Do you know how often parents ask me whether they are messing up their kids?
The truth is, I’m not in a position to answer that question in most cases. I mean, let’s be honest, how should I know what you are like as a parent in your own home?
I will say that by my observations some parents are
missing the mark, but just because a handful of challenging kids get media “air-time”
Before I list five indicators that prove your kids aren’t messed up beyond repair, I’d like to give you a brief sketch of some observations I’ve made as a pastor when I speak to parents.
Three Kinds of Parents (And Who This Post is For)
Most parents think that I’m a really good parent. (Maybe because I’m a pastor?)
People also assume I’m a good husband, I don’t struggle with depression, that I read all the time and that I have consistent daily devotions.
Let me help you out with something; no one is consistently a great husband who is also a happy, consistent Christian. I think the reason people feel that way is because I cherry pick the stories I share. If you were to walk into my homes on Sunday afternoons, you would quickly understand how human I am. (So please don’t.)
Some parents think they are hot stuff
Typically I can sniff these parents out a mile away because they usually lead into a conversation with some statement about their astronomically talented children.
“Oh you’re still potty-training at 12 months old? My super-pooper was trained at 10 months!” (I work hard to resist the urge to tell these parents it is they who were potty-trained when their kid was 10 months old!)
“I know my kid hasn’t been at youth lately (translation: “this year”), but God has just given him such amazing talent and we really feel that sports is our mission field.” (I also strain against mentioning that I’ll be awaiting the team of Christian football players that will be headed my way by the end of the season.)
I’m not saying that we should hold our kids back from excelling, it’s just that if every story you’ve ever told me about your kids is how awesome they are, it usually just sounds like you think you’re awesome.
A TON of parents worry they are seriously messing up their kids and don’t know what to do about it.
This post is for these types of parents.
These are the parents who are genuinely struggling because they don’t have the right tools to parents well for whatever reason, or the parents who are actually doing a pretty good job and are just too hard on themselves.
It is irrelevant to me which sub-category you fit in as a parent, because everyone can grow from where they are to a better, healthier, more effective way of parenting. So, from one imperfect parent to another, let’s talk about whether we are messing our kids up.
Yes, you are.
And no, you’re not.
You are because we are imperfect, human beings. Look, my parents are awesome. I even preached an entire message once on the top ten great things my parents taught me. (If you want to listen to it without digging through the archives, click here.) But let’s get real. They also made a BUTT load of mistakes. (Like they raised a kid who says, “butt-load.” That can’t be good.)
The reason I can celebrate the good and laugh about some of their foibles (a kid who knows the word, foibles, probably had parents who also got somethings right), is because I forgave them for the things they got wrong.
(It occurs to me as a I write this that probably the greatest lesson you can teach your children is to be forgiving. That will come in very handy; plus, they will have ample opportunity to practice their skill.)
Five Clues I’m Not Completely Ruining My Children
If you are still feeling insecure, wondering if you are getting things right, let me share with you five things that lead me to believe that I am not completely ruining my children.
We are up at camp right now and he is on full-time summer staff which means he sleeps in a different cabin than us and he still swings by many evenings for a hug.
Now, if you’re thinking, “Oh fudge, my kid NEVER wants a hug!” Don’t despair! The key that we’re looking for here is affection. If your kids show any signs of affection toward you, then I think you’re on the right track!
Signs of affection. That’s indicator number one for me.
That’s indicator number one for me.
For example, occasionally I ask them how they are doing and they have a quick answer, which is encouraging. Sometimes they say it because they want to play video games. “Hey dad, can I play video games [quickly adding], I mean, I’ve already done devotions!”
This doesn’t mean they are doing devotions consistently (I already confessed that their dad doesn’t either, 52 weeks out of the year). And devotions might, even should, look different for different people. But the fact that they a) recognize the priority of time with Jesus and b) make an effort to do it, indicates that they are growing spiritually.
Signs of spiritual growth is another indicator that I am getting a few things right as a parent.
Actually, the other day I played 45 minutes of “Call of Duty”with my 16-year-old and he profusely thanked me afterwards as well. Ok, I get it! You want to spend time with me; whether that’s over breakfast once in a blue moon, or blowing each other up, great! I can do that.
Signs of desired time together is a good indication that our kids like us. A kid who is completely disconnected from their parent wouldn’t even want to do that.
Oh. My. WORD! First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord.
Furthermore, the 12-year-old wants to serve in church and couldn’t wait until the 2-year-old was in “his” ministry! How sweet is that?
Signs of unselfish service seem to indicate a degree of success as a parent.
You know what? I’m going to throw in a bonus sign here…
This past week our 23-year-old and her new husband asked if they could come to camp and spend the night in our very cramped cabin. That is also a good sign that we are getting something right.
And when they couldn’t stay the night because our daughter was sick, and our son-in-law completely supported the disappointing decision to go home and so that his new wife could sleep and get better, I knew that his parents got some things right too. A guy who cares for his wife like he does must have had a good role model.
So, take heart parents! We don’t need to get it right all the time. A bit of humility, a lot of humor, and an eye on the long game will all help you get pointed in the right direction.
And don’t neglect time with your Daddy. Our Father in heaven is brimming with anticipation, waiting to teach you what it means to be a great parent!
You’ve got this!
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Associate Pastor – Southland Church
Thom has worked with children and youth for 18 years. He and his wife, Tara, have 7 kids; 4 boys, and two daughters and a SON-IN-LAW(!). The kids are spread across 23 years too, so that gives him plenty of experimental material to write about! They have welcomed 31 foster children into their home over the past number of years.