Modified: October 2019, First Published in July
Time and again, I hear people talk about how hard it is to raise good kids. Yes, raising kids is HARD! You won’t hear me arguing with that! In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.
But…raising good kids?
I consider it our job as parents to raise good adults.
Too often as parents, we focus on their good grades when we should be focusing on their character.
We worry more about whether they make the cut for a sports team instead of how they react to that news.
We try to give them what they want instead of showing them what they need.
Parenting can be confusing. In times where social media can creep in and overpower their lives and become their influence, we have to be extra vigilant and extraordinarily purposeful.
When I became a parent I quickly realized I needed a plan and good resources. Below are some of my most frequented, now tattered, worn, well-used, much-revisited nest eggs from my stockpile.
Here are my top positive parenting resources to help raise good adults:
1. Resources can be people.
It really does take a community to raise a child. When mine were little it was so tempting to keep them home where it felt safe, but as they have grown into teenagers I’ve learned the value of older siblings, cousins, peers, coaches, youth pastors, neighbors, colleagues, and most especially grandparents who are quite literally saints in our house.
It’s funny, I was just sharing with my husband recently that I miss those days when I was a superwoman who knew everything. Those were the days when they welcomed my lunch visits at school and couldn’t wait to introduce their new friends to me. I was right on pretty much every topic and revered as the most beautiful woman to walk on earth.
Now that they are teenagers, know everything themselves (ahem), and I am no longer in style, I have tremendous appreciation for the family and friends in our circle who are now more esteemed and knowledgable than me. 😉 Build your circle carefully, because you become who you surround yourself with! (And this is also what I tell my kids.)
As I was a single mom for seven years, this was especially critical. Side note:
Single moms, you rock. You do the impossible: you are superwoman!
But those kids still need good men in their lives to help guide them. They are out there. Reach out to your fathers, brothers, in-laws, friends, and co-workers to find someone willing to show your kids love and teach them hard work, accountability, and character.
I was incredibly blessed to have my father, friends, and Sunday school teachers willing to spend time with my kids, playing catch, attending their ball games, and even holding them accountable for poor choices.
If they are little, it’s easy to assume you are enough. After all, they always want you. You can’t even pee by yourself!
As they grow older, though, they will look to other people to guide them. They should: it’s the way they are wired. Make sure you put these people in their life for later, especially while you’re the wise and all-knowing mother.
Here’s a personal story that Mark and I would love to share:
This weekend was a tough one in our home, full of tears and hard decisions. We pulled together our community to confront one of our teenage boys who has been struggling for some time with addiction and poor life choices. He had become hurtful to himself and others leaving us no choice but to remove him from our home. I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol. There are many forms of addiction that plague our kids today. Video games rank at the top along with pornography growing at a horrifyingly rapid pace.
It was a heart-wrenching experience, but ultimately our son made the decision to walk through the doors of a facility where he will work hard to free himself of the grip that his addictions had on him. A good boy with a sharp mind and limitless possibilities, he had found an alternate world to live in to cope with childhood trauma, unknowingly making his life more difficult and complicated.
In our world today, with so many broken families, this is an all too common occurrence. As his mom, knowing the pain of his childhood, all I had wanted to do was cradle him and pour love on him, not realizing the blister growing under the surface, hot from the impact of an emotional branding iron that had taken hold at a tender age and never healed. No matter how much you love them, at some point, these blisters will break open and spill poison on everything around them.
Life mentors can be difficult to find, but if you have a struggling teen who needs more than you can give, don’t beat yourself up: reach out and get help!
There are many programs out there. Yes, some are ridiculously expensive, but others are affordable and some even free.
The National Guard has a program in most states that is for teens who are struggling yet have NOT been in trouble with the law. Most of the teens at these programs are addicted to technology and are failing out of school or worse, developing more addictive behaviors to cope with their lack of a thriving childhood. They watch their friends and siblings growing in maturity and accomplishments while they struggle to remove themselves from the screen and learn work ethic and self-discipline.
Everyone’s community looks different. For us this weekend, our community consisted of grandparents, older cousins, and siblings. For you, it might be aunts and uncles, friends, teachers, coaches, or godparents.
Whoever makes up your community, know that reaching out is not a sign of weakness or inability. It’s a sign of love that you would do anything for your kid. It gives other people in their life, people who also love them, an opportunity to be involved, guide, and pour their love on them, showing the teenager how many are there for, love, and want the best for him/her.
