Riley Grace is at the fun stage where when she babbles, she knows what she is saying…but we don’t always know what she’s saying! This makes for some interesting conversations as we try to decipher what she’s trying to communicate. Her vocabulary has recently expanded a lot. She loves to talk! Some people think this is a little ironic since her Daddy and I are not really big talkers. J She seems to pick up everything. We went to the zoo this past weekend, and now she won’t stop saying “tiger” and “snake” (pronounced “iger” and “nake”). Patrick has been watching the Women’s World Cup, and so Riley Grace also wants to watch “goccer." Her all-time favorite word is “dog”, and she calls everything – squirrels, cats, trees, houses – “dog." She pronounces “dawg” with a major country accent! “Dog” is also very similar to “door” (pronounced “doe”). She knows a lot of body parts, and she has just recently learned “elbow” (pronounced “bilbo” – as in Bilbo Baggins of Lord of the Rings!). She has always called her socks and shoes “gock," and this is one of her favorite words. She will walk around saying, “gock, gock, gock” as she points to socks and shoes. Recently, however, we realized that she is not always saying sock. She is actually saying “Great Scotts!” which is an expression that Patrick and I use all of the time. (I started saying it a few years ago to be corny, and then it stuck!) Riley Grace will walk around and say “Scotts!” It’s the cutest thing. As we began to realize that’s what she was saying, the realization of the impact of our words and actions really hit me. Riley Grace is a sponge, and she is soaking up the things that Patrick and I say and do. What a huge responsibility we have! She can pick up lots of good things, but she can also pick up lots of bad things. We really have to be careful! What do we want her to learn from us? We have to be intentional in our example to her, or else she can pick up some not-so-good things from us.
As we continue on in our parenting journey, we cannot be complacent about the things that our kids soak up. Children are impressionable, and they are always looking and listening and learning. They will learn from you, their parents. They will learn from their friends. They will learn from the television. They will learn from the Internet. They will learn from the culture around them. Hopefully they will learn godliness, rather than worldliness, from us. There will be lots of pressure on them and on us from our culture and from other people. As their parents, we have a great responsibility to show them the way of godliness and how to be pleasing the Lord.
There are a few things to remember as we strive to be godly parents:
God is our ultimate example and parenting standard, not the world/culture/other people. God has entrusted Riley Grace to our care. He is the perfect Father – loving, forgiving, holy, merciful, gracious, just, wise, etc. He has modeled for us and given us instructions as to what a godly parent should look like. We have guidelines and boundaries within Scripture to aid in our parenting. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we will become better people and better parents. The world is not our standard. If other parents allow their children to watch a certain movie that you don’t feel comfortable with, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents allow their daughters to wear certain clothes that are too revealing, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents have a certain discipline method or a certain bedtime or a certain policy on sleepovers, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents wean from the bottle or the pacifier or begin potty training at a certain time, remember that other parents are not your standard. If other parents choose private school or public school or home-school, remember that other parents are not your standard. Your parenting standard is God, and God has given us His Word. No, the Bible is not a parenting manual with answers to specific child-rearing questions. However, the Bible does tell us to whom we can turn to with our questions. God wants us to seek Him for the answers on how to be godly parents. HE is our standard, not the culture and not other parents. Sure, we can learn a lot from the wisdom and experiences of other godly parents, but still, their experiences and advice are not higher than God’s wisdom and mandate for godly parenting. God allows us and invites us to seek Him when we are unsure of how to raise our children. He knows how to do it, and He wants to teach us! He is the perfect Father to us!
Our relationship with God greatly affects our parenting. If you want to be a godly parent and if you want your children to learn how to practice godliness in their own lives, then you have to pursue your relationship with God! That statement seems to make an obvious claim, but so many times, we don’t really put much effort into our relationship with God even though we hope to live a godly life. We will reap what we sow in the area of sanctification. If we seek God and seek to live a life that pleases Him, then He will grow us into godly people. If we just “talk the talk” but don’t actually practice spiritual disciplines in order to pursue godliness, then our lives won’t really change. If you want your children to see Jesus in you, then you have to pursue Him daily! One thing I can always look back on from my childhood is the evidence of my mom’s commitment to God. Every morning when I woke up and finally made it out of my bedroom (I’m not a morning person, and my mom had lots of trouble getting me out of bed each morning…), I would always find my mom on the couch with her Bible, journal, and coffee. She was (and still is!) committed to seeking the Lord. She knew that her time with God needed to happen before her children got up, or else it would likely be pushed to the back burner. Her example has stayed with me. As a child, I watched my mom and observed how she lived, measuring it up against the way in which she told us to live. Kids observe, and kids remember! Being a godly mom starts with being a godly woman. Your children will observe your pursuit (or lack of pursuit) of the Lord!
