It’s hard to be a parent, especially when there is an exuberant chorus of voices weighing in on how to parent “the right way.” We sometimes feel judged by the words of others, rather than seeing them as a reference point to consider in light of our unique family dynamic. As both a reader and a writer of parenting advice, let me share three things I’m learning as a parent that will hopefully be an encouragement—whether we feel like we’re knocking it out of the park or just barely hanging on.
1. We’re all trying to be good parents.
We want our kids to grow up to be well-adjusted and happy. And if we’re believers in Christ, our highest goal is for our kids to love Him and spend their lives serving Him. Since I was 18 and began my undergrad work in elementary education, going on to teach for seven years, I have been studying kids and parents, and I have learned that there’s not a major difference between the motivations of the PTA president and the single mother who never has time to darken the door of her kids’ school. We all want our kids to turn out OK.
2. Every kid is different.
Just when I thought I might be getting a handle on my first child, the second one came along and blew all my great ideas out of the water. Not only that, but the methods many of my dearest friends and family members use in parenting their children are very different from my own. We can learn ideas from each other, but we must keep in mind that what works for one kid might be a disaster for another. Every piece of advice we receive that relies on experience rather than biblical principles should be taken with a grain of salt. That’s not to say all extra-biblical advice is unhelpful, but we have to be careful not to make anything but God’s Word primary.
3. We don’t control the outcome.
I have spent many tearful hours with mothers who have parented their children beautifully, yet their children went astray. It’s devastating when you try your hardest, only to watch your child run away. This can lead to shame and doubt, and in these moments, we must cling to our Father and our community. We are not alone, and though not one of us is a perfect parent, blaming ourselves for decisions our children make doesn’t help. We can and should own our part and ask God to forgive us. But, ultimately, our children will make their own choices in life. We can continue to love them well by praying that God will redeem what is broken. Remember that God is faithful and ask others to stand in faith when your faith is weak.
The challenge for all of us is to read parenting advice not as authoritative but as a potentially helpful suggestion to consider. Every family is different. My kids are still young. I don’t know what’s in store, but I do know the enemy wants to draw my children away from Jesus. I’m sowing seeds in my kids today that “will not return empty” (Isa. 55:11). The beauty of God’s Word is that it penetrates deeply into hearts (Heb. 4:12), so I’ll just keep praying and reading out loud and reminding my kids of the gospel. I must trust Him with the outcome.