I am currently caught in an internal battle between parental pride and British reserve. I really do want to talk to you about how amazing our kids are and how proud we are of them, but I genuinely don’t want to be a show off. I’m also aware that when we’ve been struggling, the perfect appearance of other families has not been a blessing. Our four kids are all doing really well right now. Most of this is down to grace of God, but we have also picked up a few parenting tips along the way. While the going is good, I would like to tentatively share them with you.
People sometimes asked us in the past how we coped with four young kids. My stock answers were:
- You just cope – there’s no alternative.
- The difference between no kids and one kid is the biggest change.
No-one equips you for the shock of parenthood. I’m not sure that anyone ever could. The transition from living with a supportive, equal partner to living with a totally dependant baby is the biggest change humans can face. Even though we’re pretty well physically equipped and emotionally wired for it, the change can be utterly overwhelming. The arrival of one straightforward, healthy baby (many are not) into a stable home (many are not) can leave competent professional parents jibbering in the corner. We have done our fair share of jibbering.
What tips would we offer for surviving gibbering and raising good kids?
Take all the help you can get. Ask for it when you need it. They tell you this when you find you are expecting twins. It’s equally true when you are expecting any baby. Sleep deprivation and emotional fatigue are coming. You need people who can take charge while you have a nap. If you are doing parenting properly, you will not be able to continue with the financial and temporal schedule you kept before. Get used to depending on family and friends. You can return the favour when they are in need. Parenting courses can be really helpful. Don’t wait till you are forced to go on one to access care. Our church have been awesome with our kids. Having people around who will love your kids even when they bite is invaluable. Having people praying for you in the dark times is even better. Don’t have a church? The doors are always open 😊
Stay calm. It may well be true that you would never have spoken to your father like that… or that your other kids (or other people’s kids) are not head-butters. Nonetheless, in this circumstance you must take a breath and attend to the to the present speech or head-but. Are other children safe from being butted? What are the pre-agreed consequences of this particular piece of nastiness? Your emotions can be talked out with grown-ups later. Meanwhile respond to the facts of the circumstances.
Don’t wait until the police come to the door to take control of your kids’ online devices. Whist this becomes a helpful launch pad for an absolutist phone policy, it is a waste of police time, an embarrassment and a considerable source of inconvenience and anxiety. As well as a world of wonder and endless information and gaming possibilities, your kid’s phone and all of their friend’s phones are connected to every predatory paedophile and violent pornographer on the planet, every scammer in Nigeria, every hacker in Russia, every extremist in Syria and every advertisment agency in the U.S. NO teenager is wise enough to deal with this. NO phones upstairs. Not enough mobile data to watch moving pictures. Also, no phones at the dinner table.
Prioritise your values. Everyone else is seeking to imprint theirs on your kids. Make sure you get in first. Where our kids have been praised for academic or sporting performance we have encouraged them. Where they have been praised for kindness, generosity, including others, forgiveness, courage etc, we have CELEBRATED. We pray when we eat together most days, and when we travel together and when we’re worried and when we are excited. We don’t drive if we could cycle or walk. These are our family values. What are yours?
Listen as much as you talk. Parenting courses today will teach you about child-led play. Kids occasionally utter pearls of genuine wisdom in amongst the half-baked nonsense and hilarity. Take interest in their interests. Keep listening as they grow. That way you’ll have half a chance of them talking to you before they talk to friends who will bless them with the benefit of the wisdom they got from their phones.
Keep going, don’t lose hope. Child psychologists will tell you that childhood development continues for the first 25 years of Western life. I remember this being a terrifying thought. With hindsight, it’s comforting. There will be times when you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it is a tunnel not a cave; you will come through to the other side. Other families might appear to be perfect, but they will pass through tunnels too if they haven’t already. Ignore them and just keep moving.
I have no doubt that there are bumps in the road ahead. This blog might end up looking like egg on my face. But by the grace of God we’re in a good place right now. If any of it helps you get to somewhere like this, or just to keep going, then it was worth my while writing.
Oh, and also.. WE DO NOT KICK FOOTBALLS INSIDE THE HOUSE.