One thing I’ve learned for sure in the last decade of parenting is that well, being a parent is hard. And we’re all spending so much energy trying not to get it wrong.
There are plenty of expectations we put on ourselves that make it even harder.
Are we depriving our kids of worthwhile experiences by not enrolling them in every possible extracurricular activity? Will they grow up to be social pariahs because we chose to homeschool them?
I’ve fallen into the trap of believing my kids have to have things that, in reality, they don’t really need.
When they’re all grown up, I don’t think they’ll look back and wish they always had the latest toys, clothing, and technology, or a schedule full of activities. Here are 8 things they do need!
1. Spiritual Instruction
With so many hours already spent on school, homework, clubs, sports, etc., this unfortunately leaves little left over for spiritual training. Most of us fall back on relying on Sunday School and Wednesday night programs to provide the bulk of our children’s discipleship.
But our kids need so much more! In a skeptical culture hostile to Christian values, they need to be biblically literate and they need to know how to adequately defend their faith.
It starts with us, daily implanting the Word in their hearts- “when we rise up, when we lie down, when we sit in our house, and when we walk by the way” (Deut. 6:7).
Read the Bible with them every day, and when they’re old enough to read and write on their own, challenge them to study it for themselves from Genesis all the way to Revelation.
It is only by raising children in the Word of God that they will come to know Yahweh and live a life faithful to Him.
2. Parents with a Strong, Healthy Marriage
While children are important, they shouldn’t be prioritized above the relationship with your husband. Too many of us slip into a child-centered marriage slowly over the years, and before we know it our spouse becomes “just another person to take care of”.
Kids thrive when they have the stability a solid marital relationship provides. But, sometimes, it takes everything I have to be their mom… and that doesn’t leave much for my husband.
I’ve found that you need to be intentional, and sometimes that means getting creative. For instance while our kids are at AWANA on Wednesday nights, instead of attending separate Bible studies, my husband and I spend that block of time together.
It’s never anything fancy- usually just grabbing a quick bite to eat- but it gives us a specific point to connect during our busy week.
3. Opportunities for Responsibility
I grew up in a household where I was constantly made to feel guilty for not pulling my own weight, so I decided that when I had kids I would ask very little of them.
You can probably imagine how badly this backfired on me. In stepped my husband, pointing out that I can still serve my children without waiting on them hand and foot.
Both now have assigned daily chores, and are also expected to pick up after themselves and do their own laundry. And no, they aren’t paid for any of these.
Our children don’t need us to step in and do everything for them now; they need to learn responsibility in order to become fully functioning adults.
4. Opportunities to Gain Confidence
Our kids also need to learn how to work problems out for themselves. I have been guilty of rushing in too quickly with a solution when one of my kids is struggling, instead of allowing them to build confidence in their abilities.
They shouldn’t be enabled to act lazy, always expecting someone else to pick up the slack for them.
We need to make sure their chores and our expectations of them are age appropriate, but kids will rise to the challenges they’re given.
In this age of participation trophies and “child-led” philosophies, I don’t want to raise children who feel they are entitled to privileges and rewards they haven’t earned.
5. Shelter from Worldly Influences
Children need time and space to develop strong roots in biblical truth, without other influences shaping their worldview.
Families, churches and parachurch ministries must recognize that primary window of opportunity for effectively reaching people with the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is during the pre-teen years. It is during those years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their life – especially theologically and morally.George Barna
In other words, lifelong worldviews are formed by age 13.
Take stock of the music and shows your kids are consuming. Know which viewpoints they’re learning certain subjects from in school. What messages are they sending?
Are they pointing them to Christ and Christ-like character?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever teach them different perspectives, but we also shouldn’t just let authors, teachers, and artists with a decidedly secular worldview have free reign over our children’s minds, either.
6. Consistent Discipline
The 5th commandment is fundamental to Christian parenting. As a mom, you’ve been vested with certain authority in your home, in which you are to receive honor and obedience from your children.
Kids need to be trained while they’re young, by consistent correction and discipline that will teach them about consequences.
It’s one of the ways they learn mindfulness and responsibility. We don’t want them to fall prey to the ruin of an undisciplined life.
When you rebuke your child for disobeying you, you present him with the law. While the rod of correction cannot save the child from his sins without the attendant grace of Jesus, it does play a part in teaching a child his need for Christ.
We can regularly use every instance of discipline as an opportunity to bring out the Gospel, reminding our children that this is exactly why they need a Savior.
They need us to apply both grace and law. We are promised that God’s discipline “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11), and so can our parental discipline when we follow God’s lead.
7. More Family Time
Instead of everybody running off to different clubs and sports, make it a point of doing activities together.
Your kids don’t really need to discover “what they’re good at” at the tender age of 5- they need quality time spent with family. On average, American families engage in less than 15 minutes of direct parent-child conversation each day.
Start by taking a good, hard look at your weekly schedules to see where the members of your family are truly spending their time. Decide to cut back on some extracurricular activities.
Identify a 30 minute window each day when everyone can be together. Plan a family game or movie night on Friday or Saturday.
I promise you, the sacrifice of a dance class or soccer practice will be well worth the trade-off.
8. A Mom That Spends Time With Jesus
It’s been said that our children don’t need us to make them godly; they need a parent who is godly. How can we lead our kids to Living Water when we’re panting for thirst ourselves?
For the past several months, I’ve been getting up an hour before my kids to pray and read my Bible. There are plenty of mornings where I don’t want to drag myself out of bed while it’s still dark out, but I never regret utilizing that time to soak in God’s Word and commune with Him.
It has absolutely changed the trajectory of my days and my relationship with my children. I am more able to be patient and gracious with them.
When I’m drawing my strength and power from the Lord, and daily submitting my will to Him, I am a much better mom!