With three young children, my wife, Monica, and I are still in the middle of the parenting “experiment.” I'm still learning, failing, and growing as a parent. But having spent the last 11 years leading in Young Adult Ministry, I also have a unique perspective: I’ve spent the last 11 years seeing the results of other parent's parenting. Having interacted with tens of thousands of twentysomethings who are fresh out of the nest, I’ve had the opportunity to observe some of the parenting patterns in their lives. I’ve also been privileged to closely observe our Elders’ families and other families here at Watermark and learn from their example. I believe this to be true: extraordinary young adults often come from extraordinary parents, and extraordinary parents often share common practices.
Below are ten habits of extraordinary parents I have observed. If you’re a parent, I hope you’ll join me in trying to move from being a ordinary parent to an extraordinary one. If this seems daunting, please be encouraged. I am tempted daily to fall into the patterns of ordinary parenting. My prayer is that by sharing some of the things I’ve learned from extraordinary parents I’ve interacted with, we can all do better.
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10 Habits of Extraordinary Parents
Extraordinary means “weird” or “remarkable.” God calls us to do things different than the world. Christians are called to parent differently; to be “weird” parents; to parent extraordinarily.
1. Extraordinary Parents See Children as a Blessing
Monica badly wanted children quickly after we got married. I did not. Every day, I felt like I was holding something from her that she really wanted. I wanted to enjoy each other, make money, and see the world. Ultimately she was sad, and my prerogative prevented us from enjoying each other, so I caved. We got pregnant, and it was hard. Lots of tears and nine months with very little sleep affirmed my resistance. But then, I read Psalm 127, realizing that God says children are a blessing. If I see them as anything but a blessing, I am missing the heart of God. As The Lord helped me see them as a blessing I was able to enjoy them for the first time. Since then, we have a lot of fun together and I truly look forward to time with them.
Ordinary parents see children as an inconvenience that causes them to have to change the way they live. They’re nuisances that get in the way of their preferences. Extraordinary parents see kids as a blessing. For more watch this Real Truth. Real Quick. on birth control.
Do you see your children as a blessing?
Psalm 127:3-5: Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
2. Extraordinary Parents Teach Boundaries
A child’s heart is a container where information is stored. The information gets there by conversations with friends, friend’s siblings, friend’s parents, teachers, tv shows, smart phones, devices, and conversations with their parents. This means parents have a lot of competition in regards to who influences their children with information. Extraordinary parents work hard to protect what info gets stored in their child’s heart.
Ordinary parents don’t let their kids be bored. They let them entertain themselves every second on their phones, Kindles, or ipads. Ordinary parents let them date too early – before they’re ready for marriage – so that emotional hurt is sure to happen. Ordinary parents don’t want to pry into their phones, computers, or text messages. They sit naively by while their child has a gateway to any explicit thing Satan might put in front of them. Ordinary parents don’t know what apps their kids have and what they are for. They send their kids overnight to places where they have no idea what the topic of conversation will be after midnight, or what else might take place. Extraordinary parents teach their children how to protect their heart.
Do you teach your kids about boundaries?
Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
3. Extraordinary Parents Make the Most of Moments
Ordinary parents let the church teach their kids about God’s plan for their lives. Ordinary parents look to outsource discipleship. God’s plan to pass on His values to the next generation is through parents. This is a very important calling. Extraordinary parents look for teachable moments. Consider morning time, meal times, drive times, and evening time.
Do you make the most of MOMENTS for teaching your children? Strategically focus on four times you have with your children—morning time, meal time, drive time, and evening time.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 : Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
4. Extraordinary Parents Live as Examples
Ordinary parents say Jesus is important and they tell their kids that they need to know God’s word, but their lives say otherwise. Their lives prioritize work, stuff, sports, and other things over God. Ordinary parents tell their kids to respect authority, but then they bash their boss, the police officer who gave them a ticket, or governmental authorities. Every week I hear stories of how kids came to the faith through their parent's extraordinary example. Their parents would wake up early and study the scriptures. Dads would write verses on bathroom mirrors. Moms would place scripture in their lunch boxes.
I also hear from young adults who grew up in “Christian homes,” but they experienced some hypocrisy from their parents that turned them off to faith. The most loving thing we can do for our kids is model an authentic relationship with Jesus.
