I’m thinking of starting a new organization, ‘Parents Anonymous’ for all the parents who are weaving their way on this parenting road, falling and getting back up, grumbling and shouting, and crying and rejoicing. I am a single mom of 3 wonderful young men, ages 17, 15, and 12. Their father has not had any part of their lives for over 8 years. I am honored that Paul has included me in this series, but I feel like standing up and declaring, “My name is Rindy…and I’m a parent”. I am just a parent on that same road, praying that once in a while I get it right and that God smooths it over when I don’t.
My “Top Five” lessons are not all inclusive, but continue to stand out against the test of time and circumstances:
5. Stay relevant and current – Learning what is important and relevant to my kids shows them that I believe they are important. I try to be a part of their lives. Whether it has been Barney the Dinosaur, Larry the Cable Guy or ‘my friends’ on MySpace, I am interested. I listen to their music, discover the latest trends, and learn the lingo. Not only does this become a catalyst for conversations, but it is also a way to help protect and guide thoughts and decisions. I don’t always agree with their style choices, but it’s what lies beneath that matters.
4. Have alone time – Knowing someone requires spending time with them. My guys are each individuals with different personalities, thoughts, and dreams. Spending 1:1 time with them has helped me discover who they are and are becoming. Setting aside time shows that they are a priority and that I value them as unique and special. The time may be spent going out to breakfast, kayaking, reading a book together, or any activity that shuts out distractions and opens the door. Be laid back, have no hidden agendas, enjoy and let the fun and conversations flow!
Alone time also means taking time being away from the kids. This I learned by making the mistake of sacrificing all my interests and time putting all their activities first and foremost. By doing this to the extreme, my kids learned that my life is second and less important. It focused their attention onto themselves and it has taken effort to shift that away. It’s not always about them…my life matters too.
3. Be open and honest – Kids see more than they hear and my accountability has increased tremendously by being a parent. I want to model behavior, say what I mean, and explain why I make the decisions I do. To be honest with them, I must be honest with myself. When I mess up, I admit it, apologize, and give them time to digest it. Being open has meant sharing struggles and failures. There is nothing that forces accountability and honesty more than when my kids confront me with an issue I thought I had hidden. Yes, being open and honest often means being vulnerable, but kids know anyway! Being real gives them permission to be real themselves. Kids learn very early what needs to be tucked away and the walls only get bigger as the issues grow! Not building walls is a lot easier than trying to tear them down.
2. Show respect and significance – To respect is to consider worthy of high regard; to refrain from interfering with; acceptance; worth; value; connection. To show significance is to show they are worth it and important. I try to recognize that my guys are developing their own thoughts, opinions, and interests. Their needs change as they grow and those needs may or may not match mine. For example, my need for wanting to know where my 17 year old is has to mesh with his need for increased independence and privacy. A parent can force a child to do just about anything, but real parenting encourages and appreciates. In other words shows respect and significance.
1. Love them completely and unconditionally – and make sure they know it! Unconditional love is love no matter what. It is security to make mistakes and take chances. It is acceptance and forgiveness. I don’t always like or agree with my guys’ behavior or choices, but I always love them. It is so important to separate the behavior from the person. My kids have made mistakes, hurt others, and yes, hurt me. They have said “I hate you”, gotten into trouble at school, and intentionally manipulated and lied. Loving them does not make those things ok. They still deal with the natural consequences, but they know that I am always there through it all.
Love needs to be shown too. I try to often say, “I love you”, give hugs, or give little surprises (like out for ice cream, notes of appreciation, or something goofy and crazy). Flashing them a wink or the sign language “I love you” from across the room shows connection when others are around and gives support without words. Public appreciation, displays of affection, or praise needs to be tailored to each child and used in moderation. My teens just go with it, roll their eyes and call me weird…but then join in and give it right back!
Following a recipe gives the same results every time. Parenting would be so much easier if that’s all we had to do. There are no guarantees. We can put in all the right ingredients and still not get what we hoped for or expected. Continually striving to be better parents, praying, and trusting that God will do the rest is the best recipe we can try to follow.
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