How do I, as a parent, define success? The question is a really valid one, and one that deserves to be part of a parenting philosophy that guides your actions.
Do you define success by whether or not you’ve been completely consistent throughout the day? Throughout the child’s life?
Is success defined by kids that bring you honor by their behavior?
Is success defined by kids that make it through adolescence without a major mistake?
Is success defined by kids that are followers of Christ?
Or could it be something completely different?
Let me suggest that successful parenting could be defined not by the product that you produce, but the process of daily parenting.
Because my faith in Jesus guides every aspect of my life and all decisions with my family, I believe that my faith in Jesus should guide my parenting. Therefore, to me, successful parenting has less to do with the outcome of my child’s behavior, and more to do with whether or not my daily parenting brings glory to God.
When it comes down to it, my amazing children all have their own wills and their own stories. I do believe that I have influence over the choices that they make, but I certainly don’t have control over their lives. Since that is the case, the definition of success should be based less on whether or not my kids succeed based on a certain standard, and more on whether or not I’ve brought honor to my faith along the way.
Obviously, because I believe so strongly in finding parenting mentors, and because I’ve read and written quite a bit about parenting, I think there is a lot to being well equipped for the job of parenting. I strongly believe in doing research and studying for this position. However, a lot of advice and a lot of information in books revolves around the idea that, if you follow specific steps to parent, or if you model your parenting around various philosophies, your children will turn out great. The implied message is that if your kids don’t turn out as you hoped, or as you were promised in the book, you did something wrong. You didn’t work the system specifically enough.
I’ve known way too many fantastic parents who did everything “right” but ended up with kids who followed the “wrong” path. One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, a pastor whom I highly respect, had a brother who spent his adult life in jail. The same parents, the same parenting process, a completely different result.
If your instinct is to make yourself feel better by trying to figure out where other parents made their parenting mistakes, what inconsistencies must’ve been in play, what signs they might’ve missed, then you’ve defined parenting success differently than I have.
What I have seen, both in scripture and in life experience, are examples where the right philosophy and methods were used without netting good results, but God was still glorified.
If that is the case, then don’t be so quick to judge yourself (or others) if your kids:
…don’t listen and obey the first time.
….throw temper tantrums repeatedly.
….don’t treat others with kindness even though you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to do so.
…don’t choose the right friends.
…don’t follow the spiritual path you’ve dreamed for them.
Those issues shouldn’t determine whether or not you’ve had success as a parent.
So how do you know if you’re succeeding or not?
I propose that the starting point to answer that question is looking at whether or not your process of parenting glorifies God in each and every parenting opportunity.
If you have to correct your child, did you do it lovingly?
Did you do it with patience?
Were you self controlled?
Did you set the right example?
Did you act out of the spirit instead of the flesh?
Did your behavior point your children to God?
Of course, the above standard is simply a goal – we are not going to be perfect. And the good news is that even our imperfections can point our kids to God if we follow through with humility, ask for forgiveness, and model that though we might fail, we’ll keep on trying through His strength.
Please don’t misunderstand me…I care desperately how my children turn out. I believe that we should forever be working towards training and leading them. I find comfort in Proverbs 22:6 where it says that if we train up our children in the way they should go, then when they’re old they’ll not depart from it.
However, when it is all said and done, it is not about me or my kids, it is about God. If He has been glorified by my actions, whether they be successes or failures, then I have been a success.