We’ve all scoured Google for the “world’s best parenting advice,” surfed countless bookshelves for the answer, and taken any and all advice—often unsolicited—from friends, family and even strangers. Why? It must have something to do with the finite time we have with our children under our roof. In fact, the average child has 936 weeks from the time they’re born until they graduate high school. Any parent inside or outside of those 936 weeks will tell you they can’t believe how quickly their kids have grown. We can get more of anything else in this world, but not time. So, the million-dollar question is how do we make the most of it when our backs are against the clock? How can we be intentional parents?
My husband and I have three girls: ages 7, 4 and 1. I don’t claim to have this parenting thing figured out, but there are a few things that God has shown me in the last eight years that have helped me stay sane and even feel like we might be winning at this whole parenting thing sometimes. Here’s my advice.
Lean into Jesus
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your own relationship with Jesus the top priority. Kids are like tiny mirrors. Becoming a mom has made me much more aware of my own shortcomings. But God has used parenting to refine me as a Christ-follower, drawing me into deeper levels of trust and dependence in Him. When I prioritize time with Jesus, I come out refreshed and better armed for the day. I find my levels of patience, grace, and selflessness are exponentially increased. When Jesus is my source of strength, I am less easily swayed by tantrums and defiance. When I am rooted in Christ’s love for me, I am less tempted to find my identity in my children’s behavior or performance. A spiritually healthy YOU will make you a better parent.
Embrace the phase
Instead of “just getting through” your child’s current phase, try to find the joy that is unique to their current age. For example, the often dreaded “not sleeping through the night” phase is also the chapter when your child will show you the most physical affection. Embrace it! You’ll miss it when they’re teenagers who stay far away from physical affection. If you’re looking for ideas on how to intentionally embrace each phase, these books are some of my new favorite resources.
Ask for help
This one took me a little longer (as it seems to be with those of us who are stubborn and I’ll-do-it-myself types). I don’t know why it took me so long to say “yes” when people offered help. Perhaps I thought I could do this on my own or I simply had too much pride. Either way, I’ve learned that healthy people voice what they need, and healthy people ask for help. Parenting isn’t meant to be done alone! Take advantage of your local church by making a point of getting to know your child’s leader, taking a parenting course, or joining a parenting small group.
In addition, having a trusted source of wisdom and experience can change everything. Find one or two parents you admire to ask questions, spend time with, and learn from.
Weigh your words
I read recently that the inner voice our kids hear is actually our voice until they hit 9 or 10 years old. Our words have the power to build up or to destroy. Knowing this, catch your kids doing things right! Praise their efforts and hard work and affirm their kindness and strong character. What gets celebrated gets repeated.
Do one thing a year to intentionally grow as a parent
We all work to be better at our jobs, and if we have kids, parenting is the most important job we’ll have in this lifetime. Last year I read a fantastic book, and this year I’m walking through a course called “Intentional Parenting” with other parents at Kensington Church. One thing a year is manageable, and it actually allows us enough time to try and implement some of what we learn.
On any given night of the week, if you dropped in at our house, you may fall witness to one of the following: dance party, homemade ninja warrior course, soccer (inside and out), card and board games, and ice cream nights. Having fun with your kids shows them you actually like them.
God is not a God of striving, but I do believe His design for parenting is to grow us as much as it is to grow our kids. The world’s best parenting advice is in the love of our Heavenly Father. The world’s best parenting advice is to listen to Jesus and let Him be your guide.
Whether you attend Kensington or not, I’d like to personally welcome you to our Intentional Parenting workshops. Meeting at the Troy, Orion, Clinton Township, Birmingham and Shelby campuses, this six-week study covers the 10 principles to navigate beyond survival mode and move toward becoming an intentional parent. Learn more and register here.
Jenny’s favorite parenting resources:
“Parenting With Love & Logic” by Foster Cline & Jim Fay
“Are My Kids on Track? The 12 Emotional, Social, and Spiritual Milestones Your Child Needs to Reach” by David Thomas & Sissy Goff
“Playing for Keeps: 6 Things Every Kid Needs” – Reggie Joiner & Kristen Ivy
“Praying Circles Around Your Kids” – Mark Batterson
“Parenting Beyond Your Capacity” – Reggie Joiner & Carey Nieuwhof
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-Jenny Warns, Birmingham Campus Discipleship Director | Jenny has been married to Justin for ten years. They have three daughters: Serena (7), Gabby (4), and Alyssa (1). Jenny is the Discipleship Director at Kensington’s Birmingham campus, and she has been on staff for 9 years. She loves good food, good coffee, and good books.