Learning to Be a Parent?

We moved here (the Waco, Texas area) thirteen years ago this August.  Our children were ten and six years old.  We moved here from Kansas City, Mo. 


Our children grew up in a good church.  We raised them here, in this faith community and in the larger community of central Texas.  Now this is a good place to rear children.  But–I think that rearing children is difficult – very difficult.  Rewarding?  Yes!  A blessing?  Yes!  But–difficult.


The one thing that both Charlotte and I wanted more than anything else was for our children to love the Lord–to value and treasure him above all else.  Yet, I felt like I had so much to learn.  Over the years, I think I learned some important lessons.


For example: 


I learned so much from watching and talking with other people.  When one of our children was in high school, I recall spending part of an afternoon with a couple who had long since reared their children.  They seemed to be very wise people, so I peppered them with question after question regarding raising teenage girls.


I learned that my children will often take their cues from me.  If Daddy is okay, then things in general may seem to be ok for them.  But if Daddy is upset, angry, and argumentative, that has a way of disrupting everything.


I learned that I could not protect my children from the world.  Nor, could I control their decisions and their lives.  (This was especially true as they grew older).   Yet I wanted to learn how to guide them, encourage them, and correct them without breaking their spirit.

I tried to remember that we were preparing them to live apart from us
.  That meant learning responsibility, respect, and dealing with the consequences of their own behavior.  This gets real practical like teaching them that they will pay for their own speeding tickets or fines.  After all, that is what would happen in the "real world."   


Now my children are almost gone. (One is married and the other is in college).  One day our children were born.  Then suddenly, it was over.  (At least the years at home are over).   


Do you know how quickly that happened?   
Do you know how fast those years flew by?


I can’t go back and redo those years or start over.   Like you, my wife and I had one shot at rearing our children.  Yes there were days that seemed like years.  Now, the years pass quickly and often seem like a few days.


The challenge is not to be a perfect parent.  It’s not to try to do everything just right.  Rather, the challenge is to be intentional.  It is to have a vision for your children that is centered around God.


Yet, the great temptation is to stand by and passively watch the world mold our children.    Sometimes dads, in particular, will be very active in the lives of their young children.  But when those young children become adolescents, many men are silent and passive, like spectators in a high school game. This kind of passivity puts parents in the role of being a bystanders–leaving our children alone to fend for themselves.


I would enjoy hearing what you have learned by being a parent.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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18 thoughts on “Learning to Be a Parent?

  1. Good insights, Jim. One of the things that was/is hard for me was understanding that when my children were younger they needed me to be a parent more than a friend. As they grew older (they’re now 21 & 18) it has slowly been reversing.

  2. I learned many of the same lessons. Not only can I not go back and re-do life, I would not even want to. The main lesson I learned (it was from an opposite experience in my life) was to be there for my children. To make it a priority of my time and life to support them in whatever they were doing at that time. Sports. School events. Church ministry. We did almost everything as a family. When we moved to Florida, our children were 3-1/2 years and 3 months. We were invited that first weekend to dinner with people who would become closest friends. We told them if we did, we’d have to bring the children. From that moment, if it didn’t involve the entire family, we would politely decline until the children were much older and able to stay alone.

    The other lesson Janice and I learned was that of expectation. We’d heard so much about how terrible the “twos” were and how, when our children reached adolescence, we would think often of murder and how to cover it up. We decided not to have those expectations of our children. Rather, we set before them expectations of good behavior and they lived up to our expectations. The “terrible twos” were wonderful. We never had a moment’s problem with our children growing through the teen years. We had struggles and moments of coming to an understanding, but it never boiled over into confrontations.

    I’ve been long-winded on your response, but you hit a subject very dear to my heart: My children!

  3. Biggest thing was I couldn’t give away what I didn’t have……we have to trust Him before we can show our kids the value in that…..What an amazing God to give us Grandkids to love on later!!

  4. (Uncle) Jim –

    Thanks so much for this post. As a brand new parent, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about the responsibility I feel to raise a true man of God. I’ll take all of the direction I can get.

    Love you!

  5. The one phrase that seems to capture how I feel about these child rearing days is “Lang days but short years.” I’m not sure where I first heard that term, but I get it! After a day of wrestling a 4 and 8 year old while expecting number three any week now, I am so tired I can’t imagine how I will wake up and do it again tomorrow. But then I look at my kids and I can’t believe they are already 4 and 8 years!!! We were just coming home from the hospital yeaterday! Where did all those long days go? Yep, long days and short years.

  6. I think it is amazing how I have become a wiser and calmer grandmother than I was as a mother. Those little irksome things my kids did are so cute when I see them in my grandkids. My kids’ reactions to their kids quirky personalities are almost fun to watch and I don’t even have to give my advice unless I am asked. This is a lovely time of life.

  7. I learn much about the eternal parent as I experience parenting, albeit imperfectly. I continue to find a deeper understanding of love, without regard to performance, mostly through the experience of parenting.
    I suspect I’ll continue to learn about Him, and how He loves me as my parent, even when those kids He loaned me have kids of their own.

  8. Greg,
    Thanks. It is interesting to me that many of us seem to have such low expectations of our children. (“They are going to experiment with drugs, party, have sex, etc.”) Perhaps the attempt is to be realistic. Unfortunately, we often communicate that we have very little confidence in them.

  9. Meagan,
    I remember similar thoughts and feelings when I was a brand new parent. It’s all very humbling. At one time I thought if I would just try hard enough, it would all work just right. What I have learned (after enough blunders) is that I needed to be constantly learning.

    I still am by the way. 🙂

  10. SG,
    The longest days I can remember were when each of our kids were babies and cried and cried. (I had the bright idea that we should take our one year old to the Memphis Zoo in the July heat and humidity. NOT smart. 🙂

  11. Jim, Thanks. Such an important topic. Helpful and this especially resonates with me:

    “The challenge is not to be a perfect parent. It’s not to try to do everything just right. Rather, the challenge is to be intentional. It is to have a vision for your children that is centered around God.”

  12. Jim,

    Thanks for your thoughts from a veteran who has been in the trenches. From my work with teens and their families, Jill and I have learned not to just give lip service to the things we value the most. Children can see clearly the things that are most important to us by how we spend our time and money. If I am going to help coach my daughter’s soccer team, I also want her to see me teaching in her Bible class at church.


  13. Brad,
    So good to hear from you! You have worked with teens and parents for so many years. I admire who you are and what you model before your children and others.

  14. “But if Daddy is upset, angry, and argumentative, that has a way of disrupting everything”

    That was me yesterday, not a good day. I apologiseed to my 3&1/2 yr old afterwards. Poor thing had an earache and the sniffles, and Dad was angry about something petty.

    Jim, your posts are helpful considerations on life and family.

    Cheers, Mike