How Do You Do It?

I’m not an expert. I’m not even close to being an expert. I have a son whose 15 and a daughter who is 13. Both of them are excelling as students. They each have passions that they are pursuing with zeal. I think both of them are becoming good people. They have friends, they respect adults, they are both people that my wife and I enjoy being around.

Any time I ask people what they think I should I write about, one of the most requested topics is, “How do I raise my kids?” I don’t think people ask me this because they think my kids are angels and they want to know how we did it. I think anyone who is raising a child wants help in making sure that they don’t screw up. In our culture we get more training to drive a car than we do for marriage and child raising. So, when it comes to these two most important skills we go in blind.

Pastors, teachers, school administrators, pediatricians, are all people that folks look to for some tracks to run on. We desperately want to avoid screwing up our kids and having them become mass murderers or worse, sanctimonious idiots.

So, how do you do it?

I haven’t finished the process of raising my children to adulthood yet. But, over the last almost sixteen years I know that we have made some conscious decisions that I think have helped.

  1. Their sin is not our sin. That is, we hold our children accountable for their actions and we choose to not feel guilt or shame for their actions. We can’t make choices for them.
  2. Ask for forgiveness. We as parents make mistakes, it feels like all the time. When we do mess up, we ask our kids to forgive us. As my son learns to drive, I think I’ve apologized to him more than ever.
  3. Be consistent. When we say something needs to be done, we don’t count 1,2,3 or whatever. No, we expect it to be done when asked. When we say that there will be a certain consequence we hold to it. This means that we also “under punish”, so to speak. We don’t give punishments that we as a parents can’t hold to.
  4. Extend grace. Sometimes we choose to give grace to our kids. When we do, we explain what grace is, again. We point them to Jesus as we do. Our desire is for them to know that God gives grace and God gives mercy. As parents, we model this attribute of God for our kids.
  5. Speak to them. We tell our kids we love them. We tell our kids we are proud of them. We need them to hear those words. There are many other things going into their minds. Our desire is to be the competing tape that says, “You’re loved. We’re proud of you. You have great value. You have purpose. You have meaning.”
  6. Choose experiences over stuff. In our family we have chosen that experiencing life and the world is more important than material goods. Our excess money goes to traveling because of sports and vacations. We are intentional about time spent. Even little things, like making time to hit ground balls or play cards, communicate that experience and time spent is the more valuable than things.
  7. Have expectations. We have expectations for our kids. They know what the expectations are and they are held accountable to them. As a result, they meet or exceed those expectations.
  8. Don’t make excuses. This is hard. But, we have made a decision not to make excuses for our kids. If they succeed, they do so on their hard work and merit and we will support them all the way. If they fail it’s because they didn’t put in the work, didn’t have the God given ability, or because they decided to go in a different direction. But, their failure will not be blamed on anyone.
  9. Model love, authenticity, respect, integrity, etc… The vision that we have for our kids is one that we must model for them. They will become the kinds of adults that we show them. We set them up for the best possibility of success by modeling for them what we want them to grow to become.
  10. We are not raising children. We are raising adults. This is one of the most important things that we have come grips with. To succeed at almost anything in life you have to a vision of the end. What do you want to accomplish and then figure out how to get there. As parents, our responsibility is not raise children. Our job is to raise adults. We decide what kind of adult we want our kids to become and then we put the things in place to help them get there. With the end in mind you can design a plan and come up with a road map to get there.

I’m not perfect. This isn’t a recipe. But, these are the things that my wife and I have been doing over the last 15 years or so. We’ve learned them from our grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, pastors, and friends. So far, our kids are turning out OK. To this point it appears that we have not completely messed them up. We make mistakes, many of them, but we try to own them.

I’d love to hear some of the things that you’re intentionally doing or did in raising your kids. Comment below…