Friends. We all need a group of friends for support and encouragement. When our children are young, most of the people we spend time with are parents just like us. The challenges are the same and the struggles are known. This is only human, it makes us comfortable to know that we are not the only ones with kids who don't want to go to bed, leave shoes in the middle of the floor and forget to brush their teeth before bed. Let's be real - there are no perfect families. While we need this group of friends, if we are not careful, we can spend all our time together "sharing" about our struggles, which is really another word for complaining. On the other hand, we can also spend time "sharing" all the great things our kids are doing, which can be another word for bragging which can make other parents with a different gifts kid feel unconformable.
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. I Timothy 1:3-5 NKJV
If we put some thought to a list of attribute we desired for our children, would sports and grades be all encompassing? Are there other attributes we would include on that list for our children? Honesty, loving, kind, polite might be part of your list. How do we make sure we grow these qualities?
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:12-17 NKJV
As parents we must allow the Lord to create depth of character in our children to help grow more Christ-like and less like the me-focused young adults common in society today. The answer? Friends! A strong circe of like-minded friends for them with parents who desire common attributes in their children as you desire for yours. Here are a few of our suggestions that have served us well:
First, pray! I know that sounds like an obvious, Christian-mom response, but there is no one who knows your family better than the ONE who created your family. Find a friend (or two) who is willing to commit one hour a week in prayer with you. I can honestly say that prayer has changed our families from the inside out. We are by no means perfect, but there are more than a few pits that have been avoided because the Lord steered us clear of the trap. Prayer can be overwhelmingly simple and it helps to have a plan in order to avoid chatting the whole time mixed with bragging and complaining. Three moms started praying more than 14 years ago. Since then the Lord has refined our time so we focus on what is His will for our families. We would be happy to share what we have learned. Keep an eye out for our new Resources page to help you start a consistent practice of prayer for your family.
Secondly, surround your children with multi-generational adults. Grandparents, neighbors, friends, etc. who can pour experiential wisdom into both you and your children. There is no better advice than the "been there - messed that up - got the scars to prove it!" Spending time with parents of older children will provide insight to situations, traps, opportunities and solutions that you may not have thought of. A wise woman once told me, "You can only pull someone up to where you currently stand." In other words, I cannot teach what I do not know myself. If all of our friends are in the same situation we are in, then how can any of them teach something better. Your heavenly Father has ALL the answers, and seeking His guidance is most important, but He is very good at providing a community of believers to speak into your life if you are willing to participate. Seeking out other parents who have walked the walk will both encourage and enlighten you as a parent.
One more item: keep things in perspective. Evaluate circumstances, priorities from a Kingdom view. Do not become overwhelmed by things that do not grow your child toward Christ. Practice a quiet devotion time with your child, teach them to read scripture and pray with you and when they are by themselves. Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 The goal is not to raise perfect children, because they will not be, but to raise children who love the Lord and seek His heart.
Most Holy Father God, You love us so completely and have blessed us with our precious children. First Lord, we know that before we can raise up our children to love You, we must ask that You train us. Please surround each of us with multi-generational friends who will share Your wisdom and encourage us in our walk as parents. May we see our children as the unique masterpieces You are creating. May we appreciate Your plans for their life and that we participate in their growth toward You. Help me to be an example of faithfulness and encouragement for my child. Amen.