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Karen Shurtz

 

10 Parenting Essentials for Christian Parents

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1. Have your lives model Christ. Actions always speak louder than words. Make sure you are being consistent in your behavior and that it matches your words. Hypocritical behavior is the fastest way to turn a kid away from the Lord and from respecting you as parent.

My husband Rick grew up on the mission field. When his friends who were missionary and/or pastors’ kids would rebel against their parents and their faith, it was because what was being preached on Sunday in the pulpit was not being lived out consistently in the home.

2. Invest in a real relationship with your son/daughter. Get to know who your child is. Get to know what his/her interests are and get into their world sometimes. You can only build a deep relationship when time is invested. Let your child know that he/she is a priority.

And do not be critical — if a child feels often criticized by their parent they will shut down and not feel that they can share who they are really are. A child needs to believe that he/she can trust that the parent will listen and want to know who they are, as opposed to a project that needs to be fixed.  You need to be their parent, but you can also be their friend.

3. Teach your kids how to pick their friends wisely. A child’s friends can either help the child to feel more confident and secure, or cause a child to experience serious distress and insecurity. Do their friends build them up or tear them down? Do their friends profess a faith and if so, do they live it out? Do they encourage your child to be the best he/she can be? Talk to your child about what the most important elements there are in a friend.

Scripture has a lot to say on friendship. Do a study on friendship with your child. Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

4. Help your child find something (at least one thing) that they feel that they can excel at. Everyone needs to feel accomplished in some area. If your child is not sporty, then look to art, or photography or music. Help them explore options.

5. Affirm your kids — verbally. And not so much as for what they do but more for who they are character-wise. How are they reflecting Christ in their lives? Ex: “I really like the kindness you showed your sister.”; “I like that you are a loyal friend to those around you.”

6. Have your home be free of constant chaos. This dynamic I see often in my counseling practice. I see families that are having difficulty managing the current stress in the family and then they add something else to the mix, often as a distraction to the current discomfort, i.e., “let’s get a puppy!” This just causes anxiety for the children in the home. It is essential to provide a home that is peaceful and emotionally safe. Make sure you are handling what is already on your plate before considering adding something else. This will help your children to feel that the home is stable and secure.

7. Be an “asking parent” instead of a “telling parent”. Don’t always talk at your kids, particularly during adolescence. I often see kids in my professional and private life nod their head at their parent who is talking at them, and they have totally tuned the parent out. Do you remember the old Peanuts cartoons with the teacher’s voice sounding like “wah wah wah, wah”? This is how kids hear parents who are constantly talking at them….and to have a healthy relationship with your son or daughter, you need to ask them questions to keep them engaged. Ask them what is important to them. Ask them what their thoughts are about various topics. Get your kids input when you can. When their input is valued, trust is built.

8. Pray with your kids! It is vital to cultivate an environment of praise and prayer in the home. When things go well, praise the Lord together. Listen to praise music in the car and in the home. And pray out loud with your kids on a regular basis…thanking the Lord for His provisions and trusting Him to work out the struggles in your kids’ lives. Ad follow up with your kids on their prayer requests. Ask them what the Lord is teaching them through the difficulty. They will appreciate your care of them in this way.

9. Model structure and teach your kids to learn to structure themselves. This can be done through parents successfully demonstrating good time management. As your kids see you structuring yourself well in life, they will learn the many benefits of this. Ensuring that everyone in the family participates in the effective running of the home also teaches structure. Have your kids learn the value of helping out with chores when they are little. Helping to set the table, learning to put toys away after playing, making the bed after waking up, etc., all teach the child that structure is essential for successful living.

10. Have fun with your kids! I can’t tell you how many parents I work with who have no idea how to be playful and have fun with their kids. We need to enter into play with our kids. Go fly a kite with them, play board games, go for a bike ride or a hike together. It’s not good when I hear kids say, “my parents are so boring!” Make sure that your kids see the joy of the Lord in your life!
Effective parenting requires a lot of creativity. Remember, we are working ourselves out of a job. We want to help our kids become responsible, loving, and Christ-like as they grow. Then when it is time to launch our children into adulthood, they will be ready.

Karen L. Shurtz is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)  whose real passion is providing workshops entitled Healing the Wounded Self-Image for women’s groups. She and her husband have two children who continually encourage creative parenting.

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