James K. A. Smith, in an article in Comment journal (fall 2015) speaks of “the currents and dynamics of society that are essential but often ignored because they are banal and taken for granted.” He observes that “While headlines focus on spectacles and draw our attention to controversy, the things that make a society tick hum away in the background, in the quiet of life-giving homes and the energy of formative classroom . . . .” (“Health Beyond the Hospital” p. 2-3).
As parents, we need to be aware of the significance of the “quiet of life-giving homes.” This may be where some of the most significant work of our lives will be done. Yet in our busyness and fatigue, we may also ignore some of the most important realities of being a good parent.
What do good parents do who wish to raise children in life-giving homes?
Good parents continue to learn. Pity the child who is being raised by a dad or mom who won’t learn, grow, read, or ask questions of others. Their default is often their own experience. “This is the way I was raised. This is good enough for my children.” Granted, all of us can learn something from our families of origin. However, we bless our children when we continue to grow and mature as parents.
Good parents do not try to fill their own emptiness through their children. Children cannot fill the void in your life. If your marriage is not good, please don’t look to your children to fill that void. Children are not meant to carry the load of their parents’ marital dysfunction or emotional unhappiness.
Good parents give their children what they need and not whatever they may want. Children need most what money cannot buy. Some parents, motivated by their own guilt focus on giving their children whatever they want, because it makes their parents feel better. For example, the parent who works many hours or travels a great deal may attempt to purchase items to in some way make up for this situation. (My child has been through a hard time and so I will buy her this or that to make her feel better.) Parents can give their children many things but neglect to give them what they most need from their parents such as a spiritual grounding in the Lord, as well as giving them their attention and emotional presence.
Good parents pray for their children. If mom (or dad) is not praying for these children, who is? My own children are grown. Yet, I cannot think of anything I do for my children that is more important than praying for them.
Good parents are fully present with their children in key moments. With the advances in technology, it is tempting to be available 24/7 to whomever might call. Children are away from their parents most of the day while they are at school. It may tempting for mom or dad to pick them up from school and then immediately get on the phone to talk with someone on the way home. Yet, for a child, this trip home may be an important time to reconnect with mom/dad and process what happened during the day. An hour later, that child may have no desire to talk about what happened at school that day.
Good parents are intentional about the environment they create at home. What kind of environment are you creating in your home? Is the environment one of encouragement and hope? Is laughter heard in your home? Or is your home a place of discouragement, criticism, and sarcasm? Our children really are impacted by the atmosphere of their home. Being a parent can be exhausting! Being a single parent can be especially exhausting! However, it is important that parents do not allow their own fatigue to become the fuel that drives what happens in the home. Parenting out of one’s fatigue can cause a parent to snap at children, modeling impatience instead of love. It creates a tension in the home that may quickly escalate into arguments and threats. Good parents acknowledge their own fatigue, refusing to allow it to shape what happens at home.
Good parents teach their children to love God. More than anything, children learn to love God by watching and listening to their mom and dad. Parents can take them to church, read them Bible stories and give them opportunities to be involved with others at church. However, nothing is more powerful than when a boy or girl gets a front row seat to witness their own mother or daddy live out their own faith walk with God. They can tell by how we live, how we speak, and what we value just how serious we are about God.