On Sunday we talked about parenting with the end in mind.  Our goal isn't "just" for our kids to be happy, but to be more like Jesus.  That brings joy, peace, freedom, life even when circumstances aren't great.  Parenting is hard and we are called to train our children to experience the life that God has for them.

No matter what stage you're at, parenting is hard.  Jen & I have 3 boys who are all in their 20's now.  We've walked through all of the stages and looking back we wanted to share a couple successes and a couple failures - maybe they'll help or encourage you.

1.  Failure:  Reacting instead of Responding.  Too often we reacted in the heat of the moment.  In the middle of a situation our emotions are heightened and we respond too harshly, out of anger, we make unrealistic statements like "you're grounded for the next year!".  It often does more damage to the relationship without really helping deal with the issue.  When we got it right, we would pause, even pray, and wait a bit to respond.  When we did, emotions were ratcheted down & progress was made.  We wish we had done that more often!

2.  Success: We didn't do this always or perfectly, but in general we gave our kids expectations for their behavior in different social settings:  grocery store, out to eat, etc.  We might provide them w/things to occupy them in some situations.  Talking before hand about the expectations and then if the expectations weren't being met, willingness to end the trip, etc.  In the grocery store that might mean:  you're all going to stay right by me. There will be no fighting, and we are only getting what's on mom's list.  If you can do that, then at the end I'll let you pick out one piece of candy.

3.  Failure: We made too many things a big deal.  We needed to choose our battles.  When you're raising little humans it can feel like EVERYTHING is life and death and shaping their character.  Of course we don't want our kid to take a toy from their friend, but it doesn't mean they are going to turn into Bin Laden.  Breathe.  Play the long game.  Correct the issue, but don't make everything the end of the world.  Often it's just childish irresponsibility.

4.  Success:  We tried to keep the relationship at the center.  To correct, train, discipline, but always keep in mind that we want this relationship to be healthy when they get older and can choose whether they want to be around us or not.  What that looked like for us - guarding from getting things too overblown.  Apologizing for when we wronged them, or treated them unfairly.  Having them say "please forgive me" vs. "sorry" to show that there's a break in the relationship that needs to be restored.  Consistently trying to speak life into them, or even explaining later - "the reason we said no/didn't let you do . . . Is because we love you and want what's best for you and . . ." 

5.  Failure:  Consistency.  Can I get an amen?!  Consistency is key & if I'm honest too many times we were just tired, didn't want to have to follow through, were selfish with our time so we weren't as consistent as we could be.  Inconsistency just creates confusion for our kids.  That doesn't mean we have to make a big deal about everything (see above), but strive for consistency.  Pick a couple key things that are going to be important in your family and be consistent.

6.  Success:  Consistency.  Yup, you read that right.  There was lots of inconsistency, but there were some things that were non-negotiable and our kids knew those things:  they are never to talk back to their mother.  Church was a non-negotiable.  They would get to decide for themselves when they lived on their own, but our family goes to church togehter.  Family dinners.  Talking & praying with them about Jesus. 

As parents, we'll succeed and we'll fail.  Keep going, don't quit.  Parent with the end in mind.  Learn from one another.  For more resources on practical parenting check out these books on our Family Resource page!