Originally published June 10, 2014
It’s a funny thing about parenting articles– they’re always written by doctors or psychologists or parents, never by the people being parented: the kids. I mean, think about it, if you were a waitress and you wanted to know how to serve your customers better, would you take advice solely from other waitresses, restaurant managers, and the guys at corporate? Wouldn’t you, at some point, want to hear from the people you actually serve regarding what they want out of a waitress? So how come we never ask our kids what they want out of a parent?
Well, I decided to.
My husband and I have five boys, ages 26, 24, 14, 12, and 11, and one girl, age 18. The two oldest boys are grown and out on their own, so I interviewed the four still living at home: my daughter and the three younger boys. They’re average kids from an average, church-every-Sunday-and-Wednesday, Christian family. My husband and I are imperfect parents who make a ton of mistakes, but we’re doing our best to raise them in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
The interview consisted of one question: What advice would you give to parents?
M (18 year old daughter) has spent the year since she graduated from high school teaching pre-schoolers at a Christian day care, so much of her advice is drawn from that experience. She has learned a lot about parenting that will help her to be a great mother some day.
- Don’t be scared to discipline your child. Children need discipline, and that’s part of your job as a parent.
- Kids are smarter than you think they are. Take the time to work with them.You’ll be amazed at how much they can learn!
- Giving in to tantrums will ultimately make parenting more difficult because you’re teaching your child that tantrums work when they want to get their own way about something.
- When considering names for your baby, imagine one of your adult friends introducing himself with that name. If the name doesn’t work for an adult, consider another choice. Also be aware of any acronyms or foul words your child’s initials might spell.
- Never lie to your children to give them a reason for telling them yes or no about something. (For example: one of my children was constantly begging to go to the park. Her mother finally told her, “No, we can’t go to the park because it’s closed.” Naturally, a few minutes later, they drove by the park and saw plenty of people there. The child said, “I thought it was closed!”)
- Before buying your child any DVD, watch it several times to make sure it doesn’t drive you nuts.
- No child ever died from a dog licking him in the face.
- A little sugar from time to time isn’t going to kill your child.
J1 (14 year old son) just finished eighth grade and isn’t interested in doing anything that taxes his brain during summer break. After we got past, “Mom, you’re the perfect parent! You don’t need any parenting advice from me!” (so he could go back to watching TV), here are the few gems I was able to extract from him:
- Teach your kids not to be aggravating to other kids.
- Don’t let your kids date too early.
- Don’t force foods on your kids that they have either tasted and don’t like or think they won’t like.
- Don’t make your kids write your blog articles for you. It’s pretty boring for them!!!
B (12 year old son) is a take charge kind of guy who would have gladly written this article for me (and probably would have done a better job!) He just finished the 6th grade. B says:
- Give a thirty minute bed time extension with every birthday. (He calculates this based on a baby from birth to one year having a bed time of 6:00 p.m. A one year old would go to bed at 6:30, a two year old at 7:00, etc.)
- Have a large Christmas budget.
- Buy your kids go carts.
- Take more vacations.
- Don’t make things sound better or worse than they actually are. (“Mom, one time I was going to get some shots and you told me it would hurt really bad. I didn’t think it hurt that much.”)
- Set a good example for your kids.
J2 (11 year old son) just finished 5th grade and lives life wide open with his hair on fire. He had lots of great 11 year old advice for parents:
- Spend more time with your kids.
- More bacon. Also, more junk food and cokes.
- Let us do good April Fool’s tricks.
- Mud fights whenever we want.
- Let us run around the house nekkid! (That’s “naked” if you don’t live in the South.)
- Don’t make your kids go to school.
- Be less demanding and don’t criticize your kids.
Awesome parenting advice, no? Maybe my husband and I should just change all our rules around to fit what the kids want. After all, going back to our waitress analogy, the customer’s always right, right?
The Bible says in Ephesians 6:1 (a verse every child in our family memorizes as a toddler) “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” not “parents obey your children.” If we decided to become the parents they wanted, we’d have a bunch of naked, bacon-snarfing, go cart riding, uneducated pranksters who stay up until midnight.
The reason God gave children parents is so that we can exercise the wisdom, experience, and discernment they don’t have but so desperately need. As godly parents, my husband and I must listen to our children and take to heart anything that is wise or biblical (“Set a good example for your children.” “Never lie to your children.”) and say a firm “no” anything that isn’t (large Christmas budgets and living room streaking).
Because God has told us to train our children up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), not the way they want to go.