My husband, Don and I recently traveled from our home in Omaha to a church in Raleigh, NC where we spoke on marriage and parenting issues. The church asked if we would give them some practical advice in both areas. Prior to the trip we began praying and pondering the direction we should take regarding both parenting and marriage.
When considering the child-rearing advice, we decided to ask our adult children what impacted them — what they thought would benefit other parents. We figured their thoughts would carry more weight, since they are the product of our parenting decisions. During a family gathering, we spontaneously asked the question, “What are the things you liked about the way we parented? The things you think helped you become who you are today.”
Immediately and without hesitation, their answers flew out. Don grabbed a pen and paper and recorded their thoughts. The following principles are taken from the list they compiled that evening. We called it “What The Kids Told Us To Tell You!” These are written the way they said them to us.
#1. You allowed us to tell you what we were upset about, and didn’t make us feel we were always wrong. You didn’t have to always be right!
When they were angry or had difficulties with us, we would try to listen to their side of things and see it from their point of view. We tried to “understand” where they were coming from, rather than try to convince them they should see things our way. If we were wrong, we admitted it, and conveyed that we “understood” their point of view. We found that the two words, “I understand” went a long way to breaking down any walls or hurts that had occurred between us. Sometimes all they wanted was to be understood! Isn’t that what most of us want? To be understood!
#2 You didn’t let the sun set on your anger. If we were upset with you about something, you would always make things right with us before bed — or even after we had gone to bed — you would come and apologize and make sure all was forgiven and right.
When disagreements occurred we tried to make sure we took care of them right away. We tried never to let things go unresolved. If there had been an argument or misunderstanding and one of the kids had gone to bed with things unresolved, we would go to their room, and make things right with them before they went to sleep.
There were a few times when we had to get up out of bed because we were convicted that we needed to ask their forgiveness and not allow things to go unresolved until the next day. The scripture says, “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.” We have joked that the sun would go down extremely late sometimes, but rarely if ever, did we allow issues to remain untended through the night.
#3 You made us say what we were sorry for when there were arguments or fights. We couldn’t just say “sorry” and get by with it. We had to acknowledge our wrong.
From the time they could talk we taught the children to take responsibility for their actions or words. We walked them through a process of learning to say they were sorry, and exactly what they were sorry about. If they lied they had to say they were sorry for lying. If they said hurtful words they had to admit they said hurtful words, etc.
Next, they had to say, “Will you forgive me.” The other person couldn’t just say “yes”. They had to say, “Yes, I forgive you.” We felt it was very important they not side-step their responsibility in these matters and that clear-cut forgiveness was extended. For the most part, as adults they have continued this way of handling issues regarding forgiveness.
#4 You didn’t always take our side. You taught us that there were always two sides to every story! You supported our teacher’s or babysitters and didn’t side with us when we were upset at them.
This one probably shouldn’t have surprised us, but in some ways it did. We tried to make sure our children understood we would always find out what else had gone on when there were problems. If a difficulty occurred with a neighbor, a teacher, a friend at school or a babysitter — we would track down the situation and find out the other side of the story. If it was the other person’s problem, we were honest about it, but if it was something one of our children had done, they had to go to the person and apologize. One child had to apologize to a babysitter after displaying disrespectful behavior while we were gone. We didn’t find out until the babysitter had gone home, so the following day my husband took our child to the sitter’s house to apologize. Evidently, it left a lasting impression — they never did it again.
#5 You were in control. We never felt like we were at the mercy of the teachers, overnight parties at friends’ homes, or “mandatory sex ed classes”, etc. If there was ever a problem you had us covered. We always felt very protected and covered. You “had our backs”.
When they first uttered the words, “you were in control”, I thought, “Oh no!” until they began to explain what they meant. We were the kind of parents who checked out things ahead of time. If they were invited to an overnight party, we wanted to know if the parents were going to be there, what kind of movies were being watched and what kind of music was going to be played.
If something happened at school with one of their teacher’s, we would find out what happened. If we needed to “go to bat” for the children, we would. When one of our children had a sexual education class in elementary school and parents were invited, one of us went to the class with our child. In fact, my husband was the ONLY PARENT to attend the class.
We were glad to hear our children say they felt protected and covered by the things we did. We let them have fun with their friends, but we made sure they weren’t placed into situations they were unable to handle!!
This list has 19 more principles, but to list them all would make this post way to long, so I’ll stop here.
Hearing our adult children recount the things they felt had shaped their lives was an amazing, yet humbling experience! After listening to them and recording their thoughts, one thing resounded with certainty . . . that God, Who is wisdom, gave us wisdom as we raised our children, and therefore, we give Him ALL the glory!