My oldest daughter, Megan, is 23. During those 23 years of parenting, I’ve learned a lot from her, my other four children, my parents, Susan, and many other wise people along the way. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the next 23 years of parenting, but here are 23 things I’ve learned so far.
1. It’s my most important job. Being a dad is my most important job and my mission in that job is to love and lead my children well.
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2. They are immeasurably valuable. I must impress upon my children that they are immeasurably valuable because they are God’s children and my children.
3. Parent with Purpose. Because children grow up so fast, it’s important to be very intentional and purposeful in what we teach them.
4. It’s heart work. Parenting takes hard work and “heart work.” The outward obedience of my children is important, but the inward attitude of their heart is even more important.
5. Model life. How I live my life greatly influences how my children live theirs. I must always model the life I want my children to live.
6. Learn from them. I learn much more from my children than I ever imagined.
7. Listen More. Really listening to my children is more important than lecturing them.
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8. Give them what they need. Giving my children what they need is more important than giving them what they want.
9. Admit when I’m wrong. When I make a mistake, I must admit I’m wrong and ask my children to forgive me.
10. Teach Excellence. I must teach my children to do everything with excellence.
11. Work is good for them. We were all created to work, including our kids. Work is good. And doing good work is great.
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12. Always speak the truth. Always speak the truth, even if it hurts. My relationship with my children must be built on a foundation of truth.
13. Always have their best interests at heart. My kids need to know that I always have their best interests at heart and that I want to help them avoid pain, and prosper in life.
14. Establish clear boundaries. It’s critical to establish clear rules and the consequences that come from breaking those rules.
15. Regulate the climate. I need to be a thermostat, not a thermometer. I need to regulate the temperature in our home, not reflect it. If my child is hot, I need to stay cool.
16. Give them the freedom to fail. As children get older, it’s good to loosen the controls a bit and give them the freedom to experience a little failure now and then. The pain of those failures can actually help them grow.
17. Encourage them to pursue their dreams. My dreams for my children are not necessarily their dreams. I need to help them to discover their gifts and to encourage them to pursue their dreams.
18. Love them unconditionally. I must tell and show my children that I love them unconditionally—no matter what. I must love them for who they are, not for what they do or don’t do.
19. Love my wife well. One of the most important things I can do for my children is to have a great, love-filled marriage with my wife, Susan.
20. My wife and I are teammates. My wife and I must be teammates in parenting our children.
21. Parenting includes some pain. A good parent who is actively involved in their child’s life will experience some hurt, sadness, and pain.
22. Parenting brings great joy. A good parent who is actively involved in their child’s life will experience laughter, fun, and joy.
23. Always remember the most important thing. Showing and telling my children about their Heavenly Father is the single most important thing I can do as a parent.
What are some of the parenting lessons you’ve learned? Please share them with me below.