Every parent wonders after their child grows up if what they taught them actually stuck with them in a meaningful way. So what are we responsible for as parents?
In parenting, we can and should sow good seeds into our children’s minds and hearts. And we should “water” and nurture them with great vigor and diligence. The sweat on our brow from our hard work in raising our kids should be significant. But, as they grow into teens and young adults, we cannot ultimately control whether those seeds will grow exactly as we expected and bear all the fruit we desire. We can significantly influence, but cannot control what they’ll believe, what they’ll value, or how they’ll behave.
Here are some ways to have a huge, positive influence on our children’s lives:
- Making memories: Creating good memories or redeeming bad memories has a lasting impact on kids. Looking back on their childhood someday, the fruit of those seeds will be found in the stories that they share. And those stories will also be how they describe and define your family for future generations.
- Teaching life lessons: Keep your eyes open for “teachable moments” to convey big life lessons. For example, I remember doing some weeding in our yard with my children when they were young. When I noticed them getting bored, I tossed out a question: “What would happen if we didn’t weed?” “Well,” said my oldest, “all the good stuff would die.” I went on to explain how that’s true in our lives as well and had them tell me some of the “weeds” we all need to watch for. They came up with things like calling people names, lying and being mean to other children. We talked about how weeds choke out our joys and hurt our relationships.
- Relating well with others: How you interact with the people around you sows seeds in your child’s heart about how they should interact with others. They watch what you do more than hear what you say. Their future choices will, in large part, reflect your values and relationship with them.
- Modeling virtues: It won’t matter as much to your child what character qualities you say are important. What will matter most are those you show in everyday life…honesty, integrity, courage, duty, honor, commitment.
- Training in Truth: Sowing seeds of truth is critical to their future. They will have to sort through millions of conflicting truth claims in their lifetime. And they need you, now, to plant in them the absolute truths. They also need to hear the why behind the what of your convictions. The fruit of God’s truth in their minds and hearts will help them reject the lies of the world that will swirl around them.
- Loving well: Your child needs to know, beyond any doubt, that you always have their best interests at heart and always love them no matter what.
By Mark Merrill, All Pro Dad.com and iMom.com