There's a lot of parenting advice out there. Some is great. Much of it is lacking. Some is downright harmful. With a 16 girl driving around, two middle school boys (14 & 12 yrs old) and our youngest son in 4th grade (nearly 10 yrs old), we've experienced a lot of success & struggle in our parenting. We've gotten advice from books, other parents, pastors, and our own parents. We've taken courses on parenting and had one pastor/wife and family that we learned much from and watched closely as they did so much right (radically different than most parents we'd ever seen). I wanted to share some advice for things I feel we have learned and that not enough folks are talking about. At its core, this list is a quick mind-dump of the practical advice I want to give parents with young kids after years of doing it. By no means do we do all of this perfectly. I assume you know that already.
This is probably most ideal for parents-to-be, new parents, and parents with kids under 10 years old. This isn't exhaustive, ordered, etc. It's not my top 10. There are some crucial ones that most who read this already believe and do to some extent, so I'll assume them (read Bible, pray, etc). What I will do is give one angle on each of those rather than convince you to do it in general. And while many tips are built on biblical ideas, I'm going to talk very practically and simply and not make this merely a "from-the-Bible" list. Also, I'm not dealing much with rules vs grace, an important topic. There are many things that could be added to this list, including things I failed remember. So your comments are welcome if you'd like to share your advice.
The first handful need some extra explanation so they are understood. The rest need little explanation, but I wanted to at least mention them.
Advice For Parenting Young Kids
Believe Kids Are A Blessing | Our world sees kids as a burden. The Scriptures tell us they are a blessing from the Lord. In your thinking about your children, in all you do as a parent, remember & trust that God has given them to you as a blessing. It will change how you see them and how you parent them. It hopefully will even change how many of them you have. Who wouldn't want MORE blessing?
Read The Jesus Storybook Bible To Them | A tool we didn't have while the kids were really young, it would have been a staple of their Bible story diet. Honestly, it still was.
Pray With Your Kids Concerning Taking Risks | Yes, pray for needs and give them models of prayer, etc. But pray aloud with them about the kinds of risks God wants them to take. "God if my boys sees someone being bullied at school, give them strength to stop it even if it means they get hurt." Something like that. We also regularly pray that God would use them mightily, even if that means persecution, going far away as a missionary, etc.
Teach *First Time Obedience* | When Dad or Mom says do it, they do it. We are the parents. They are kids. Why is this important? Do you want them to obey God the first time, or to put it off? Also, if they don't obey us there are often major consequences in the future. Sometimes if they don't obey there are major consequences in the very near future. Example: We taught our children to *stop* when we say stop. We didn't chase them around at parties or baseball games or at the park. We say stop, they were taught to stop or face discipline. One of our kids was bad about running through parking lots on the way in to a store. Our *first time obedience* teaching probably saved his life or at least bodily harm more than once. But the everyday, simple things will create disciplined & respectful kids. It will also shock people around you and create opportunities to talk about why your parenting "works."
My pastor once had one child ask for a chip (adults were eating chips) and he said "Ok." Another of his children overheard and came over and asked for a chip. He said "No." The child, without hesitation, said "ok" and walked away. My pastor then told him to return and explained how happy he was that he was willing to trust him and obey even when it seemed unfair, and then gave him a chip. That's the power of this one rule when taught consistently.
ALSO, don't use the counting rule. When you count you are telling your kids they can delay obedience. "Johnny, get your coat on. Johnny! One...twooooo..." Not obeying now is disobedience. Period. Well, almost period...
Give Rules For Respectful Disagreement | Some call this an "appeal." Sometimes the demand of *first time obedience* lacks information that might change our parenting. Example. Me: "Kids, close your books. It's time for bed. Lights out." Daughter: "Dad, can I appeal?" or more simply, "Dad, can I finish this chapter. It's only one more page." Me, to all, "Yes. When Sarah's done, it's time for bed." I'm Dad and what I say goes, but I also realize my call to obedience can be adjusted.
Give Rules For Respectful Interruption | You are at a party or with your small group and kids are constantly saying "Dad! Dad! Dad!" You are teaching them to be the center of the universe. We tell our kids that when we are in a conversation with someone, they aren't allowed to interrupt rudely. The rule is, put your hand on my arm and I'll tell you when it's ok to interrupt. Sometimes I keep talking with someone for 45-60 seconds before I say to my son, "What do you need, buddy?" Don't let your kids interrupt rudely. You are the parent. Teach your kids to respect your conversation and the conversation of others. This will shock people too.
ALSO, when on the phone DO NOT allow your kids to interrupt you. It's very disrespectful when on the phone with someone talking about something important (or not) and their kids have no category that Mom or Dad is doing something important that shouldn't be interrupted.
Give Rules For Being Respectful in Public | My kids were not allowed to be loud or run around restaurants while people are eating. It's disrespectful. Climbing on the booth next to me and annoying those around me while I tune them out is not ok. If my kid disobeys in public, I don't discipline in public. I take them to the car and when we get back inside the restaurant (or wherever) they have changed their tune. We have had humbling and amazing comments about our parenting in restaurants. Especially older adults, grandparents, can't believe how well behaved our kids were, sitting, eating, talking in acceptable levels of loudness, not being a spectacle. The spectacle was how respectful they were to others.
The Five Minute Rule (Warning) | One of the GREAT pieces of advice was using a 5 minute rule for preparing your kids to transition. Example: Kids are playing at McDonald's Playland. We don't just say "Let's go." We give them a 5 minute warning. This, to them, is permission to play longer as well as preparation that the end is near. That way when expecting *first time obedience* we aren't creating frustrated kids who were having a blast and then had parents drop the bomb on fun time. We almost never had an issue leaving something fun while other parents struggled and yelled. Such a helpful rule. This rule also works for bedtime, before leaving for something, etc.