Please be in prayer with me for our boy and let me know if you have a struggling teen who needs prayer too.
2. Books! Books! Books!
I spent countless hours raiding library bookshelves when I was expecting and back when they were little and took naps!
Paper books may be going out of style, but those old relics are still full of timeless help for parenting and rearing children. Even though times have changed and on the surface, we are struggling with different times than our parents and grandparents did, the fundamentals of development still remain the same.
Books like Ages and Stages, Child Behavior, and The Strong-Willed Child (which I have a few copies of!) helped me stay grounded. These books break down childhood development into small bite-sized pieces and gave me an understanding of what to expect around certain ages.
Not every child fits into each category, but as a guide these books helped me to understand where my kids where in development and why they behaved the way they did, taking the frustration of the moment away and replacing it with ‘oh thank heaven, I’m clearly not the only mom dealing with this.’ That also sent my blood pressure back down and my patience level to a more appropriate place in my home!
The 5 Love Languages of Children, The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers, and The 5 Love Languages have been blessings in our home for years! We all feel love differently and can easily feel misunderstood and unloved when we all speak different languages.
For years I assumed my children felt the love I was giving them through hugs and kisses and holding them in my lap, holding hands and spending quality time with them. How could they not have felt that? It wasn’t until I read Gary Chapman’s books about the 5 love languages that I realized that while they ‘knew’ I loved them, I wasn’t sending the messages I thought I had been.
Oh, some of the kids share physical touch as a love language and heard it loud and clear, but with 6 of them, there were others that needed to hear more often what I thought and felt about them in order to feel that same love. Still, some of the other kids needed small tokens or even acts of service to really feel loved.
My husband and I are also different in the ways we show love. Understanding and appreciating those differences has magnified the way we love each other. Teach your kids to understand their natural tendencies and to learn how to love their siblings, preparing them for future relationships down the road as adults. I love this quote from my husband, “Families achieve more when mom and dad are on the same page.”
One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes on family and parenting is:
“The best way to raise positive children in a negative world is to have positive parents who love them unconditionally and serve as excellent role models.” —Zig Ziglar
Books on Sex ‘Education’
In today’s world, our children are increasingly pounded left and right with sexual images and messages that are not in line with our core values. I can’t stress enough how important books like the God’s Design for Sex series are. These books start as young as 3-5 years old with The Story of Me and go all the way through What’s the Big Deal? for ages 8-11 and Facing the Facts for ages 11-14.
These books help parents teach their children how sex can be a beautiful intimate blessing instead of relying on peers, social media, television, music, and ‘sex-education’ programs to push kids into making poor choices ending in distress, trauma, addictions, and heartbreak that may be felt for the rest of their lives. Don’t leave it to someone else to talk to your kids about sex!
Books on Teens and Young Adults
As our kids grew older we began searching for books that were more targeted to gender, life goals, and personal faith walk. Raising a Modern Day Knight has been instrumental in giving my husband and boys a map to plan out special activities and ceremonies that shape and affirm their growth from boys to men with clearly defined objectives and goals. Now that they are becoming those young men, they are all reading Wild at Heart together discovering how masculine passion, strength, and wild adventures make them into the men God calls them to be.
While the girls are the younger of the six and we are lagging a bit behind the boys, we have discovered some wonderful books that we are beginning to dive into. Bringing up Girls, Raising a Modern-Day Princess, and Every Young Woman’s Battle are becoming our go-to books as they traverse the unforgiving world of unrealistic female expectations and how they destroy body image and self-esteem, robbing them of their confidence, innocence, and purity.
I appreciate how real Every Young Woman’s Battle gets, completely open and unabashed about real issues. I was hesitant at first to start this with my girls, thinking it might be too raw at their age, but at 12, 13 and 15 nothing we have read was a surprise to them. The book has become a pathway to open conversations about tough issues.
As a family, we have spent many hours during family meetings going through books and programs to help teach character traits, identify each child’s strengths, personalities, the way they learn, goal-setting, and so much more.
3. Use the info at your fingertips: online!
With so much information at your fingertips, it’s easy to find resources to help you and your family.
There are oodles of wonderful blogs on the internet now, and I follow many many many of them. However, there are several blogs I have been following for years that are timeless in their approach to parenting and child-rearing. I always find myself reading their newsletters and social media messages for inspiration and encouragement…
So now I’ve shared my favorites…your turn!