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Readers respond: What’s your best parenting advice?

In August, some of Heart to heart’s contributing authors shared their best parenting advice. (If you missed it, read them here!) Then I turned the tables and asked you to submit your best parenting advice. I’m happy to share a few great tidbits with you here. We named this column Heart to heart: Parent conversations because we want to hear from you. Please keep sending your parenting thoughts to fic@wels.net.

In addition, this month I’m sharing a snippet from John Juern’s book, Patient Parenting: Raising Your Kids in the Shadow of the Cross. In this excerpt, Juern goes to the heart of Christian parenting, and it’s a reminder that I need every day. May it bless your family as well.

Nicole Balza

Our readers respond:

What parenting advice do you give?

Don’t hold yourself to the high standards you form in your mind from social media posts and memes! – Sarah Mayer

There is no one perfect way to parent. Soak in the advice given but trust your gut and your God to know what’s best for you and your kiddos. – Mary Hansen 

Read to those littles! – Sallie Draper

Be respectful of, be honest with [your children]. Think of “discipline” as positive proactive motivations to guide and develop favored behaviors rather than punitive means of correction to humiliate. – Ann Hubbard Waltz 

Take nothing for granted. Appreciate your kids no matter what. Be firm, show discipline, but educate them why you are doing it. – Ryan Thomas

I was part of a small group Bible study for dads at my church where a fellow dad shared books that studied why youth will often eventually leave the church and what we can do about it. (Since then I’ve read other articles and a book affirming the information he shared.) Kids will many times leave the church if they don’t see faith play out in their parents’ lives.

It can be easy to take our children to worship and Sunday school and send them to Lutheran schools and think we’re set (and we certainly thank God for using these church leaders to nurture our kids’ faith!). However, children so look up to their parents that what happens at home has a major impact.

We parents should be in the Word at home personally and with our families. We will joyfully attend church and Bible studies. We will show love to others and be intentional about evangelism. We can address life problems from a spiritual perspective and teach our kids that prayer to God is not a last resort but the primary place we should turn. Especially as kids get older we can address challenges against Christianity so that they learn to turn to the Word to “always be prepared” (1 Peter 3:15). We emphasize God’s grace, apologizing and forgiveness, fresh starts.

Just as we help our kids grow in the academic, athletic, and social aspects of life, we guide them in their growth in understanding and practice of their Christian faith.

– Adam Goede

What’s the best parenting advice you received?

Well, my Mami wasn’t a person who gives me [much] advice, but she gives me the best example as a godly woman. I remember clearly—and with tears in my face—her last advice before [I headed] to the USA from my country, El Salvador, when I was 18 years old. She said to me: “Love of my life, take care of yourself. Don’t eat many carbohydrates and eat lots of fruits and veggies. And the most important thing in this life for you is this: Stick to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and never consider to change to another doctrine. Always be a Lutheran girl, attached to the Bible. I pray to the Holy Spirit for this.” I wasn’t very obedient with her food advice, but the Holy Spirit never let me change my faith in my Savior. I’m still a Lutheran girl. Thank you, Jesus, for that! – Dali Campos

Advice from a Christian psychologist

For the Christian child, obedience to parents flows out of a love for Jesus. All of us as Christians—adults or children—do what we do because it’s our way of showing our gratitude for all that the Lord has done for us, beginning with his gracious gift of salvation. The Bible says it this way: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This is a fundamental principle: We obey God by living according to the Ten Commandments, and we live that Christian life out of love for him. So, the essence of all Christian discipline is serving the Lord with our lives.

Loving the Lord doesn’t happen on its own. The Holy Spirit plants the seed for such an obedient life at the moment of Baptism. And God is with Christian parents every day as they teach children that misbehavior and disobedience are sins. It’s really quite simple: Christian parents teach their children that wrong is wrong because it ignores God’s Ten Commandments.

