Years ago, I heard an analogy that just didn’t make as much sense to me until I was a parent, myself: “Parents should be the thermostats that set the spiritual temperature of the home, not thermometers that reflect it.” I thought it was an interesting and sensible idea, certainly in keeping with the biblical idea of parents giving direction to their kids, rather than the other way around.
Now, that I’m a parent myself, I’m beginning to understand how difficult it is to remain in control of the home environment, when your kids don’t seem to be cooperating with your goals. If you struggle with this, too, here are two tips that have helped me become a better thermostat. (No, I’m not quite there yet, but at least I’m heading in the right direction . . . most days.)
Re-evaluate Your Goals
Perhaps you want a perfectly quiet, orderly home. Is that really a reasonable expectation with children of any age living there? Some ideals are simply not realistic, and we frustrate ourselves and our kids and teens when we measure our world against the perfect one that really only exists in our heads or in still shots we see in magazines.
I absolutely love this oft-pinned plaque, especially the part that says “we do loud really well.” I love how it seems almost out of place amid words like “love,” “prayer,” “grace,” and “love” and yet it seems to fit in perfectly. I also love this definition of a boy: “noise with dirt on it.”
Why do I love those sayings? Not because I like loud or dirt, but because I need to be reminded that those aspects of childhood and family life are, well, part of childhood and family life. They may not fit in with my images of ideal life, but they’re real. Sometimes we need to separate our too-high expectations from truly godly goals.
Concentrate on Yourself
Now, I’m not saying we should neglect our kids or fail to instruct them about good behavior or righteous living. However, our tendency is often to concentrate so much on trying to get them to do what they’re supposed to that we neglect our own Christian character.
Not only is modeling right behavior an integral part of training our kids, but failing to do so can nullify our verbal attempts at instruction. What’s more, we’re responsible to God for our own thoughts, words, actions, and even those knee-jerk reactions to disobedient or even rebellious children in our homes.
Responding in a spiritual way means exhibiting fruit of the Spirit – patience, long suffering, gentleness, temperance – and that can be a real challenge, at times. When our kids act out, we can choose to respond in kind or we can choose to respond graciously, in a way that helps set a positive tone.
As we re-evaluate our goals and set more realistic ones and then concentrate on our own behavior, first, we’ll be in a better place to guide our kids and teens and prayerfully address their shortcomings.