Sometimes it’s easy to observe other families at your local coffee shop and think, “I will never parent like that,” or “at least my kids don’t act like those,” or even, “I’m pregnant, what was I thinking?”
Moments like these are the reason parenting books, websites, seminars and support groups are so popular. And while there’s nothing wrong with looking for answers from the professionals, we should first be able to ask ourselves the right questions.
Maybe you don’t have kids yet, but you plan to in the near future. You should still be pondering questions like these before you become a parent. This isn’t about giving you the correct answers, but about helping you ask the best questions that will lead you to the best answers for your family.
Here are three questions that parents (or future parents) of young children must ask:
What kind of person are you raising your child to become?
Sometimes it’s easy for parents of little kids to get stuck in a rut. It’s not because you don’t want to show your kids what it means to be a Christian, it’s because you are just so dang tired.
Even without realizing it, we are daily putting our small children on a path to becoming the adult they will eventually be. Yes, they will make their own choices, and yes, it’s scary to think about the enormity of this responsibility. However, if you are a parent, or will be soon, you don’t have the luxury of passing this off to someone else. The youth leaders at your church are there to help, but make no mistake; you are the greatest influence in your child’s life.
The good news is that God is there to guide you, even when you haven’t slept for two days and your kid just somehow singlehandedly destroyed the living room using only a blueberry muffin. So, are your actions, attitudes and words helping your child in the journey to becoming the person God has created them to be?
Where will your children find their identity?
Most parents want what is best for their kids. This is something that unites parents of any faith or non-faith background. However, in our push to help our children succeed, we sometimes hinder rather than help them. We inadvertently encourage them to seek their identity in sports, drama, colleges, relationships and future careers.
These things shouldn’t define who your child is. The Bible makes it clear that we are adopted children into God’s family. When I promote placing my child’s athletic gifts over their relationship with God, I am telling them their identity is in sports first and God second. Their identity is not in being a future professional athlete, but it is in who they already are: A child of the living God.
As a youth pastor, I meet too many parents who say they want God to be priority No. 1, but the direction they push their kids communicates something entirely different.
The problem is that when our kids fail, or things don’t work out as planned, their world can be turned upside-down. As parents, we need to let our kids know that it will be OK, because even though the temporary situation changed, they are a child of God— and that never changes.
What other parents are you surrounding yourself with?
I might be biased because I work with families and I also help run a dad’s group, but parents need other parents who are in the same life stage as them.
I am not just talking about for advice on removing nail polish from carpet or how to make the strongest caffeinated drink known to humankind. The Bible talks time and again about how we were created to be in community with God and others.
Parents need this community because it is important to hang out with people who get you. You need to know that you are having a conversation with someone that understands what it’s like when your kid changes your iPhone to Swahili and hides the keys in the toilet.
Friends in other life stages are important as well, but you must make relationships with parents who can empathize with you a priority. Who are two parents in the same life stage as you that you can build a relationship with?
There are plenty more questions you can ask, but start with these three and come up with a plan to implement your answers. Remember that whether you have five kids, or are not yet even pregnant with your first, you will make mistakes. The good news is that God has plenty of grace for all of us parents, and sometimes our kids even have grace for us as well.
Beau Coffron is a pastor and blogger at lunchboxdad.com. He has been seen on GMA, The Huffington Post, E! Online, and more. Follow him on Twitter @LunchboxDad. Beau turns his kidsÕ sandwiches into cartoon characters in his spare time.