Do you live as an example? Your life teaches your children what you think is important. The best thing you can do for your children is to have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
5. Extraordinary Parents Ask for Forgiveness Frequently
Extraordinary parents still make mistakes, but they also own their mistakes. Ordinary parents don’t make mistakes. They are too prideful to see and own their wrongs. The humblest young adults I know often learned humility from parents who modeled it by asking for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness turns mistakes into memorable, teachable moments. When is the last time you’ve asked you child for forgiveness? If a month has gone by, it’s probably too long.
Do you ask for forgiveness frequently?
Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
1John 1:8: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
6. Extraordinary Parents Discipline Consistently, Calmly and With Care
Ordinary parents avoid the inconvenience of discipline. Ordinary parents protect kids from consequences. They are like thermostats that try to keep their kids comfortable constantly. Ordinary parents discipline out of anger. Ordinary parents use strength and volume to intimidate as a short cut. They teach their kids to fear their parents more than the wrong they did.
Extraordinary parents approach discipline like a referee; they are clear, consistent and calm. A referee is not upset when a player jumps offside. He doesn’t tell the lineman how disappointed he is in him. He clearly communicates the offense, calmly communicates the predetermined consequence, and he enforces it every single time. Todd Wagner shares this illustration in this message.
The most recognizable pattern I’ve seen in ministering to tens of thousands of young adults is that extraordinary kids were disciplined consistently with care.
Do you discipline your children consistently, calmly, and with prayer? This is the single most important thing you can do for your children.
Proverbs 13:24: Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
Hebrews 12:11: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
7. Extraordinary Parents Pray Persistently
Ordinary parents stay stressed, wondering where they can turn to for help. Extraordinary parents understand that worry and prayer take the same amount of energy. They understand that worry is a faithless waste of time, while prayer is powerfully productive. Why worry when you can pray?
Do you pray persistently for your children? Prayer is the real work of parenting.
1 Samuel 12:23: Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.
Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
8. Extraordinary Parents Become Students of Their Children
Ordinary parents live vicariously through their children. They try to give them the life they wanted, rather than the life God wants for them. Ordinary parents believe one-size-fits-all in parenting.
Extraordinary parents understand that their kids have unique gifts and sin patterns. Parenting them well starts with understanding how God made them, and what works He’s prepared them for.
Are you becoming a student of your children? What are their gifts? What are their sin patterns? Knowing these things will help you to shepherd them to unleash their gifts and better deal with their sin patterns.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23: To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Ephesians 2:10: For they are God’s incredible creation, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
9. Extraordinary Parents Understand That Their Presence Is the Greatest Present
Ordinary parents think a trip once a year to Disney World is enough. Ordinary parents seek to provide more “stuff,” when the “stuff” kids need most is more of their parents' time.
It’s been said that rules without relationship lead to rebellion.
If there was a scoreboard in parenting, time with our kids is how we would put up points. Any investment of quality time is a “point.” Disneyworld “counts” just as much as tee-ball practice or a bedtime story. They are all an investment of time. The “where” is less important than the “who.” One day the buzzer is going to go off in the form of high school graduation and our opportunity for investing time will be over. There will be no more “points” to score.
Do you understand that presence is the greatest present you can give them? Remember that "rules without relationship equals rebellion." You cannot know your children without spending time with them. Kids spell love T-I-M-E.
Psalm 90:12: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
10. Extraordinary Parents Know That Only Grace Makes Parents Extraordinary
Grace covers a multitude of parenting mistakes. Sometimes extraordinary kids come from broken homes or abusive backgrounds, and God redeems their upbringing.
Sometimes great homes produce prodigals that haven’t returned. Obedience is not always defined by the outcome. We take too much credit when our kids turn out well, and too much blame when they don’t.
Israel had the best Father anyone could ask for in God, but even they rebelled.
Do you know that only grace makes extraordinary parents? God's grace covers a multitude of parenting mistakes. Let Him continue to parent you as you parent your children.
Isaiah 1:2: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.
Additional Parenting Resources
- Message: Extraordinary Parenting
- 16 Things to Convince Your Children of Before 16
- Parenting's Dirty Dozen: How to Exasperate Your Child
- 2005 Parenting Conference (4 Part Series)
- 2016 Dad's Class (5 Part Series)
- RTRQ: How Many Children Should A Christian Family Have?
- RTRQ: Is It Okay For A Christian To Use Birth Control?
- RTRQ: Should I Give My Child An iPhone Or iPad?
- Check Out This Link for Additional Parenting Resources
- 5 Characteristics Of A Godly Man, and 44 Verses To Help You Become One
- 5 Characteristics Of A Godly Woman, And 43 Verses To Help you Become One