In our minds we all understand the basics truths to raising children and we aim for those as much as possible. If you’re anything like me you can get focused on the end goal and miss the day to day. These are just some pointers that I try to focus on to make sure I’m loving my kids well daily so that when they do grow up, they have the foundation of the Gospel as a daily rhythm of their lives.
C.S. Lewis said it best when he said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” This is so true as a parent. You can write down your hopes and goals for your kids, and they at times seem reachable. Then the day-to-day sets in, and your goals of what college they’ll go to and who they’ll marry are replaced with trying to get them to brush their teeth and change their underwear in less than four hours. So with that in mind, I came up with 5 things I think are important to say to your children on a daily basis.
1) “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?”
So often we tell our kids to ask for forgiveness for hitting a sibling or to apologize for throwing sharp objects. But how often do we practice forgiveness with our kids? This idea hit me really hard. I remember learning the most from my parents’ actions and not their words. “I don’t have to apologize to my kids if I don’t make mistakes”—but who are we kidding? I fail more in a day than I succeed. But there’s a lot of power in asking for forgiveness. I know deep down in me it was hard to start doing this at first. I didn’t want to admit failure. I wanted to be this perfect parent who had it all together, and the areas we didn’t I desperately tried to cover up with a “we’re working on it” excuse. After a while of practicing quick repentance, I felt free to make mistakes and my kids would love me through it. I can only imagine it did the same for them. My kids need to know I’m human. My kids need to know I’m weak, and my kids need to know that I go to Jesus to be my strength.
2) “Who was hard to love today?”
I love this one. Just asking my kids this question forced me to think about it for myself. My natural reaction to hardship is to turn and run away, including from people who are hard to love. I don’t care what grade your kids are in; they need love, and I guarantee their classmates do, too. There’s a good chance most of them don’t receive it. This question forces your kids to think about those who might get ignored or labeled negatively because of their outbursts. More often than not, those outbursts are a cry out for love. As you discuss these hardships with your children, you’re able to challenge them to go out of their way to show love. Have lunch with the kids who are most disruptive in class. Invite the bully to play a game and help him follow the rules. Befriend a kid who’s completely different than you. Again, it’s really important to remember that your kids learn from actions just as much as words; it speaks volumes to share yourself who you are pursuing in love.
I’m a high school leader and was working with a group of teenagers last week, and I asked them to describe what a Christian is. The first response was “exclusive,” the second was “hypocrite,” and the third was “segregated.” These are Christians describing their own faith. How can we say we love our neighbor if we turn from anyone different than us? God wants us to be in the world but not part of it, meaning we’re meant to go to dark places and share the light of God.
3) “Did you do your best?”
This one took me a long while to learn. I grew up in a family that was a bunch of intelligent, freak athletes. It was either an A or bust. You were either starting on the team, or you didn’t try out. My goal became being the best at everything. This mentality destroyed so many aspects of my potential for community. First of all, it was impossible for me to celebrate other people’s talents. If I’m totally honest, I still struggle with this one today. If someone got a compliment, I had to be better so that I would get that compliment. My self-worth came from my success instead of doing my best. The second part of this problem was that I only did what I had to do to succeed. If I was already gifted at something, that was good enough; I didn’t try to use the abilities God gave me to their full potential. The third issue was how devastating this characteristic was for my friends. Winning was more important than relationships, and this took its toll, especially in high school.