I have recently had a few conversations with young parents about child raising, and one thought keeps coming to mind.
You have 18 years to train your children to make wise decisions. If you haven’t done it by then, it is too late. Children are not trained at 18 or 25 or 30; training must take place long before then. If your child gets to 18 and is in the habit of making poor choices, another two (or four or ten) years at home is not going to solve the problem. At that point the child is an adult and will have to learn the hard way.
I certainly did not do everything right as a mom; ask my children and they will tell you about it. So what’s a parent to do? I have only two pieces of advice.
First, when your children are newborns—no, before they are even born—ask yourself what you want them to be as adults. Make a list and post it in the house where you will see it every day, then you become that. Begin with the end in mind. God says “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof” (Eccl. 7:8), so you need to know what you want the end to look like.
Do you want your child to be compassionate, slow to anger, full of good will, obedient, a hard worker, selfless, a soul winner? Be those things. Remember that “more is caught than taught.” Your children will be who you are, but in multiples. What a scary thought! Be what you want them to be.
Second, listen more than you speak. I once asked my children what was the best thing I did as a mother, and without missing a beat, one said I listened well and another said I didn’t freak out when they came to me with a hard question or in repentance for a wrong done. The best way to keep your children from ever talking to you is to explode when they do. If you step on a land mine, you won’t go in that field again. Children are smart enough to learn from experience whether they will find a listening ear in you or not.
If you want them to come to you with the big stuff in their teens, you’d better listen to the little stuff when they’re toddlers. Communication is a habit formed over the years.
Have a little one sit on the bed while you are folding laundry and let them yammer away. Make eye contact. Smile. Be interested. Pull a chair up to the sink and let your child rinse while you wash, and see what great conversation you have.
When my children were young, we lived almost an hour from town. We had some amazing talks in the van. Seize your opportunities. Make the most of your time.
Put your phone down, turn the radio and TV off; be a parent.
Nothing I’ve said here is new. It is the same old thing said in the same old way. There is nothing new under the sun. Just like 6,000 years ago, it takes time, energy, and attention to train up a child in the way he should go, but if you do that, when he is old, he won’t depart from it.