When we were expecting our first baby, I remember taking classes, reading books and trying to anticipate all the possible scenarios (ha!) that could happen during those first few days, weeks and months of parenting. My husband and I talked to other parents. We babysat their kids. For a preschool teacher and a youth pastor, the first year of life was a complete mystery! We knew we needed all the help we could get!
Of course, you know what happened. Our beautiful baby girl did not follow the instruction manual at all. Being the Type A person I am, I tried to fix her. (More laughing again.) So was all that detective work and research we did beforehand a waste of time? I don't think so. Why not?
While my husband and I could not know what was going to happen when our baby arrived, we did learn one thing: having some idea was better than having no idea. True, our child may not be at all like our friends' kids. But one of the best things we did was to think ahead to what was on the horizon for our children.
Our children are not static creatures. Like us, they are constantly growing and changing. Didn't that seem especially true that first year or two? Just when we thought that we had figured out this parenting thing, our kids would change on us. They'd hit a growth spurt, start sprouting teeth, drop a nap or eat solids. Argh! For a mom who liked things to stay the same, I felt like was on the ride of my life.
As our firstborn continued to grow, we found ourselves constantly asking questions about how to introduce solids, deal with bad attitudes, and so on. We are so thankful for the many other parents that have shed insight and provided counsel for us along the way.
A United Front
Even though we cannot anticipate every possible situation, I think it is helpful for parents to be a jump ahead of their kids. For one, we have found (from personal experience!) that it helped us to be more intentional than reactionary. If we really want to raise disciples for the Lord, it is going to take more than a haphazard, hit-and-miss approach. Even though you will not be able to foresee every possible outcome, it is good to at least have think a little about where you want to go. Sometimes we were way off track and to rethink things. But God is so gracious and has helped us to see when our ideals were simply not realistic.
Parenting is a wonderful experience, and just as we cannot create children on our own, neither are we to raise them independently. The more we sought to be of one mind, the better it was for us. Now that the tables are turned and we have younger parents asking us the same questions we asked when we were in their shoes, we have realized that there were several important areas that we were either glad we thought through beforehand or wished we had.
So What Are Those Areas?
I knew you would ask! Here are three areas (among others) that I would encourage parents to discuss together beforehand:
1. Determine your end goal. Pray together for a vision as parents. If we don't, we will default to our culture at large or may find ourselves caught up in things that really don't matter in the long run. And then talk to parents whose children have/are becoming the kinds of people you hope your kids will one day be. Beginning with the end in mind will help as you make decisions and navigate the future.
2. Decide on discipline. Before your kid says "No!" for the first time (and trust me, they ALL will---some sooner than others!), it may be wise to decide how you will handle rebellion. I recommend Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp as a great resource. As both of you will need to discipline your child, it is best to be consistent across the board. Again, talk to parents you trust and respect and see if they have words of insight and wisdom for you.
3. Prepare for adolescence. This was one that crept up on us when it came to our firstborn. We are so used to telling our kids what to do when they are younger, but when they hit the pre-teen years, we need to shift our tactics. I recommend Dennis and Barbara Rainey's book, Parenting Today's Adolescent and reading it when your kids hit the early grade school years. They bring up a lot of excellent topics for parents to think about beforehand, from the usual peer pressure and drugs to unresolved anger and deceit. We are reading Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris (review here) now with Matthew so that we are including him in the process as well.
There are many other decisions parents will need to make, but these are the top ones that came to mind. We won't ever be 100% prepared. But when we are aware of what lies ahead on the horizon, these parenting years can help strengthen us as we seek to disciple and raise our children together.
For you to think about:
Who are some parents that you admire?
Take some time out to ask them some questions!