When my oldest son turned thirteen, I suddenly felt unsure about parenting this boy who was rapidly becoming a man. No longer could I strap a disobedient child into a car seat and carry him where I wanted him to go; no longer could I command a reluctant student to sit next to me at the kitchen table until he finished his math sheet. No longer could or would or should I parent my children in the ways I had parented them as toddlers or grade school children.
But I had never parented a teen before. There were so many voices that pulled me in various directions: the culture, my mom and dad friends, parenting “experts,” seasoned parents who were a few years ahead of me. Furthermore, when my oldest turned thirteen, my youngest turned nine, so I needed to be consistent in principle while managing different rules and expectations for three very different kids. I struggled to know which hills to die on and what to let slide. For so long I had known every detail of their lives. Now it was time for them to become responsible for themselves, but I didn’t know how to let go.
In my anxiety, God graciously met me and gave me an idea. I wrote down a list of ways the truths of Scripture impact and inform my parenting. Clarifying my role as a mother according to the Gospel, not the world, moved me from fear about my own abilities into confidence in God’s infinite ability on my family’s behalf. What’s more, God’s truth applies to every child regardless of age, or sex, or Myer’s- Briggs type. Writing down these “I believe” statements became a way of preaching God’s Word to myself, strengthening my conviction that God Himself was at work for the good of my family.
What I believe:
I believe that God sent His Son Jesus to die for my children, and He loves them more than I do. He loves them perfectly and will do what is best for each of them in their lives.
I believe that love covers a multitude of sins, and God can use the mistakes I make to His glory and the good of my children.
I believe praying for and asking a blessing over each of my children daily, in their hearing, as well as when I am alone, will sow love into them daily. I believe the most important thing I can pray for each of them is that they will love the Lord their God with all their hearts, with all their minds, with all their souls, and with all their strength, and that they will love their neighbors as themselves.
I believe that God wants to guide me as a mom, and if I will listen for His voice, He will provide the wisdom I need.
I believe that I “have an anointing from the Holy One, and (I) know all things.” (1 John 2:20) God has anointed me to be a parent to my children, and He will not let me down.
I believe that God has a plan for each child’s life, and that plan is good. With His guidance, I can best discern how to guide them towards that path that is individually suited to each of them. Each child has his or her own unique gifts and calling, distinct from siblings and from me. I believe each child in my home has a right to be appreciated for the person God made him or her to be. I believe comparison and favoritism dishonor the image of God that is present in each child.
I believe that each of my children was created for God’s glory, not for mine, not for their own.
I believe that calm consistency on my part alleviates anxiety in my children.
I believe that setting good clear boundaries and enforcing them provides security for my children.
I believe my children need to respect each other and show kindness and support here at home. The best way for me to foster this is a regular time of family Bible study and stern consequences for meanness.
I believe my children will learn more from what I do than from what I say. My actions must match my words.
I believe that admitting I am wrong, apologizing, and asking for forgiveness from my children is essential when I have made mistakes.
I believe that I do not have to have immediate answers to all questions and dilemmas, but that it is wise to allow myself time to discern a course of action.
I believe that I am to model grace and mercy. At the same time, I believe I must demonstrate justice by administering consequences. I also believe this is very, very hard for me to know how to do…
I believe that children need exercise, rest, and food as well as fun, play, work and responsibility. I believe that phones, tv and video games make kids dumber and grouchier; I believe that reading, being outside, and being with friends makes kids smarter and happier. I believe all kids should do jobs around the house and learn skills like yardwork, housework, cooking, and childcare.
I believe that kids should learn to take care of their things. I believe kids should learn to handle finances, and that money is earned by working.
I believe I do my children harm when I rescue them from the consequences of their actions.
I believe I need to stay out of their social lives, except when it comes to setting limits like curfews.
I believe kids need to find their own motivation to excel, and that motivation is best found in a desire to glorify God. Other than setting reasonable standards for grades, clearly communicated, I need to stay out of their schoolwork unless my help is requested.
I am on the other end of parenting teens now; my youngest is seventeen. I pulled this list out of my Bible just the other day. I refer to it when I need reminding that He shoulders primary responsibility for all of us. Neither my children’s salvation nor their well-being depends on how well I perform my mom duties. In Him my children really do have a perfect Father.