Unlike most of my blogs, I started with the title on this one. Many of you will be moving your "babies" into college this fall. Many of us aren't there yet. So, what are the things I should prioritize in my parenting today to make sure they're as ready for real life as they can be?And although many full-length books have been written on the subject, I boiled it down to three items. I hope I'm not oversimplifying, but these are three things we try to make a priority in our parenting.
Kids need to know three things:
1. They are loved.
Show them they are loved by you. Explain to them over and over again that they are loved by God. Teach them how to love Him and others in return. A healthy understanding of love allows your kids to be compassionate. They will take more risks because your love doesn't hinge on their performance. They will be more equipped to have thriving relationships. They may even change the world.
2. To be independent.
Part of moving the little people in your home to adulthood is making sure they can actually survive as adults. And while you don’t want them to feel they’re alone, allow them to grow up. I remember writing a hall pass for a senior to use the restroom once and thinking, “How insane is this? We expect this young adult to live on his own in a few months, but today I’m writing a slip so he can use the potty.” No wonder college students often drown themselves in alcohol or fail out. We haven’t equipped them for adulthood. Start early. Have your kids do their own laundry.Teach them to cook and make a budget. Teach them what to look for in a potential spouse. Model “grown-up behavior” and allow them to try it out before you drop them off somewhere to fend for themselves.
3. To be dependent.
See what I did there? While these seem to contradict one another, if you’re a Christian, you should teach your kids to be dependent on God. Not just pray before bed, or go to church, or even talk about God. A real relationship with God involves surrender and dependence. Ignore this one and they’ll depend on something else. Whether it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend, their own intellect, or something harmful, people are wired for dependence. If it’s not God, things get out of order pretty quickly. You may be thinking, “The first two were easy. I can love my kid and it’s kind of fun teaching them how to do stuff around the house, but I can’t control their dependence on God.” And you know what? Your absolutely right. It breaks my heart to think of this because my kids are young and love singing to Jesus, but statistically speaking, there’s a good chance one or more of them will walk away from faith as an adult. If you have grown children, you may know this all too well. But, we can model dependence. Kids are more apt to depend on God if you do it in front of them. When something goes wrong, depend on Him. Believe He’s in control and that you don’t need to worry. If your kids see this modeled over and over again and see God come through over and over again, its going to go against logic for them to turn away. Do your best to acknowledge when you’ve gotten this wrong and always give God glory for the things He’s done. That’s a habit that your kids will want to adopt because it feels good to have a grateful heart.
As we look back on our lives, there are mistakes. Many, many mistakes. Your kids will make them too. Don’t be surprised when they do and don’t beat yourself up when it happens. But if they know they are loved, have basic skills and coping methods, and depend on God, you may get to witness world-change by watching your own kids. That’s what I pray for most days. And why not? God wants us to pray big prayers. He’s up for the challenge.