When our firstborn was potty training, a friend of ours shared some advice. She suggested we let him sleep naked on us. Why? Because it would allow us to sense, somehow, when he needed to use the bathroom and we’d magically figure it out without the use of diapers. We passed on that one.
When you are a new parent, you discover that everyone is suddenly an expert on how you ought to raise your child. Sometimes the advice causes you to groan and roll your eyes. Sometimes you think it sounds amazing, only to learn it doesn’t actually work. However, some advice turns out to be brilliant. When I think of the best parenting advice I’ve received, my mind turns to these 5 jewels.
1. They won’t remember what you say; they’ll remember who you are.
We spend a lot of time wringing our hands over saying the right things to our kids. And I don’t want to dismiss our words. Words are powerful. However, when the dust settles, we find that our kids rarely remember what we say. But they don’t forget who we are. Your character will stay with your kids. Be the kind of person your kids will remember with affection and pride.
2. They’re new here.
It’s easy to get frustrated with our kids. From the beginning, they cry when we want them to sleep. They put food in their hair instead of in their mouths. Sometimes they even color on the wall. Relax—they’re new here. It’s going to take time for your children to learn how to use the toilet and pick up their toys. Be patient. After all, whenever you step into a new environment, you long for others to show you patience. Learning to be human takes time. Even teenagers are new!
3. The second the kid is born, start letting go.The tighter we hold onto our kids, the more they’ll push to create space to become themselves.
Sometimes wisdom is incredibly counterintuitive. When our kids enter the world, our immediate response is to hold them tightly. This is true literally, but it’s also true figuratively. We feel the weight of the responsibility and we are determined to mold our children into amazing people who change the world. The problem is, control is an illusion. The tighter we hold onto our kids, the more they’ll push to create space to become themselves. Give them space to become the people they were created to be. This looks different at different stages of development, but there are opportunities all along the way to practice letting go.
4. Comparison is the thief of joy.
So this is actually a quote widely attributed to Teddy Roosevelt. But I have been challenged again and again by wise people: “Don’t play the comparison game.” This is more difficult now than ever. Thanks to social media, we now know all the ways other parents are “better” than us. It’s easy to find someone who took his kids on a better vacation. There’s that dad who just bought his daughter a car. Or the worst is the dad who shares the post of his daughter raving about how great a dad he is. Meanwhile, your daughter just slammed her bedroom door while she screamed that she hates you. But you don’t know what’s going on for kids behind closed doors. Avoid comparison at all costs.
5. Love covers a multitude of sin.
I’ll never forget when I was sharing honestly about my struggles with parenting with an older friend. He stopped me, looked me in the eyes, and gave me the best parenting advice I’ve ever received. He said, “Tim, love covers a multitude of sin.” It sounds extreme to say it changed everything, but it did. Those familiar with the Bible might recognize this as a quote from 1 Peter 4:8. While the original audience wasn’t exclusively parents, it fits. You and I don’t get a handbook for parenting. We will undoubtedly make many mistakes. But we can still choose to love. And while love doesn’t solve everything, it certainly helps a lot.
Sound off: What is the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with another dad and ask, “What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?”