9 Tools for Your Parenting Toolbox
I recently built a bench for our dining room table. It has been a great addition for our family. When we have a lot of little people over, our boys and their friends or cousins can all squeeze onto the bench and share a meal. I still don't consider myself a woodworker but after this project it occurred to me how many things I have learned about building.
A lot of things in life are like this. We grow in wisdom and experience over time and become more and more competent. This is true in parenting. We all start out beginners but by God's grace we accumulate skills, perspectives, and tools that make us more effective in shepherding the hearts of our children. Make no mistake, we need these God-given tools to parent well. Once we learn how to use some of these tools, God even allows us to share this knowledge with others! I hope this blogpost is just that, me sharing from some of our failures, struggles, and successes how to build a slightly better bench today than we did yesterday. But first...
Realize the Toolbox Belongs to God
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10
God owns the toolbox. The best tools are all His and any tools that work were made by Him. There are a lot of ideas in the world, especially about parenting, and not all ideas are equal. If we want to parent well, we must submit our parenting to our Creator.
God not only owns the toolbox, but He owns our kids. They are not ours. They are His. The stewardship we have of our kids should be taken seriously, and the goal should be glorifying God and pleasing Him. Our kids are not ultimate. Parenting kids is simply another task which God calls us to glorify His name.
1. Prioritize Your Marriage
Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:33
Your marriage needs to be the priority. A wise person once said, "after your kids are grown and gone what will be left?" Seek to communicate with each other. Do date nights. Make sure you are on the same page. Leave the kids for an overnight trip. One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is a healthy marriage.
2. Parent as a Team
“A house divided against itself will not stand” Matthew 12:25
I was a rascal as a kid (still am sometimes...). I remember taking mom to her wits end and then having to wait at the kitchen table "until dad gets home." When one of you is weak, let the other person be strong. It is okay to "tap out."
Have each other’s backs. Defend each other. Know your kids are little minions trying to drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Fathers, if your wife is the primary care-giver during the day make sure you are disciplining the kids when you are home. Single parents, find other wise mentors or parent-figures who can be involved in your kids' lives and reenforce the principles you are trying to teach at home.
3. Bring God into Everything
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Psalm 19:1-3
Help your kids see God's goodness and creation all around them. When they have struggles with school, pray about it with them. Share your own inadequacy and need for God to help you throughout your days. Help them think through the worldview of movies you are watching or songs they hear. Memorize scripture as a family and ask questions like, "what would Jesus do?"
4. Learn from the Best
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14
Who are your mentors? Find great examples who are a few years ahead of you and learn from them.
We have learned so much just by watching my older brother, Joel, and his wife, Michelle, parent their kids. So many good habits and methods are better caught than taught. You can't learn everything in a book. Find great examples and mentors.
5. Realize Your Kids’ Greatest Need is the Gospel
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Why are we surprised when our kids sin? David prayed “in sin my mother conceived me” in Psalm 51. Our kids are little sinners, don’t take it personally! No one had to teach them to be selfish or unkind. Their greatest need is a heart change! They need far more than behavior modification, they need soul transformation through Jesus. They need to be changed from the inside out by the power of God.
Only God can bring that conviction, soften a heart, and bring forth obedience through the power of the Spirit. When you discipline, point them to the gospel, the reality of forgiveness through Jesus, and "mercy to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). I preached a sermon not too long ago on grounding your kids in the gospel, feel free to listen here:
6. Discipline with Intentionality
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6
God has ordained authority in the home and disciplining your children is essential. This is not just about behavior modification, but rather correcting them and pointing them towards God's way. Seek to discipline with Scripture: "it is God you are disobeying." God commands your child to honor their father and mother (Ephesians 6:2-3). When they disobey you, they are disobeying God.
In discipline make sure to point to the gospel. They need Jesus to give them a new heart. Make sure to follow-through with what you have said. Individualize discipline. Every child is different and responds differently to various forms of discipline.
7. Consistency is King
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
Trust the process. Good parenting does not produce instant results. Keep at it! Major on the majors. A typical child needs to be corrected a few hundred times before they get it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Just like planting a garden...there are seasons of waiting, weeding, and watering. Have realistic expectations and just keep following through.
8. Never Stop Learning
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance. Proverbs 1:5
Study your kids. Keep observing and listening to them. Every child is different, and don't think just because one thing worked with your oldest child it will work for all the others. Read great books and listen to podcasts. Surround yourself with mentors. Keep up with youth and cultural trends. TALK TO YOUR KIDS! You will never be a perfect parent, but never stop trying!
9. Build a Community of Support
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
We all struggle, you are not alone. Challenges have a way of isolating us. Satan condemns us and seeks to isolate us. Find great people who can surround you, pray for you, and encourage you. You need people who can lift you up when you fall and rejoice in your victories. Don't parent alone!
- Which of the tools do you feel most comfortable using?
- Which of the tools do you feel like you need more experience with?
- Who are some of the moms who have been role models for you?
- Which of your children do you find most challenging? Why?
- How can you prioritize your marriage this week?
By Paul David Tripp