ALSO, after doing this for a bit all I would have to do when one of the kids would look at me from the playground is hold up my hand with 5 fingers and they would call out to each other "FIVE MINUTES!" So, so helpful.
Pre-Event Preparation/Conversation | When going to meet with other people, go to a party with other families, go to a movie, whatever, we would have a short talk in the car. It was our way of preparing the kids for what was coming as well as setting our expectations for how they would act when they arrived. Example: Heading to a small group Bible study. We'd tell the kids where we were going, to remember to say "Yes Mam" or "No Mam" when asked something, to be quiet during prayer time, to be generous and let other kids play with toys, and so on. Set them up for success by reminding them just before an event of your expectations.
Titles of Respect for Adults (No First Names) | Never, EVER, let them call an adult merely by their first name. If an adult insists, you tell them (in front of your kids is fine) that's not how you are parenting them. Don't allow others to change your parenting. This is more obvious for family (Aunt Jennifer or Grandpa), but will show much fruit for everyday interaction. A member of our church will be called "Miss Gail" or "Mr. Ryan."
Use Timers | This may be what you use as a parent or what the kids are taught to use on their own depending on age. There is no "Go watch TV" for an undetermined amount of time. You get 30 minutes (or whatever).
Sharing Is Not Requested, It's Essential | My kids would always share. That was the rule. If another kid is throwing a fit, you give it up. You take the hit. You make the peace. This wasn't about bullying, but about making it easy for the adults teaching Sunday School, babysitting, whatever.
Boys Treat Girls Differently Than Boys | Boys are to be tough and rough and playful with boys. Treat girls with a kind of respect. Hard to describe this one, but talk to your boys about how to treat girls with honor.
Play Rough & Teach Kids To Get Over It | This one has done wonders for us. I played rough with the kids. Not hurtful or harmful, but lots of wrestling, throwing kids on beds playfully, etc. I still do it, even now that they are big enough to play rough back! When you do this and then someone at church or school is a little rough with your kids they won't whine, cry, tattle. They won't act hurt for attention. Teach them to handle rough play.
ALSO, my kids were taught that they were never as hurt as they thought they were. It was almost always true. "Get up." "You're fine." "Be tough." Many parents gasp and run to their kid on the ground who really isn't hurt all that bad but loves attention. My kids were taught to get up and keep going. Elijah got hit by a very fast pitch and it hurt him bad, but he tossed his bat aside and ran to first base. Later he told me how bad it hurt, but he had learned to be tough and get over it.
Kids Sit With You In Church | Some will disagree, but we taught our kids to sit with us in church from birth onward. Some will think it impossible. It isn't. We saw others do it and we did it. They were minimal distractions at their worst and often no distraction at all. I could give you a lot of tips on this, but the main one is to demand *first time obedience*, which means disobedience draws consequences. That's also why you prepare them on the car ride before church of how they will sit quietly, etc.
Ask Your Kids To Forgive You | You will fail. Often. Tell your kids that you do, when you do, and ask their forgiveness. We've asked our kids several times to forgive us for not requiring *first time obedience* (when we've grown slack), for example.
Kiss Your Spouse In Front Of Them | It blesses your kids beyond measure to know their parents love each other and want to show it. Comforting. Brings a confidence in your marriage when many of their friends' parents are getting divorced.
Talking Back To Mom Is Talking Back To My Wife | I tell my kids that if/when they talk back to Mom, they are talking back to my wife (not merely their Mom). She was my wife before she became their Mom, and that means something.
Hugs & Kisses To Friends | Teach your kids to be affectionate with others. Just this Sunday I told my youngest two to give Miss Deb a hug before we left church. No questions, they did. We don't just hug Mom and Dad, but a lot of people.
Disagree In Front Of Your Kids | You will have to ask their forgiveness when you do it sinfully, and there are times to separate & talk when we are struggling as a couple, but it teaches your kids that no disagreement will separate us from each other. It prepares them to get married one day and see what a marriage really looks like. Messy.
Keep/Give Away | Our kids have been taught to regularly do a keep/give away day. They go through all their toys and decide what to keep and what to give away. It de-clutters things as well as teaches them how to move on, how to be generous, how to not hoard, etc.
Teach Your Kids To Sing | Music has always filled our house, and we aren't musicians or singers by any artistic standard. But singing is a part of worship and so we make it a part of life. Doesn't mean it's always worship music. Hardly. But we are singing. It's common to be working in my home office and have a child start belting out a song at the top of their lungs upstairs. It teaches them to be loud in public worship singing too.
Teach Your Kids God Loves Them More Than You | It doesn't mean I love them less than I should, but that God's love is beyond comparison.
Get In The Pool | Play with your kids. Don't just watch them play. They want it! While on vacation last summer I got in the pool and would throw a ball as the kids would leap into the pool while trying to catch the ball. Kinda like a dog. :) Another family we met there saw us doing that and became our best friends while there. Every day the kids played with us as if I was their Dad. Their kids wanted to play. Their Dad eventually decided to stop reading and join us in the pool. His kids kept nagging him until he did! Playing teaches your kids they are important to you. It's fun. It has helped us to befriend others and bless families who don't have Dads and Moms in the pool.
I cut out some as this is already too long. Hope it helps. Would love your interaction on my advice and to hear some of your own.