www.divineordinary.com (2)

In a few short months, my oldest son Brock will graduate from high school. I know everyone says this, but it truly does seem like just yesterday that I nervously dropped him off for his very first day of preschool. I remember how his backpack seemed to be bigger than he was, and how excited he was to spend all morning with his friends and his beloved “Teacher.”

In an interesting twist of fate, one of my closest friends is just starting her parenting journey. She and her husband were able to bring home their son at the end of January after several years of going through the adoption process.

Add to this another good friend just finished writing a wonderful book on parenting called Triggers. It’s one of those books I wish I had when my kids were little. You can read my review of the book here,. Stay tuned on that front because I am going to do a giveaway of Triggers because I really feel it should be in as many moms’ hands as possible

Because of these three things kind of converging together, it has made me think back to my own first years as a parent. Not surprisingly, as an expectant mom, I did what I always do when confronted with something new: I read a ton of books. Books have always been my go to for trying to navigate new experiences. I read the What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Babywise and umpteen millions James’ Dobson and Focus on the Family books.

One thing that I found interesting, though, was that in the Bible, there weren’t all that many instructions for parents on parenting. I mean, there were a few verses on teaching them about God as you go about your day, not exasperating them and training them up, but really, for such an important topic, the Bible is surprisingly tight-lipped when it comes to parenting advice.

And since the Bible offered so little in specific parenting advice, I found it kind of hard to navigate all the varied parenting advice out there. Not only did some of it seem kind of unrealistic, but it often was conflicting advice. One source would say do x, while another source would say never do x – only do y.

I also found other parents were a bit, um, militaristic about their chosen parenting style, and I soon learned that asking other moms about seemingly innocent topics like potty train or dealing with nightmares could lead to impassioned arguments that had a way of prematurely ending play dates.

So, I decided that what I needed were some guiding principles for my parenting. Like the bumpers you put up in the bowling alley to keep the ball from going in the gutter every time, I needed some borders to keep my parenting heading toward the target. I’ll be honest here, my main target in the first few years was just to keep everyone alive – mothering has never come naturally to me.  After all my reading, scouring the Scriptures and quite a bit of praying, I came up with the following eight principles that have served me well over the years. Below are the eight principles as I wrote them out as a young mom with a toddler and preschooler. I have found that even though my children have grown and their needs have changed, these principles have weathered the test of time for our family.


1. Consistency Rules
If it is wrong one day, it is wrong the next. I really think before I lay down a law. Is it worth making a huge battle over this every time? If it is, the rule is explained, consequences are laid out and that is the end.

2. Explain what you want and how you want it.
Children don’t come pre-programmed. Toddler and preschool years are intense training times. I often give warnings such as, “Please do not play with the VCR (yes, I really am that old!). Do not touch any part of it. If you do so again, xyz will happen. This also includes any sassy talk or angry outbursts. Sometimes, kids hear an adult (me in all likelihood) react in a certain way, so they imitate that without really understanding that it is wrong.

3. Love unconditionally.
Make sure your child knows you don’t like the behavior – not him as a person. Relationship is always more important than rules. While not having any boundaries or rules is definitely NOT in your child’s best interests, swinging all the way to the other side of always being super rigid about rules isn’t in his best interests either. God extends grace to us when we don’t deserve it on a regular basis (daily for me!), so I don’t think it is such a stretch for us to extend grace to our kids, too.

4. Try to be as fair as possible.
Yes, I know. Life is not always fair and that is a life lesson kids do need to learn. However, our homes should be a safety zone, and we should be the most trustworthy people in our children’s lives. So, being as fair as possible is important. Fairness really matters to kids, and if a child often feels like they are being treated unfairly by their parents, it can plant a seed of bitterness and the harvest of that is a damaged child/parent relationship.

5. Become a student of your child.
My dreamer takes a lot of study. I thought he was being deliberately disobedient utnil I realized that he was so much in his own little world he was actually not even hearing me. This should not have come as a surprise because I, too, am a dreamer, and I was the exact same way as a child. Add to the fact that I had hearing issues as a kid, and I’m sure my mother was pretty exasperated with me at times. So, now, instead of calling to him from another room or even across the room, I walk right up to him and look him in the eye. My other son gets incredibly cranky and uncooperative when he hasn’t eaten in a while. I had to learn that if we were going anywhere after school, bringing a small snack made everyone’s afternoon much more pleasant. It really doesn’t matter what the child rearing books say – know YOUR child. You are the leading expert on him or her.


6. Don’t discipline in anger. Your authority means a lot more when you are in control of yourself. Even if it means postponing or ditching the punishment because you need to get a hold of yourself, that is more important than damaging your relationship with your child. I am NOT saying that anger is not sometimes an appropriate emotion in the face of a child’s defiant behavior, but what I AM saying is that the anger should not be in the driver’s seat when you deal with your child over whatever transgression. Also, for a strong-willed child, watching you become completely unglued is usually worth the punishment. Ask me how I know this!

7. Model and encourage repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Kids need to understand how to ask for forgiveness and how to reconcile with others. Also, modeling respectful behaviors is one way to help your children use them. If you never say please and thank you, it seems a bit much to expect your child to. Kids don’t only listen to what you say, they watch what you do. If I blow it and lose my temper with my kids or am blatantly unfair because of my own out of control emotions, I go apologize and ask for forgiveness. Kids are often much more forgiving than adults can be. Plus, it teaches them that we all make mistakes, and we can make that right and get back on the right track.

8. Leave the obedience up to them .
Don’t try to obey for them. I’ve always hated for my kids to suffer the consequences, so I would often find myself telling them over and over to do or not do this or that. This only frustrated us both, and I usually ended up losing it. I learned that just telling them the rule, explaining the consequences and leaving it up to them was the best way to go. It was then up to them if they obeyed or disobeyed. Being consistent and immediate with the consequences was actually a much more grace-filled way to handle it than continually nagging them to obey.

The best example I have ever heard of this is to think about a policeman. How do you feel if he pulls you over? You probably feel some trepidation and are upset. However, does the policeman start screaming at you because you went over the speed limit? Does he start crying and asking you, “Why, why do you speed? What have I done to deserve you speeding?” Does he say, Well, today it is okay to go 85 but the next day you are busted? Nope – he very calmly hands you a ticket – the consequences of speeding. I bet the next time you will drive a bit slower (at least for a while).

9. Follow through.
Whether you are making promising or threatening consequences, make sure you follow through. Kids are smart, and they will call your bluff, so make sure you never threaten something you aren’t willing to follow through on. Likewise, it can make kids bitter if you regularly fail to follow through on promises you’ve made them. Yes, life happens and there will be times when you can’t, but I have found if that is exception rather than the rule, your kids will take a broken promise a lot better than if you never seem to follow through.

So, what about you? Do you have some principles by which you parent? I’d love to hear about them!
Blessings, Rosanne

P.S. If you just found this post and would like to read the other posts in this series, the links are below. I’ve also added a few posts you might also enjoy.

Part 1: Parenting Has Changed Me More Than Any Ministry

Part 2: 9 Principles of Parenting That Transcend Parenting Style

Part 3: 10 Myths of Parenting

Part 4: 5 Parenting Books I Love, Plus One

Is God Enough for Your Kids, Too?

There Are No Guarantees in Parenting


p.s. Do you struggle like I did as a young parent, with anger? If so, I’d love for you to sign up for the Parenting Challenge.

Join Me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.