It is a massive (but beautiful) task! At times it can seem daunting, but you are not alone. Not only are there other parents out there facing similar struggles, but there are many resources to help you think through your calling as a parent, not least the strength and wisdom that God provides. In this article, we’ll cover three categories of parenting advice.
Three Pieces of Parenting Advice
Below is some parenting advice and tips on raising kids. It’s impossible in the limited space here to cover everything about raising kids, but these are a few tips that can help parents to connect emotionally with their kids and also help them navigate the specific issue of whether parents should give an apology to their kids when they mess up or sin against them.
1. Should parents apologize to their kids?
As a parent, sometimes you promise your kids something, but you fail to deliver. You said you would teach them to ride their bike when you got home from work, but you felt so tired or got home so late that you couldn’t follow through.
Or perhaps you said you’d help them bake some cookies after you got up from your nap, but then you got overwhelmed by other chores and simply couldn’t make the time. And when they insisted you help them bake, you snapped at them.
You promised you’d take them camping over the weekend, but a sudden commitment comes up, and the camping trip must be canceled. The kids are disappointed. What should you do? When parents and caregivers mess up, should they apologize to their children?Does the act of apologizing subvert the relationship, or serve to cultivate a healthy understanding of authority in kids? Depending on your family background and other circumstances, this may be a very challenging question to answer.
To save face, it can be hard for authority figures like parents to say “I’m sorry, I messed up” to their charges. An authority figure like a parent may feel that admitting to a mistake or a broken promise weakens their authority because it means they’re acknowledging their limitations. It shatters the façade and shows that they are not perfect, after all.
The good news is that none of us are perfect, and none of us know everything. Only God can honestly claim such a thing, and praise the Lord for that. Acting like we’re perfect is an incredibly and impossibly heavy burden for anyone to bear.
It is better for children (and their parents!) to learn that their parents are only human, just as they are. There is a value in naming things, in owning up to our errors. In fact, admitting to our own frailty, sins, and imperfections serves to model for our children how they should react when they sin: humble acknowledgment of what they have done wrong, apologizing, and seeking to make things right.
By being candid about our own failings, we can show our children a good example of what it means to wield authority in a gentle way. Ephesians 6:1-4 speaks about parents (fathers, especially), not exasperating their children.
Demonstrating humility in action avoids exasperating them, especially in later years when they grow in their ability to discern and they become aware of our inconsistency in requiring them to admit fault but not doing likewise ourselves.
When a parent apologizes to their child for something they did wrong, yes, it is humbling. But it models a servant-heart attitude which seeks the good of the other, not just ourselves (Mark 10:35-45). This is far more meaningful for shaping the character of a child than a parent or caregiver who stands aloof and does not acknowledge when they make a mistake.
2. The importance of forming emotional connections with your kids A child needs good nutrition to grow up healthy and strong. This is important. Another equally important part of nurturing children is forming meaningful emotional connections with them. These help them to feel valued, heard, respected, and they help to build their sense of self-esteem.
It also creates a bond with your children that enables them to trust you and see you as a safe space. Now, not everyone knows how or feels comfortable forming those emotional connections with their children, so here are a few tips to help you along:
- If you are separated from your children by physical distance, you can use the phone to tell them bedtime stories, or you can play games with them over the internet. Sending texts or postcards will also let them know that you are thinking of them even if you’re not there with them.
- This one may be a tough one for some of us but be affectionate with them. Tell them often how much you love them, and that you are proud of them. Hug them. One thing that can also make a huge difference is to praise your kids in front of their friends and teachers.
- Put a handwritten note in their lunch bag or in their school textbook encouraging them for the day.
- Be present. If you’re with them, be with them. Put down your phone or laptop and spend time doing something they like doing, like building puzzles, riding bikes, skateboarding or having a tea party. Ignore your texts and messages while it’s their time. And if you say you’re going to be there, be there!
- Listen to them. Let them tell you about their day, what they learned at school, who they hung out with and what they felt as the day unfolded. Learn about their interests and let them show you what they’ve been working on lately
- Invite them into your world. If you can, take your child to work with you to show them what you do. Tell them stories about your own childhood. This helps them to see you as more than just your role as “dad” or “mom”, but as a human being. Take them into the garage with you when you fix your car. Not only will they learn something while they help you, but they’re also simply spending valuable time withyou.
- Start and work on a project together, whether it’s building a guitar, learning a new language together, cleaning out the attic or helping at a soup kitchen. The important thing is that you’re doing something together.
- Read the Bible with them and pray with them. Model for them how to connect with God, how to pray and strengthen their faith in God.
3. Be a role model
Parents and caregivers have been given a lofty role to nurture the children in their care to the best of their ability. We do not have to be perfect people to pull this off. In fact, we are not perfect people, and we need God’s help to raise our kids in a way that pleases Him and helps them to flourish.
These things not only help parents to connect better with their children, but they also help children to develop and mature into well-balanced adults. By intentionally taking steps to humbly acknowledge our failings and connecting emotionally with our children, something else happens.
When we as parents are the kind of people, as Jean Vanier puts it, to whom our children “can turn for help and advice, to provide security, to affirm, to support, to encourage, and to guide”, we model emotional maturity and wisdom for them to emulate.
They learn from us what it means to be people who love God and others, and what that looks like in practice. Our words make a huge impression on our children. Our actions also provide them with an example of how to be in the world.
Christian Counseling for Parents
If you’re looking for additional parenting advice, consider meeting with a professional Christian counselor near you. Feel free to contact me or browse our counselor directory to find the best fit for your needs. Your counselor will do their best to offer valuable parenting advice from a biblical perspective to help you strengthen your relationship with your children.
“Father and Children”, Courtesy of Juliane Liebermann, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Siblings”, Courtesy of Dimitri Houtteman, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Washing Up”, Courtesy of CDC, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Family Walk”, Courtesy of Sheri Hooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License