It is an enigma that parenthood can provide such an extreme spectrum of emotions. One moment our children elevate us so high we have to look down to see heaven when at other times we become so frustrated with them that we hardly care to admit we actually brought them into this world or chose them to be a part of our family. Parents will always be older and wiser…right? Then why is this calling of parenthood so scary? Is it even possible to raise good children anymore?
My life mentor, my mom, Marliss – mother of six, told me often, “Melissa, you do not have to teach your children to be naughty, that comes quite naturally to them. You must train them up in the way they should go – to do good, to make right choices, to do the things you ask them to do in a way that is honoring to God. You cannot let your kids call the shots and remember that mistakes are part of the journey!”
Leonard Sax, physician, psychologist and author, believes that if we want our children to be virtuous, we must teach them virtue. Children are not going to develop into individuals who have a strong moral compass, self-confidence and sweet temperaments without hours, weeks, months and years of teaching them how to live virtuous lives. This means not allowing your young children to decide what is best for them as they do not have the capacity to do that. Sure they will have choices but they also need to be held accountable.
Now this does not mean that you have to rule with an iron thumb…in fact, it is quite the opposite. Sometimes parents believe that they are helping their young children by stepping back and letting their kids decide on things that they are not yet ready to make decisions about. Our children (often literally) are screaming for guidance and direction because even at some level are cognizant that they are not ready to make some of the decisions that they are being confronted with. A very important concept that my dad modeled for me was to tell his children (me being one of the six) ‘yes’ as often as he could so that when he had to say ‘no’, we knew that he really meant it.
Reflecting back on my childhood, my brothers and sisters and I had very few rules that stand out in my mind because somehow my parents instilled in us a desire to want to obey, respect and please them simply because we did not want to disappoint them. How does that happen? Even though it did not seem like it to us at the time, that was a very intentional move on my parent’s part. They taught us to love each other. They loved each other well. From the time we woke up in the morning until it was time to go to bed, they were purposefully and intentionally pouring into us their expectations of what they believed God had called them to do in raising their children.
Every parent I have interacted with desires to be an outstanding parent and raise accountable kids throughout the joys, triumphs, and challenges. Modeling is one of the most powerful teachers in parenting. It is tempting to look outside of our homes for reasons why our kids act the way they do at times. It’s easy to make excuses or to point fingers at others. Yet how can we expect our children to live accountable lives if we do not? Where else will they learn to practice personal accountability? If not from us, then whom?
The partnership that my grandparents, my parents, and my husband and I have had with Christian schooling has been a huge component in all of our journey of raising up children in the way they should go. Being a part of a Christian learning community has been one of the best decisions that we have made. Parenting is difficult and when there is a partnership with both parents, school, and church, children are provided the best possible opportunity to become all that God has designed them to be.
It doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional parenting to raise virtuous children. It’s not easy and it won’t always be fun…but it will be worth it. EPHESIANS 6:1-4
– Melissa (Witt) Phillips
Highly recommended parenting resource: Raising Accountable Kids – John G. Miller and Karen G. Miller