My four-year-old son, Chandler recently talked me into coaching his T-Ball Team. I knew that herding a bunch of little kids was going to be quite an undertaking, but I felt up for the challenge. Plus, I knew I’d get plenty of new stories for my blog! The kids on the team are precious, but they’ve all had trouble learning the more important part of the game…how to win.
Granted, they are playing in a league where nobody keeps score, but one of the main points of Tee Ball is to learn the rules of the game so that you can score runs and win game when you’re playing in the bigger leagues someday. I believe many parents approach parenting with the same lack of clarity that these kids have on the Tee Ball field. They’re not sure how to define their goals, work together or clarify what it means to “win.”
I’ve certainly been guilty of this! I have SO much to learn as a parent, and the moment I start to feel like I’m figuring it out, all the rules seem to change again. The day-to-day struggles of discipline, outline clear boundaries, refereeing sibling rivalries, keeping the calendar managed and the thousand other daily challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why a winning parenting strategy always has to be bigger than the present season; it has to be longterm.
My amazing wife Ashley is also an amazing mommy which makes the whole journey so much more enjoyable, but each day still has plenty of struggles. We try to remind ourselves that our goal isn’t to raise “good kids” but to raise responsible adults. To give our kids the tools they’ll need to thrive in adulthood, we have three very simple and clearly defined targets that serve as a guiding compass for our parenting. Again, I find ways to fail as a dad daily, but having these longterm goals help me to readjust and refocus even on those days when I feel like I’m blowing it.
I encourage you to adopt these targets (or your own version of them) to help you bring more focus to what it means to “win” as a parent and help your kids win at life (in no particular order):
1.Our kids will want to VISIT us, but they won’t want to LIVE with us when they’re grown.
Dr. James Dobson has said of parenting that, “Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” If our house is all about the “rules” and not about relationships, then as soon as the kids are old enough to ignore our rules, they’ll also be willing to ignore a relationship with us. Our rules are meant to protect the kids and also to foster healthy relationships with us and with their siblings. We want our kids to want to be a big part of our lives when they’re old enough to decide for themselves, BUT we also want them to have the confidence to pave their own way in life. In short, if our kids never want to visit, then we’ve failed, but if they never want to leave, we’ve also failed! We’ll do whatever we can to help them, but if at 30-years-old, they’re living in our basement playing video games all day, something has gone terribly wrong.
2. Our kids will have a solid foundation of FAITH in God that will provide a moral compass into adulthood.
One of the most famous parenting verses in the Bible says, “Direct your children onto the right path,
and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6). As parents, we’re called to give our kids a solid foundation of faith. Certainly, they’ll have to decide for themselves whether or not to adopt our faith as their own, but we want to authentically and practically model a sincere love for Christ and relate to the world around us in light of that faith.
3. Our kids will have a KNOWLEDGE of their God-given, unique abilities and a CONFIDENCE to use those abilities in a positive and productive way.
Every kid is unique. Their gifts are unique. Their perspectives are unique. One of our sacred duties as parents is to help each child identify his or her unique skills, passions and aptitudes and then invest the time and resources necessary to help them flourish and grow in those areas of giftedness. Some of our kids’ talents and interests will keep changing and evolving over time, but we want to give them the tools and the confidence from an early age to keep growing and improving and to accept the responsibility of using those skills to make the world a better place.
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