Our relationship with our spouse greatly affects our parenting. Just as children watch and learn from the way in which you interact with them, they also watch and learn from the way in which you interact with your spouse. Riley Grace will learn a lot about relationships as she watches Patrick and me interact. As a wife, I have trouble being critical and nagging. Also, I often have a bad attitude about things. That attitude is often accompanied by eye-rolling or the silent treatment. I’m not proud of my either of these habits. Sometimes, I’m convinced that I didn’t even roll my eyes (but I probably did roll them – it’s just so second nature that I don’t even think about it before I do it!). I can give the silent treatment when Patrick is asking me something that I don’t want to respond to. However, I do NOT want Riley Grace to pick up these habits! BUT if I consistently exhibit these negative attitudes and actions, how can I expect her not to pick up on them?! She can learn lots of negative things from this. She can learn how to be disrespectful. She can learn how to be rude. She can learn how to react badly when she doesn’t agree with what’s going on. She can learn negative body language habits. She can learn that this is how Mommy treats Daddy. She can store all of this away and use it when she’s in a situation that she doesn’t like. She can also learn that it’s ok for a wife to act this way. The problem is…these responses are NOT OK, BUT if that’s what she sees from me, then that’s what she’ll learn. These habits are not godly at all. So when she’s a teenager or a wife or a mother, these kinds of responses are ones that she’s learned from me and are the ones that she’ll bring into her own marriage and parenting. Wow! Yikes! I do NOT want that for her…which means that I have to stop responding that way in front of her…which means that I should stop responding that way PERIOD! What kinds of things do I want her to learn about being a wife? Those are the kinds of things I should start showing to her now. I love Patrick, and I want him to know that. I also want Riley Grace to know that I love her Daddy, too!
God has entrusted us with the role of being parents to our children. God has called us to be good stewards of the gifts in which He’s entrusted to us. God has entrusted Riley Grace to Patrick and me. He has entrusted your children to you. He didn’t entrust your children to different parents; he gave them to YOU. He knows your flaws and weaknesses, and He still saw fit for you to parent your children (that means that HE will equip you with what you need to raise them!). Now, your children are not yours to keep and they shouldn’t become an idol to you. Your children – first and foremost – belong to the Lord. They are His, and they are alive to bring glory to Him. Yes, God graciously allows us to enjoy our time with our children, but we shouldn’t idolize them. Since I have become a mom, I can see how very easily I could come to idolize Riley Grace. I love that little girl so much, and I would do absolutely anything for her. I care about her so much and I don’t want anything bad to happen to her. As her earthly mom, I cannot protect her from everything. Also, I am not all-wise or all-knowing or all-powerful like the Lord, so as much as want the best for her, God is the only who ultimately knows what’s best for her. As Riley Grace grows up, I can lovingly teach her that she belongs to the Lord even more than she belongs to me. With that being said, we still need to be good stewards as parents, and so we do have lots of responsibility to raise them up to be godly people. What are you doing with this great responsibility? One of the most loving things that you can do for them is to pray for them. God is the most sovereign, loving, and wise parent. Trust your children with the Lord. He loves them more than you do, and HE can take care of them better than you can! Get on your knees for them every day!
