Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. –Proverbs 22:6
This year I have or will have run a half marathon with Kristin at Zion National Park, deep sea fished with Mark and hiked and meditated in Peru with Rebecca. This year I turned 60 and asked each of my children what they would like to do with me. Let’s see, a vigorous long run, fishing in the middle of the ocean and hiking up the side of a mountain in some distant country – hmmm, I think my kids are trying to get their inheritance sooner than I would like.
Last month I shared with you about marriage as Beverly and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Today I want to share with you about children. I really believe Proverbs has it right, how you start your children off will carry into adulthood.
I was not always a good parent. I was young, learning and exploring how to be a good farther to my children. I made mistakes, like spending too much time at work when I should have been with family, trying to control my kids to be more like me rather than guiding and releasing them, and being angry which had more to do with what I was experiencing and not who they were being.
In spite of some bad parenting and blessed by good mothering, my kids turned out alright. Here are some things I worked on as a parent and still try to carry into our relationships today.
You are Beautifully and Wonderfully Made
The more I saw my children as beautifully and wonderfully made, the more they became true to who God had created and called them to be. Children, not just my kids, are remarkable. They are resilient, hopeful, playful and friendly. The more I appreciated these, even when I was not hopeful or ready to be playful, the more they grew into a child of God.
Love No Matter What
Sometimes it is hard to love unconditionally, even your own children. They mess up from time to time and we have such high hopes for them. Over the years I found it was hardest to love my kids when they were not becoming the young people I wanted them to be, or quite frankly, not becoming me – adopting my interests, my way of doing things or my hopes for their future. The more I loved them just the way they were and the more I stood with them even when they were wrong, the more they respected life, people and even me. Love is the most powerful influence we have.
Inspire Courage Not Perfection
The children who do well as adults have enough courage to fail. The other day one of my kids was concerned about making a decision. I asked why, and “I might fail” was the response. I said “Good. I hope you do fail. The sooner you fail the sooner you become better.” Maybe I was too direct or too hard, but my child chose the option of trying even if it meant failure. That makes me proud. The more we offer our children challenges and support them, even though they may fail, the more they grow and mature.
Parenting is tough. I spent a lot of time talking and praying my way through it. Even after my children left the house (oh and they will be back), I use to stop at their bedroom doors each night before I want to bed and pray for them. I prayed God would keep them safe and that more than all else they would have meaning and purpose that fulfilled them and offered something to the world. Pray for your children’s safety and that they will have a life of meaning and purpose.
A Word to Kids and a Lot of Adults
I spent a good part of my life trying not to be like my father. Don’t misunderstand, I had a great dad. He loved me, cared about me and wanted the best for me. But you know, those nagging habits our parents have just seem to exhaust us and then we find we are doing the same thing. Ugh! I spent time and energy trying not to acquire my dad’s habits and it was exhausting. One day I decided I would stop trying not to be like my father and embrace all that was good about him. My life took off. WARNING TO KIDS – no matter how hard you try, you are going to acquire habits from your parents that you do not like. Get over it, it’s part of your destiny. You have been practicing these habits since the second you were born. Embrace their goodness, it may be the best Godliness you will learn.
You know you don’t have to have kids to influence the life of young people. In fact there are kids watching you all of the time. I encourage you to see every child as beautiful and wonderfully made, to love children no matter what and to inspire and support children to be courageous.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, just another proud dad
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey