How to be the Parent You Meant to Be

Remember the parent you meant to be before you actually were a parent? You most likely looked at other people’s terrible-two-year-olds and thought to yourself, My kid will never act like that.

Now you realize your child not only “acts like that,” but knowing what to do about their behavior often baffles you.

During the eighteen years that my husband was in youth ministry, people expressed strong opinions about how teens should act, only to be humbled when their kids reached adolescence. Realizing how their expectations for other people’s kids were not based on scripture, but rather on their personal preferences was their first step in discerning how to parent without regrets.

I remember when I realized I wasn’t the mom I meant to be. I looked for parents of kids in our church to find those I wanted to emulate. Titus 2 instructs the older women to teach the younger how to love their children. So, I knew my source of wisdom would come not only from God’s Word and prayer but from the instruction and insight of those who had walked before me in this parenting path.

Making friends with these older women was the turning point in my parenting. They taught me from their successes and failures. Let’s look at three key principles for godly parenting that I learned from these mentors.

  1. Don’t raise your kids for what others think of you. The Bible says God created us for His glory. Glory speaks of reflecting His character. God wants us to live so others will see His character and be drawn to Him.

Without realizing it, parents become glory stealers when they focus on raising kids for what others think of them, rather than on God’s best for their children. Looking to establish your worth in your relationship with Christ, rather than in how others view you as a parent will set you free from people pleasing because

People pleasing isn’t pleasing to God.

  1. Have a clear idea of the kind of person God calls your child to be. Ask God for wisdom to guide your child toward God’s plan for him. While training your child to work hard and display godly character are important goals, remember Jesus said the priority of life is, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30).

Your goal is not to raise successful kids, rather, according to Jesus, your job is to guide them to love God with all of their beings. The only way to do that is if they see you living a sold out, loving relationship with Christ. If you want to guide your children toward God’s ultimate priority of life, let it begin with you. Jesus said the student will become like his teacher (see Luke 6:40). 

  1. Learn to talk so your kids listen, and listen so they talk. Communication is key to directing your child’s heart, so how can you establish good communication with your kids? First, while your children are little, put down your phone and look them in the eye when you give them instructions or when they talk to you. While it’s tempting to stay focused on whatever has captured your attention, understand:

Your child is not an imposition upon your ministry; he is your ministry.

Men tend to talk shoulder to shoulder so when your son reaches adolescence learn to develop communication in a way that respects his manhood. For example, when our son Tony was 15, I had the best conversations with him while his head was down in the engine working on his car. As I listened to his hopes of becoming a fighter pilot (he is one now), and about girls, he listened to me share God’s plan for marriage. I am confident we would not have had those conversations had I sat Tony down to look me in the eye. I would have talked, but I’m not sure he would have listened.

Daughters respond best when you communicate with them face to face. So, looking into your daughter’s eyes will help you enjoy good conversations. Women process how they feel by talking about it. So, rather than interrupting your daughter with a fix to her circumstance, let her talk it through. Ask thought-provoking questions to help her discern her own feelings about the situation. Then you’ll earn the right to guide her to consider her circumstance from a biblical perspective.

I’ve raised two sons and two daughters. I’m confident parenting is the most important ministry to which God has called me––and it is for you too. So look to God for His wisdom and seek out godly mentors who’ve walked ahead of you. You won’t regret it!

Rhonda focuses on raising her sons in her new book, Moms Raising Sons to be Men. If you’ve got boys, take a look!