How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father. Genesis 44:34
While there are many ways to fail as a parent, there are also some sure-fire, 100% ways guaranteed to help you succeed. No, I haven't copyrighted them, but I have certainly tested them. They work, provided you will put them into practice.
I call them Guidelines for Successful Parenting.
Guideline #1: Never forget consistency counts! Today there is a lot of talk about values and how parents have someway failed. Parents tell me about teens who scoff at their ideas as being out-of-touch. Their actions say, "Don't do as I do; do as I say!" They have forgotten that values are caught, not taught. Your life is the message, so model it well.
Guideline #2: Don't fight and die on every hill. Wise is the parent who can sift the trivial from the important, who keeps the main thing the main thing and cuts enough slack for a youngster to know what is important and what isn't. Overkill produces anger and rebellion, and too much discipline can be as harmful in the long term as too little or none at all. Decide what is non-negotiable and what is a matter of difference of opinion. And stick with it.
Guideline #3: Be the parent. Don't worry about being your child's best friend, or always being liked. Of course, a four-year old won't like you when you insist he clean up his toys – or his plate, for that matter. What counts is his knowing that he is loved, whether or not you are always the most important person in his life.
Guideline #4: Take time to enjoy the trip. When a dad was invited to take a position at corporate headquarters, he turned them down, choosing to accept a smaller salary. Why? He knew that with the move into management, he would be spending many more hours fighting traffic and he wouldn't be there to see his son play high school football. Parenting is like a kid with a fistful of money at a candy store. Once it's spent, there's no second time around. Scores of parents climb the corporate ladder only to find that it's leaning against an empty house. They have lost their kids in the process.
Guideline #5: Stay connected. Get into your kid's head--not his dresser drawers or locker. You don't have to snoop when you are there to listen, to reflect, to ask questions. Wise is the parent who accepts the reality that kids don't communicate on the same schedule as adults, but they will open their hearts provided you have opened your ears and will listen without censuring them, striving to help them understand why you feel as you do.
Guideline #6: Disciple--don't direct. Far too many parents are concerned about behavior without helping kids formulate a belief system with strong convictions and reasons for believing what they believe. Dr. Henrietta Mears used to say that kids don't go to college and lose their faith; she believed they had none to start with. Growing a kid God's way requires that you walk together spiritually.
Guideline #7: Remember, this too shall pass. Soon enough you will understand that the teen years are merely a transition from childhood to adulthood and you will discover that grandchildren are the reward God gives you for not killing your kids when they are teenagers.
Guideline #8: Teach your children that with every choice come consequences. This means you help them understand that the cause and effect relationship of what we do can't be canceled by tears or remorse.
Guideline #9: Help them to see beyond the moment. Too often we sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the temporary.
Guideline #10: Pray more; preach less. At a point in the journey you can preach until you have calluses on your vocal cords and wind erosion on your teeth and it will do far less than your putting a fence of prayer around your youngster. This can be your ultimate weapon. Believe me, it works when everything else fails.
Resource reading: Acts 2:38-39