Ok, that isn't totally what my simple parenting advice is. It is actually, "Check yourself before your kids actually end up like you." Over the past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to speak to MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) groups and Parents of Teenager groups for my church as well as for some of the churches in Northern California. Working with students and their parents for the last 15 years and then realizing how awful the challenge of parenting is as I have become one myself has made for plenty of space for spiritual growth and transformation. Coninuting to work out my own faith development while having my own kids has proven to be quite the challenge. So difficult, in fact, I had to write a little book to wrestle through my junk.
What I have learned is very simple. Our kids will reflect us and our values. Not necessarily our stated values, but our true values. I have enjoyed pointing my fingers at the parents of my students as I have stood separate from them and their issues. But this is no longer the case. Now that I am a parent and I can empathize with the unending challenges and complexities of parenting, my finger is no longer pointed at those "old people" with high schoolers for kids, the finger is firmly pointed at me with my parenting advice.
Below is post I wrote for a friend's blog, thesestones.wordpress.com, as she put together a little blog series on the spiritual formation involved in parenting. My post is the third installment of a series on children’s faith development called Vision from the Frontlines: Voices, Experiences & Practices of Faith Development. I hope you enjoy :)
There are so many things to be worried about when it comes to parenting. And the bummer is that every year that goes by we just seem to exchange one set of concerns for new ones. Before we realize it we have spent the better part of our parenting years worried about so many things.
Think back to when you kids were babies and the worries that consumed you. Right now you have a whole new set of concerns, and we haven't even gotten to adolescence yet :) With all of this worry and and never ending search for the silver bullet that will help our kids live into whatever un realistic dreams we have for them, we actually goof up the most important and most significant part in shaping our kids and the people they become.
You see, our kids almost always will always share the exact same values that you have as they arrive in adulthood. The problem is that they will not always share your stated values, but they will always share your true values.
Kids have an amazing BS detector and will cut through all of the garbage we lay out there as priorities and values and will embrace your true values. Since this is almost the most important case then the real issue in attempting to figure out parenting and especially faith formation in your children is for you as the parent to really sort out your own faith formation.
The truth is many of us have neglected our consistent, intimate walk with Jesus since we have had children. Due to lack of schedule, lack of sleep, and a million other excuses our once vibrant faith has been exchanged for flannel graph versions of faith complete with cartoon bible devotionals.
We try our best to pass on this faith by praying with our kids and reading our little story Bibles. We get them to church as much as possible, and even take them to Vacation Bible School. But some how in this new parental rhythm our we have become boring old Sunday School teachers and are no longer children of the Most High God, saved and sanctified, transformed and healed, given value and purpose, and a partnership with Jesus Himself to expand God's Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven.
If we really want our kids to have a value for faith, and even more have a love for Jesus, then this happens first and foremost by us having our own passionate, authentic, vibrant, and transforming walk with Jesus. This is the starting and the end of faith development for our kids.
May we never settle for the flannel graph version of faith we attempt to share with our kids and rather embrace the adventurous life of faith that we have been invited to through Jesus Christ!