Savage is the founder and Executive Director of Hearts
at Home, an organization designed to encourage, educate,
and equip women in the profession of motherhood.
Hearts at Home
Top Five Parenting Tips
CBN.com I sat across the table from my friend who was embarking upon the birth of their second child. As we ate lunch together, she asked me to share with her the top five parenting tips I had after twenty-two years of parenting.
I told her that I’m still learning myself. Each child has their individual strengths and challenges that continue to stretch me as a parent. However, I was able to identify a few tips that have been foundational in our parenting. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:
1. Be marriage-centered, not child-centered.
The children will enter the family and eventually leave the home. The marriage relationship has to stand the test of time. It can’t be put on the back-burner. Date your mate, pursue fun activities, laugh and share with one another.
2. Teach your children in times of non-conflict.
Too often we get frustrated with a child who hasn’t handled a situation correctly, when the blame needs to fall on us as parents who haven’t taught our children how to handle the situation. Are you going to a family wedding where the kids will be introduced to people they don’t know? Teach them how to look at the person’s eyes, extend a firm handshake and respond to the introduction with “It’s nice to meet you.” We’ve found a little bit of role-playing to be helpful in teaching manners and courtesies.
3. Clarify expectations.
When entering a new setting, set the standard for behavior right up front. If you’re going to Wal-Mart, don’t exit the car with children in tow before clarifying right up front if the child is going to ride in the cart or walk holding your hand. Let them know if this is a “candy-at-the-checkout lane” or a “no-candy-this-time” shopping trip—before they ever enter the store. Most children will rise to the standard, once the standard is set. Most of us forget to set a standard and then find ourselves fighting kids who are trying to find where the boundaries are set.
4. Be very consistent.
Why do people drive faster than the speed limit? Because they know there’s a good chance they won’t get caught. What if there was a ticket that automatically printed out of the dashboard every time you drove over the speed limit? Because you knew you couldn’t get away with it, you wouldn’t speed. It’s the same with our children. Inconsistency breeds misbehavior. Don’t threaten consequences—give consequences when needed. Someday when that child has a job, his boss won’t give him multiple chances to get his act together. Our training now in the growing years helps them develop character traits like self-control, respect, and responsibility that will serve them well in their adult years.
5. Express love to them openly.
It takes 100 words of encouragement to offset the hurt of a critical word. Even when discipline is needed, it can be done with encouragement and love. We have to choose our words carefully, keeping the goal of encouragement and love at the forefront. Snuggle with your preschooler as you read a book together. Make yourself available to your teenager by flopping across their bed and talking to them when they are in their room doing homework or listening to music. Why not surprise your child with a lunch date for just the two of you? Give the gift of love that is spelled T-I-M-E and A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N.
I shared with my friend the both parents and children find the growing up process daunting at times. We will make mistakes. Our children will make mistakes. However, if we pepper our lives with grace and forgiveness, extending it to ourselves and to our children we will find that the parenting journey is a time to learn about ourselves as well as an opportunity to really get to know this young life God has placed in our care.
Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org)
is the founder and Executive Director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org),
an organization designed to encourage, educate, and equip women in the
profession of motherhood. She is the author of five books including Professionalizing Motherhood, Is There Really Sex After Kids?, and her
newest release My Heart’s At Home. Jill and her husband, Mark,
have five children and make their home in Central Illinois.
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