I am not a parent. I’ve never given birth to a child and guided it through infancy into childhood and then into teenhood and adulthood. I haven’t had to be in charge of potty training and teething and discipline and all of those other fun things I see my friends and sisters go through with their kids.
But. I work with kids every single day in the classroom, and I see many devastating consequences from certain parenting choices. And because of that, I just need to pause and thank those of you parents who are committed to doing it right, even when it’s really, really hard.
To begin with, parents, thank you for your strong marriages.
What do I know about strong marriages? Well, let me tell you what I know about the effects of broken marriages – they’re living, breathing little souls who have so much hurt and confusion shining in their eyes.
I’ve seen the violent rage that comes from a boy with no active father in his life. I’ve had a girl tell me she learned more from me – her teacher – than her own mother. I’ve seen a kid be so confused by shifting week by week from mom’s house to dad’s house that he had no apparent respect for authority left.
Kids feel most safe and secure when they have a mom and a dad who love each other and who are committed in their marriage to each other. How do I know this? Well, there’s research that supports it, but I can also speak from personal experience. Growing up, I never once doubted that my mom and dad loved each other and always would – and that fidelity to one another and commitment to Christ above all gave our home the strongest foundation that it needed.
Parents, when you take the time to invest in your husband or wife, you are also investing in your kids – because they need that underlying support system to be well-adjusted and secure. They don’t have to fear the home crumbling beneath them because they have a mom and a dad who are working really hard to keep it strong.
So, thank you for taking date nights. Thank you for supporting each other. Thank you for demonstrating healthy conflict resolution. Thank you for showing one another that you love each other in front of your kids – because they need it so badly.
Also, parents, thank you for genuinely investing in your kids and celebrating their successes.
When the light goes out in their eyes because dad barely glances at their certificate that they were so proud of … when the shoulders slump slightly because mom isn’t even paying attention to their celebration of learning at their conference … when the parents are looking more at their phones than their kids … when the kids tell me they’re tired because they were up until 1am playing video games – my heart breaks every time.
Some kids have parents who think the earth revolves around them and they can do no wrong. But some kids are simply crying out for their parents to look at them and really see them for who they are.
So, to you parents who are cheering your kids on and shouting encouragement at their baseball games – thank you. To you parents who get excited when your kid comes running home to tell you about his new favorite book – thank you. To you parents who go out for ice cream to celebrate great grades on report cards – thank you. To you parents who might not be able to afford every latest activity, but who give your child a wealth of positive family nights with movies or games or walks through the park – thank you.
You might think it’s no big deal. Certainly I thought those things were normal growing up. But all it takes is to hear the one child whisper while watching a scene in the movie where parents are tickling their kid around the dinner table, “I wish my parents were like that,” to know the aching void that exists when it’s not there.
And finally, parents, thank you for modeling kind, firm, consistent discipline and character development on a regular basis.
Thank you for following through, even when it’s not easy, to teach your kids to respect authority and the consequences that come from not following the rules.
Thank you for being kind, even when administering discipline and not calling your child hurtful names that ring in their ears long after they’re said.
Thank you for being firm and not giving in, even when they whine and complain, to teach them that the world does not revolve around them and they need to learn appropriate boundaries.
Thank you for backing up the decisions of other authorities to teach your children not to be entitled – and that consequences from others also matter.
Thank you for teaching your kids to work hard and helping them learn their own discipline. Thank you for modeling to them the kind of character they should be forming every day.
I know that there’s a lot of pressure on parents and even reading a list like that might make you feel slightly guilty because you aren’t perfect at it. No one is asking you to be perfect. We all fail at parenting and teaching because we’re human, and we can talk too sharply and be too demanding from time to time.
But I know that you love your kids to death and that love covers a multitude of failures. I know that you have so much to give to them and that at the end of the day it will show in their manners, in their smiles, and in the way they interact with others.
Thank you for doing this brave thing called parenting and raising up the next generation – who, because of your example, will believe in strong families, strong marriages, and strong parents.
How do I know this? Because that’s exactly how I was raised – by parents who did all of these things and more. Because of them, I know it’s entirely possible to raise kids who aren’t complete failures (hopefully I’m not flattering myself too much!). And if I ever get the opportunity to be a parent, I pray that I can do it like them – and for the glory of Christ and His kingdom.