The top five parenting tips… what’s working now

One of the best experiences in my life thus far is being a dad! I am blessed with four little girls (aka “The Ladies”) ages 4, 3, 2, and 2 weeks old! Sherri and I pray about, read about, talk to others about, and constantly analyze our parenting processes. The following are some of the things that are working for us now.

Joining me in this series are two other parents: Aaron Conrad and Rindy Walton.

We are posting based on the ages of our children… mine are the youngest, followed by Aaron and then Rindy.


  • We do not by any means claim to be experts. We are parents working diligently to find the best practices and principles.
  • These principles are not comprehensive. There is more that could be said on the topic of parenting than what we will say over the next three days. These are simply the “Top Five” lessons that we’ve learned or are learning.

And with no further delay, my top five…

  • Children are “Rubber Picassos” – Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from Him.” A few months ago I read the following story:
  • Pablo Picasso’s “dream” painting has turned into a $139 million nightmare for Steve Wynn. In an accident witnessed by a group that included Barbara Walters and screenwriters Nora Ephron and Nicholas Pileggi, Wynn accidentally poked a hole in Picasso’s 74-year-old painting, “Le Reve,” French for “The Dream.” A day earlier, Wynn had finalized a record $139 million deal for the painting of Picasso’s mistress, Wynn told The New Yorker magazine The accident occurred as a gesturing Wynn, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects peripheral vision, struck the painting with his right elbow, leaving a hole the size of a silver dollar in the left forearm of Marie-Theresa Walter, Picasso’s 21-year-old mistress. “Oh s…, look what I’ve done,” Wynn said, according to Ephron, who gave her account in a blog published on Monday. Wynn paid $48.4 million for the Picasso in 1997 and had agreed to sell it to art collector Steven Cohen. The $139 million would have been $4 million higher than the previous high for a work of art, according to The New Yorker. Cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder paid $135 million in July for Gustav Klimt’s 1907 portrait “Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” Wynn plans to restore “Le Reve” and keep it.

  • As I reflected on this verse and this story it occurred to me that though children are high value treasures from God they are a bit more flexible than a treasure on canvas! The point is that one parenting mistake, one bad move (obvious exceptions excluded) won’t ruin my child!
  • What will ruin my child is if I keep making the same parenting mistake over and over and over…
  • Follow me on this one… rubber won’t tear with one bump… but it will soon weaken, stretch, and ultimately rip if we continue to poke it in the same spot!
  • What I’m realizing as a parent is that there is room for error, but not repeated error in the same spot!
  • Lesson: continually evaluate your parenting ideas and practices! If you discover a mistake, apologize and adjust! Don’t worry about making small mistakes; worry about making the same mistake repeatedly.
  • Your child is a treasure, a high value gift from God that won’t be destroyed by one parenting mistake. So relax and enjoy the parenting journey!
  • I’m a better parent when I take care of myself first! I quickly discovered that often the problem in the parent/child relationship was not so much the child as it was me… my response/reaction, my unrealistic expectations, etc.
  • I am learning that my response often sets the tone for what follows! My children, and I’m guessing they’re not the exception, usually respond to my response with an equal amount of anger, frustration, and vocal level! I am the adult. I can set the pace (usually) of the encounter.
  • A verse that has changed my life is Proverbs 17:6, “Parents are the pride of their children.” I want my children to honor, love, and enjoy me as a parent, and I realize that that will only happen as I learn to control myself, respect them, and honor our relationship.
  • I recently shared this quote which I believe sums up this point, “The best gift you can give your child is your own emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual health.”
  • Take care of yourself, and taking care of your children will be much easier.
  • Parent on purpose. I am finding that it is easy to do “Reactive Parenting.” In other words we simply react to our children and/or the events of the day. Reactive parents are not in control. They simply allow circumstances and the whims of unpredictable children to set the course (Child acts… parent reacts). I’ve done this and found that it does not work!
  • When Sherri and I began parenting on purpose (e.g. establishing clear behavioral expectations, goals, etc.) we discovered that though circumstances and children’s attitude’s change we still knew where we were/are going.
  • We want our children to: 1) Love God; 2) Love the church; 3) Be a woman like their mom; and 4) Marry a man like their dad. (You can read more about these “Top four things” here). We know what we want and consequently our parenting decisions, etc. are shaped by these desires.
  • Parenting on purpose is parenting based on a set of goals, and we’re finding that it is much more effective than “reactive parenting.” Parenting for the future is so much more effective than reacting to the present. What we do today, the decisions we make, etc. will matter twenty years from now… and that’s what we’re aiming for!
  • Learn to negotiate; let some stuff go. We’ve discovered that not every issue is a “Non-negotiable”! In fact, we’re learning that there are fewer non-negotiables than negotiables. In other words, we can negotiate more than we do! We’re learning that a lot of the stuff we get fired-up about… isn’t worth the burn!
  • There are enough non-negotiables and issues that we won’t bend on that we want to save our energy and relational capital for those! On everything else there’s room for flex, adaptation, or negotiation.
  • Some examples of negotiables and non-negotiables:
    • Non-negotiable: you will eat dinner with the family at dinner time at the table
    • Negotiable: you may not have to eat every bite
    • Non-negotiable: you will go to bed at bedtime
    • Negotiable: whether or not you have a toy in bed
    • Non-negotiable: You must come when we call
    • Negotiable: The speed at which you come
  • Learning to differentiate between negotiables and non-negotiables has been huge for us!
  • Children are little people with desires, interests, etc. Both parent and child are at their best when we flex and accommodate as much as possible without violating the non-negotiables.
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • Date night with mom. I realize that this may not be applicable for every home. Having said that, this is one of the great lessons we are learning. A couple of thoughts:
  • The primary relationship in the home is the relationship between husband and wife. That relationship existed BEFORE children, and if properly maintained, will exist AFTER children.
  • Sherri and I take a date night every week as a part of maintaining and building our relationship. One of the very cool side effects of that is that “The Ladies” know what a “date” is… and they want to go on one with daddy!
  • I have started taking “The Ladies” out on dates alone with daddy! You can’t imagine how much they, and I, look forward to those times! These times started because of what “The Ladies” saw daddy and mommy doing!
  • I want my girls to want what they see mommy and daddy having, and the best way to do that is to live it out in front of them… and then share it with them!
  • Love your spouse openly, and then share that with your children.

Well, there they are… the top five that are working for us these days!

What’s working for you?

10 thoughts on “The top five parenting tips… what’s working now

  1. Thanks Paul! That is great stuff. I’m finding out how little I know about parenting. I appreciated your thoughts and want to review them again and share them with Philip.

  2. I needed to hear the “Rubber Picasso” Story. I feel a little better.

    And I totally get the Non-Negotiable vs Negotiable stuff. I use that quite often myself. You have to be able to preserve your sanity.

    Good stuff! Thank you!

  3. Great stuff Paul. Thanks for leading this series. Even though mine are just a bit older (not much), I found several things that Heather and I can apply.

  4. You’re building a great foundation that is going to be so important as the ladies get older. The “Rubber Picassos” is so true, if we acknowledge and admit our mistakes and then re-evaluate and change them. And there is hope for those who have already “pushed the canvas” a little too much–you can save it, it will just take some work and it may involve radically changing. The mistakes may always affect and the rubber may never go back to the original, but keep pressing forward…

    “Children are little people with desires, interests, etc.”–this is huge. When we recognize that they are uniquely created, not only with their own desires and interests, but also with their own unique needs, strengths, and struggles…and continually parent with that thought…each child will be respected and guided for who they were created to be.

    Great stuff!!! Thanks for getting this series going!!

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