I did something very brave. In the week prior to writing this, an opportunity arose with two of my kids that I decided to take advantage of. I asked them, “As your mother, what have I done right? What are you glad I did as you were growing up?”
The one son who was present for this wasn’t very helpful. His answer: You fed me. The cliche that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach — yeah, definitely true for that one.
Parenting is one of the issues Kathy and I tackle in The Warrior’s Bride, and it’s one of the topics young moms ask me about today. As I look over my twenty-plus years of parenting, these are my best tips for each stage of your child’s life.
To have the best chance for success, whether your husband is home or deployed, you must study your children. Consider their personalities, work within their strengths, and guide them out of their weaknesses. Make sure you learn their love language and speak it regularly. And pray. A lot. ~Carrie Daws, The Warrior’s Bride
Hopefully, you know that every child is different. Even within the same family, what works for one child may not work as well with another.
My oldest, a girl, wanted to please us, so she was typically compliant even in the midst of rebellion. She needs information, so I could supply her with facts and tips and trust her to make a wise decision from a young age.
The youngest has a sensitive heart, so just quietly looking at him was often enough to get him to spill everything. The trouble, though, is that he could be a little dramatic. So even though he would tell me the truth, it could be elevated in his mind to a point that witnesses or instigators would insist he was not being honest.
The middle child was the toughest both to discipline and to figure out his heart. For most of his growing up years, I was convinced I was not handling him well. Stubborn, strong-willed, introverted, and an inward processor, I spent many years just fumbling around, hoping I was getting enough in there so that he knew he was loved and important to me.
Because of the vast difference among them, time outs worked well with my youngest. The other two were so comfortable alone, particularly in their tween and teen years, that isolation techniques only worked to calm each one down when they were getting on each other’s nerves. It rarely served to change behavior, particularly in the hard-headed middle one.
You Are the One God Chose to Parent
I tell you all this because I want to remind you of a basic fact: God chose you to parent your child. Soak that in for a moment because it’s easy to overlook.
For what I’m sure are a plethora of reasons — both for your child and for you — God’s absolute best in this moment is that you parent that child. That means you are capable, you are equipped, and you are able.
I didn’t always believe that when my children were growing up. Sometimes I still struggle to believe that when we face a new battle before us. But my — and your — lack of belief doesn’t change the truth of the Bible.
Second Peter 1:3-8 not only tells us that we have everything we need, it tells us what to do in order to grow and do better.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped t he corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Parenting Tips for the Stages of Childhood
Now, to the tips. I’ll warn you, these are purposely broad.
1. The early years.
Most of us recognize that the infant and toddler years are full of firsts. But don’t let those cute faces rule your household. Children — even before their first birthday — need to know where the boundaries are. Even though it’s really hard when those big eyes fill with tears, make sure they understand that mommy and daddy mean what they say. Every time. Don’t threaten punishments you don’t want to follow through on, and make sure you follow through on the disciplines you hand out.
2. The elementary years.
These years are full of firsts too, although it’s easy to overlook them. At this age, challenge your kids to do hard things. My daughter mentioned being thankful for the time I made her take swimming lessons. I remember the sweet lifeguard that spent most of her time coaxing my terrified girl into the water and then away from the side. I remember the overwhelming desire to protect her and jump in the water with her. But that would have stilted her growth. Five very long days later, my sweet baby walked away with a certificate of completion after she had jumped off the diving board into her teacher’s arms. Yes, I bribed her to get on the diving board in the first place, but she made the choice to jump on her own and was proud of her progress.
3. The tween years.
Sometimes these years are hard because kids are caught between growing up and not quite grown. It’s always important to know who your child hangs out with, but it’s ever more important in this second-half of childhood. Get to know your kid’s friends. Have them over to the house, listen in to their conversation — sometimes without injecting. Set your mind to listen and understand who they are, what they are experiencing, and where their heads/hearts are.
3. The teenage years.
My children are 15, 18, and 20, and truthfully, I am enjoying (mostly) their teen years. They have not been not all smooth, and we experienced a couple of years where we really struggled with one of them. But, overall, I delight in my kids. During their teen years, I didn’t become less involved, however, I am continuously laying more of the responsibility for their lives and their choices on their shoulders. My daughter said that she appreciated that I gave her advice, even if she didn’t like it at the time, and then backed off to let her make her own decision. She knew that I would stick with her, but the choice — and the consequences — were on her.
The goal is not to raise great kids. It’s to raise kids who become great adults. ~Andy Andrews
If you’ve followed me for very long, you know I could have said a lot more. But I decided to stick to just one tip per age segment to keep the post as short as possible.
What I’d really like is to hear from you! What tips would you give to parents entering a new stage in their children’s lives? Where do you think you got it right, or what did you parents do for you that you now appreciate?
Chapter 8 in The Warrior’s Bride is all about parenting! My co-author, Kathy, and I discuss topics like determining your goals and handling when you and your spouse disagree. Kathy also takes the time to talk about surviving deployment with kids in tow.
The call came down from Command, and your warrior husband is out the door, leaving you behind to handle whatever he has left undone. Whether it’s the day-to-day monotony, the inevitable appliance that breaks, or the months without his presence beside you, being a military spouse brings challenges few appreciate. Yet God sees you and longs for you to boldly step into His plan. He purposely chose you for this moment—for your man. He wants to give you abundantly more than what you have right now and desires you to thrive as your warrior’s bride.