Growing up, I still remember moments where my parents did something that made me want to get closer to God. Most of the time, a choice they made spurred my action. I never started leading a family Bible study for two hours or learned overnight how to obey my parents and make my room spotless. My actions usually came in the form of reluctant obedience, an “eye-roll” mutual agreement to not play video games all night. It was these parental actions and my reluctant obedience which led to my faith life today. My wife and I have yet to have kids, but I hope I can share some habits and actions of my parents which I hope to model to my kids someday. I’m going to risk sounding like a momma’s boy here, but this is some of the best advice I can give.
1. Model Your Faith
To this day, I still remember waking up every morning and seeing my dad reading the Bible during his breakfast. I’m sure with four kids in the house, it was chaotic: preteen Autumn annoyed by her younger siblings, I’m teasing Victoria and making farting and burping noises, she wants to fight me, and baby Jasmine is hungry and wants attention. But there was my dad: Bible out, breakfast out, every morning. That’s what I want to do when I’m a dad.
2. Make Time to Listen
As much as possible, we tried to have dinner together every night. This looked different as we grew older and had to travel for track meets and church events, but my parents established a listening culture. Usually, the best conversations happened in the car. My dad would always say to me, “You can tell me anything.” Mom would ask how our day went. It started with sharing the silly stuff as a kid and eventually became the hard stuff as I got older. This helped me see I could bring anything to God.
3. Monitor Screen Time
My parents always encouraged my sisters and I to live life God has graciously given us and to monitor screen time. We had to do something physically active every day other than Sunday, something I still try to do. In a world running towards digital, they tried their best to stay analog. Don’t get me wrong, I eventually got my Nintendo 64, PS2, and XBox360. But I remember seeing the joy in their eyes when I asked for a musical instrument for Christmas instead of the next video game. When I became an adult, suddenly watching a military movie or a track meet on TV with my dad was a way for us to bond. Monitoring screen time gets harder and harder as the years go on, and I know it will be hard for Addy and I with our kids.
4. Move the Guilt
I heard my mom describe parenting like this: “You hold your kid in the palm of your hand. In the early years, you hold your hand around your child, and as they get older and into their teen years, you slowly open up your hand and release them to God.” Just from observation, I know parenting is not easy: the lack of sleep, personal time, privacy, and discipline. My dad would also say, “I don’t do guilt.” Normally, this was referring to guilt other people try to place on us. However, we can be guilty of placing guilt on ourselves too. Parents, love God, love your kids, and move the guilt.