What is expected from you as a parent? We all laugh when we consider such a question. Anyone who has been a parent can easily answer that everything all the time, that’s what’s expected of us as a parent. If you read all the books, you go to Barnes & Noble, the library, or a used book store and look at parenting shelves, there are thousands upon thousands of books to help you deal with your job as a parent. The reality is a lot of times these authors have all this expertise, but they struggle to raise their own children. If you get a chance to talk to them they’ll tell you that. They struggle with their own mess yet they have this knowledge they want to impart to us.
Set Real Expectations
What we as parents need is to establish some real expectations for our children and a to gain a better understanding of what success really looks like. I think the first thing parents have to understand is that when you have children you have to start raising them with the end in mind. Here’s what I mean by that. If you knew when your child was born what job they were going to have, who they were going to marry, where they were going to live, if they were really going to come to visit on holidays, wouldn’t you be much more relaxed about potty-training? That bad grade in fourth-grade math wouldn’t create so much stress if you knew that they were going to be okay. If you knew that they were going to have a family that was all going to be well, it would take some pressure off, wouldn’t it?
As a matter of fact that bad haircut that your son just got because everybody’s doing it it wouldn’t bother you so much. When your mother-in-law inserted her unwelcome opinion, it wouldn’t bother you so much and so forth. You see we’re all filled with anxiety because we can’t see the future, and because we went through our own set of bad choices growing up. We’re afraid that our children will do exactly what we did and we don’t want them to make the same mistakes. We want them to be successful, whatever that looks like, and the future is a real sticking point. That’s where the anxious expectations come from.
Take some time to set some real expectations for you and your child.
Have a Strong Foundation
How do we create real expectations for ourselves when it comes to raising our children? We must have a foundation for our expectations just like we talked about in an earlier session. It’s something we can go back to when the pressure gets too much or our children make poor choices that can drive us crazy. I’ve already told you I go to the Bible; that’s my foundation. Parents must have a solid foundation. Let me give you an example. I want you to understand that I didn’t do it all right, that my wife and I didn’t do it all right. I want you to know that we have real life, hands-on experience with this, and we walk through some of these same things just like you are doing right now. We also want you to know that you’re going to make it.
My firstborn son is type A personality and he is a firstborn through & through. He likes to have his hands on the controls; he likes to do it himself. I’ve got this mentality if you have a firstborn like that you understand and can emphasize with me. He was a strong-willed child up until he hit puberty, when he hit puberty and that male thing kicked in, he wanted to be the alpha male. Now understand we are a Christian family, so he was in church from the time he was born until he got out of Regent College and did his own thing. We had Christian music playing and we talked about choices. We let him listen to other music, we let him go to see movies, but we controlled his environment.
When we faced the choice of where to send him to school, we chose homeschooling him up till he finished the sixth grade. In seventh grade, we put him in a chartered school which was a smaller environment so he could mingle with other his age but be protected & closely guided. We wanted him to have as great a degree of hands-on instruction & attention as possible. We weren’t trying to keep him from the bad world, but we wanted to make sure that the influences were right for him. Somewhere around eighth grade even in the charter school, he started being influenced by friends and outside influences. We saw some choices being made that we weren’t thrilled with and we continued to pray for him. Luckily, despite the fact that he made some bad choices in middle school, we don’t have any long-term issues we have to deal with and we’re thankful for that.
When he went away to college, he reconnected with a friend. They were both struggling in the same areas and they both came from Christian homes. Then they decided that they needed to go to church because that’s how they had been raised. They went to a church and the church needed somebody to help on that college campus where they were. They were asked to start a Bible study in order to have a program operating there. They both felt honored, so they did that. Four years later when they graduated, they had 120 kids on that campus coming to that particular Bible study and God had done something in both their lives.
It wasn’t because there was not pain and heartache along the way. There was a fear on our part about what was going to happen to him. Right now he’s 25 years old and he’s married and we have a grandchild coming in about 3 weeks. He is a youth pastor at a church in Alabama and he is fulfilling God’s calling even though I messed up a lot as a parent. We would have loud debates at our house because I was scared because I didn’t know what the end looked like for him. If I had known where he was going to go I would have been much more relaxed.
Take some time to determine your foundation.
You have to understand you’re going to make it and they’re going to make it. The fear is what creates the problem. If you have the end in mind and somebody can tell you hey, parents, take a deep breath. I’ll say it this way, 98% of the time it’s going to be okay. I can’t tell you every time, I wish I could, but life does happen and sometimes kids make bad choices and it is beyond devastating, but 98% of the time kids are going to be okay. They’re going to get married, they’re going to have kids, they’re going to have a job and it’s going to be okay. We just need to relax a little and prayerfully allow our children to make mistakes while we have the chance to constructively guide them toward learning from those mistakes.
Take some time to determine the source of your faith.
Remember, while it may feel like everything is expected of you as parent, relax. All you need to do is set real expectations for yourself and your child, have a strong foundation, and have faith. The rest is out of your control anyway.
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