Children are sponges. They are watching us, listening to us, and learning from us – the good and the bad stuff. As a girly girl, I do NOT like bugs at all. I usually spaz out if a flying, stinging insect comes anywhere near me. I could never stand still as I was told. My thinking was that I need to get as far away as possible from the flying, stinging thing, not stand still as it buzzes around plotting to sting me! Well, being that we live in the most humid state in the south, we cannot escape bugs. One would hope that going indoors would mean that you could escape from the bugs, but that thinking is incorrect. Bugs creep into our house under the door all of the time! Well, I didn’t realize how much of a spastic person I was about bugs until I freaked out about a housefly in front of Riley Grace. (No, I’m not scared of houseflies, but they are aggravating and shouldn’t be buzzing around our kitchen!) A huge housefly came in buzzing around our kitchen. He was not going to live much longer. I had my magazine in one hand and dishtowel in the other. I was ready. Then, I looked over, and Riley Grace was wondering what in the world I was doing! So that she wouldn’t be afraid of my crazy moves, I made a game out of it. In a dramatic and high-pitched voice, I spoke these words to the fly, “Get out of our house! You will not come in our house!” Then I swatted the fly and looked at Riley Grace. She cracked up! She laughed every time I said that phrase or swatted the unwanted pest. Well, in case you were wondering, the fly did die, and that was that. Later on that evening, Riley Grace was standing by the door. She started pointing her finger and babbling in a fussing tone. I looked over to see what was wrong, and she was fussing at a bug! Now, every time she sees a bug (or a black speck or anything that remotely resembles a bug) on the floor, she immediately points and starts fussing at it. She will not stop pointing and fussing until the bug is gone! It is hilarious! It’s also amazing at how quickly she picked up on my words, actions, and demeanor when dealing with bugs. She was observing my every move during the incident with the housefly, and now she was putting it into practice. Children are sponges. They pick up on everything, even things that we think are insignificant or things that we do without even thinking. They will repeat what you say, what you do, and how you respond to different situations. If you roll your eyes or slam a door or utter profanity, they will learn that behavior. If you are disrespectful toward your spouse or irate at a fellow driver, they will learn that behavior. If you spend more time on you iphone or computer than with your family, they will learn that behavior. They are watching and learning from you! We have to be so careful about the words, actions, and behaviors that we are modeling in front of our children. Knowing that they are watching can encourage us to pursue godliness even more because we have a huge responsibility to be good stewards of the time we have with our children. What kind of example are you setting for your children? What behaviors and attitudes are they learning from you? What words are they picking up and repeating? Remember that they are sponges, and they are soaking up the good and bad behaviors of the people they live with – especially their parents.
Your role as a parent will always affect your children, no matter how old they are. You have probably made mistakes in the past. You have probably made some good decisions in the past. The key is – lots of things happened in the past regarding the kind of parent you have been. The good news is… today is today – a new day! Don’t let your past parenting mistakes and failures define you or cripple you from making godly changes from this point forward. I can remember several times where either one of my parents came to me or to all of us to apologize for something and ask for forgiveness about a way they handled something. I really respected my parents for doing that! I learned so much from them in those instances. As they apologized for a mistake they had made, I learned that they are not perfect, and they are not too prideful to seek forgiveness. You can always teach your children, even in your failures. Also, your role as a parent will always affect your children, no matter how old they are. I have learned different parenting traits and expectations from the kind of experiences I had as a child – the good and the bad. What your children see in the home now will be what they bring to their own marriage and family. Let them see Jesus in you so that they bring godliness into their marriage and parenting! They will always remember your example, no matter their age.
APPLICATION: Take some time to evaluate your own parenting and pray through these questions. Don’t beat yourself up! The Lord is gracious, and He desires to change us as we pursue Him! We have all made poor parenting decisions. Don’t stay in a state of depression regarding the ways in which you’ve failed. Rather, use this time of evaluation as a time of prayer and encouragement for the future!
1. How is your relationship with the Lord? Do you seek Him before anything else? Do you seek Him when it comes to how to raise your children?
2. What is your parenting standard? In what ways has the culture/worldliness infiltrated your philosophy and practice of parenting? Do you trust in your own knowledge of parenting more than the Lord’s wisdom? Do you bend to the pressure of staying in step with what other parents are doing?
3. How is your relationship with your spouse? In what ways do you think your children are affected by the way in which you and your spouse interact? Do your children see love or strife, respect or disrespect?
4. Do you have the proper perspective regarding parenting? Do you see your children as “yours” or “the Lord’s”? What are you doing with the time the Lord has given you with children?
5. What are some godly things that your children have learned from you? What are some ungodly things that your children have learned from you?
6. The most loving thing you can do for your children is to pray for them. How can you pray for your children? What are some Bible verses that you can pray for your children?
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:1-8
Sister, I pray that you will depend on and trust in the Lord instead of on your own understanding as you seek to be the parent that He wants you to be!