Three Ways to Maximize Your Effectiveness as a Parent
by Kristina Matz
We all want to be as effective as we can in life. It's why we all love "life hacks" so much! Like 1/2 tsp. of baking soda when you hard boil your eggs to get easily removable shells. Or pressing a hot spoon onto a mosquito bite to destroy the reaction and stop the itching. (Seriously, just search "life hacks" on Pinterest! You're welcome.) Think of this as a list of three "effective parenting hacks". I warn you, they are not as easy as adding backing soda or applying a hot spoon, but they are infinitely more valuable!
1. Join the 5am Club
This summer I read the book Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters. It was a great book and I would absolutely recommend it. It’s also a quick read, win win! In the book they talk about the 5am Club, which is the group of people who have started getting up at 5am to start their day. And as they state in the book, it doesn’t have to be the 5am Club. Maybe, because of your schedule, you could be a part of the 6am Club. The point is that we are rising early, while the house is still quiet, in order to get a jump start on our day.
The truth is, if I do not carve out time for the Lord, just He and I, first thing in the morning, it will just not happen. I will still be in prayer throughout the day and I will even fight to still read my bible, but I will not have the quiet and the attention that I ought to have during that most precious time. Another truth, if I do not spend ample time with the Father before my children rise and begin to share their needs with me, I will not be as gracious and as patient as I ought to be with them. (Just me?!) Christ, Himself, paved the way for us in His example
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed." - Mark 1:35
So the bottom line is this, if you want to become a more effective parent, rise early and prioritize your time with the Lord before the rest of the day’s tasks (and little people) begin to call to you.
2. Prioritize Your Spouse
Effective parenting begins with obedience to God’s design for our families. We live in a culture that is overrun by child centered homes. In fact, we might be surprised to know how many child centered families sit in the pews right next to us every Sunday in church. But that is not what God intended for our families to look like.
Scripture charges husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), even to love their wives as they love their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28). Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22, 24; Colossians 3:18) in everything. Nowhere in the whole of Scripture will you see this type of language used in relationship to parents and their children. The type of love that a husband is commanded to have for his wife is not the same as he is to have for his children. And mothers are not meant to submit to their children, though this is the very core of a child centered home. We have succumbed to the temptation from culture to let our children run our families. Even if you do not have a child that stands in the middle of your home barking orders at you, you might subtly be allowing your children to dictate what happens in your home and in your family. If you find yourself saying (or even thinking), “We cannot do that because Suzy just wouldn’t go for it…” or “Billy just won’t let me…”, you are allowing your child to be the center of your home. For more specifics of what this looks like I would highly recommend the book Child Training Tips by Reb Bradley.
God is not glorified in a family that does not conform to His design. And we hamper our own effectiveness when we deter from the manual. Putting our spouse first is what God designed, it is what He delights in! And only when we prioritize them and their needs can we truly thrive in the role that God has called us to as parents. And let us not forget, our children are watching. We are training them far more with our actions that with our words. If we read to them from Scripture, but do not model that same Word in our lives, we harm them greatly. All the things that we believe we are doing for our children’s good are really meant for their harm because they are being done contrary to God’s Word.
So do you have to finish the laundry? Cancel a playdate. Do you have to make that phone call? Say “no” to the playground. Does your spouse love mushroom soup? Make it, even if your children hate mushrooms.
So the bottom line is this, trust God that His plan for your family is what will ultimately bring about the most effectiveness in your parenting!
3. Say “No” to the Majority of Your Ideas & Desires
While the temptation to prioritize our children above our spouse is all too real, there is another temptation that we need to address if we want to become more effective in our parenting. And that is the temptation to prioritize our self above everyone else!
There are often times that I decide a thing is important in my own mind and then I become enslaved to that idea. The problem is, it is just an idea. It did not come from the Lord and it did not even come from my husband. It started in my own mind and then it took a deep root and my pride does not want to let it go. I can then forsake the duties that are mine as a parent for the sake of seeing this idea come to fruition. Nonsense, right? But if this is happening to me, I am going to guess that it is happening to at least one of you, too (maybe two of you…). I need to continually say “no” to a lot of the things that float around in my head. Just because it’s a “good idea” doesn’t mean it’s an idea that I should pursue.
The same can be said for our desires. For example, some days I want very much to have some time to exercise. Maybe I am finally feeling good after healing from a cold or maybe I would just love the feeling of sweating and releasing those wonderful endorphins. Now, exercise is a good thing. It keeps my heart healthy and helps me to have the energy I need to do the things that God has called me to do. But some days it becomes clear that the greater need is the care of my children. Maybe one of them is not feeling 100% and shouldn’t be around other kiddos until they are well. Or maybe one is having some more serious discipline issues that deserve my full attention. But, I admit, there are times that I will overlook these things in order to get what I want. That is sin. Look at what Paul says in Philippians…
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” - Philippians 2:3-4
I need to look past my own selfish interests to the interests (and needs) of my children. And this is not about submitting to my children’s fleeting whims and demands, but about tending to their care and correction as Christ has called me to.
So the bottom line is this, I need to learn to say “no” to my unprofitable ideas and to my selfish desires if I am to become a more effective parent.