so don’t be so worried about their mistakes and failings. Sometimes the wrong things kids do spin out of control, but most of them time they don’t.

If you are concerned about your child’s religious or political perspective, you can be encouraged that children usually follow their parents’ perspective on these issues (see a couple of articles on this here and here). Even in the midst of the secular society we live in, people are still religious, and children follow their parents’ religion.

For me, as a believer in Jesus and the Bible, I love the fact that the Bible is full of promises like this one: “I will be a God to you and to your descendants after you.” These are promises in the New Testament as well as the Old (see Acts 2:39 and Acts 16:31). This encourages me that my relationship with my children is not only something that I value but something that God values, blesses, and sanctifies as well.

Eventually, you will send your children out into the world. In one way or another, they will make a contribution. They will continue the story of the human race. They will discover new things you never thought about. They will solve problems you didn’t even consider. They will do this to a significant degree because you loved them, connected with them, taught them, and let them stand on your shoulders so they could see farther than you did.


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