But along with teaching children right from wrong, parents need to tell their children about the wonderful gift of forgiveness that is theirs through faith in Christ Jesus. Their sins are forgiven. That forgiveness brings joy. And the joy is expressed in the children’s obedience. It’s that message of forgiveness that motivates them.

Yes, a child will sin again. And probably again and again. But each time, there is forgiveness and joy and a renewed commitment to do God’s will.

Parents don’t need to go through this explanation every time their child does something wrong. The key is to remain consistent with God’s will in setting rules and expectations for children; let the Ten Commandments set the standard.

There is still an appropriate time and place for time-outs, grounding, other types of punishment. Sin has consequences. Star charts posted on the refrigerator door and surprise hugs can still reinforce good behavior. But these things in and of themselves do not bring about compliant behavior. Christian children obey their parents because they love their Savior.

Reprinted from Patient Parenting: Raising Your Kids in the Shadow of the Cross by John Juern.

 

What’s the best parenting advice you have received?

Years before I became a mother, I wrote a news article for Forward in Christ in which I interviewed a dad who described his nightly ritual of blessing his young daughter before she went to sleep. He noted, “Blessing your child is not hocus pocus. When I bless Kayla, I am asking the Lord to keep my daughter in the faith forever. It’s another tool that I can use to demonstrate my love for Christ and for my child, based on the love that Christ showed for me.”

That idea resonated with me, and after my daughter was born, I began blessing her each night. I’ve continued the ritual with my sons as well.

Do you have a piece of parenting advice that has stuck with you through the years? If so, please share it with us! Send your advice to fic@wels.net.

And that dad I interviewed? When I started compiling authors for this column, I knew I wanted him to be a part of it. So, you can find his advice below. He’s contributing author Dan Nommensen.

Nicole Balza is staff editor of Heart to heart: Parent conversations, Forward in Christ magazine’s monthly parenting column. She and her husband, Rob, have three children ranging in age from 5 to 13.


There have been a number of people in life who have either demonstrated or shared this important piece of parenting advice that I have kept on my heart.  In our confessional Lutheran understanding of Scripture, we treasure a right understanding of the importance of God’s law and gospel. Yet I must admit that my tendency is to lean on the law side of my parenting approach.  The encouragement that I have received, and try to pass on to others, is not to neglect the importance of the gospel.  The pure understanding that I am forgiven, a saint, a new creation through the work of Christ is what sets my heart looking for ways to demonstrate my love for God—not because I have to, should, or must, but because I can’t help but look for opportunities to be thankful.  This is our treasure!  Don’t leave it to a chance understanding for your kids.

Live in joy with your children and be intentional in sharing the gospel with them so they too can be motivated by Christ’s love.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and son.


Sam and I have given this some real thought. Independent of each other, we both wrote down the same  parenting  advice my father gave us early  in our parenting journey:

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, and pretty much everything is small stuff.”

Such a seemingly simple saying and yet so full of wisdom!

Mary Clemons and her husband, Sam, have three children and seven grandchildren.


Here’s mine. I got it from a priest named Zechariah (Luke 1).

Take your child in your arms every night and speak into their heart the truth.

Don’t be afraid to tell them what this world is really like. It’s dark and deadly outside, Zechariah said (cf. Luke 1:79). Then show them God’s Son who has come to dispel the darkness. His love arises for us like the sun each day, bright and warm. Say something like, “Tomorrow, my child, you will awaken to a bright new day in God’s love.” Let it be the lullaby of their life that wraps them up secure each night no matter what the darkness.

I’m borrowing metaphors and images from Zechariah’s great canticle and imagining the scene there where he sings by the Spirit, saying, “You, my child” (Luke 1:76). Luke marks it in Scripture as a truly Spirit-led parenting moment.

Jonathan Bourman and his wife, Melanie, have a six-year-old daughter.

What’s the best parenting advice you give?

I have two pieces of advice.

First, I encourage young parents to cultivate a spirit of empathy and service in their children.

Start early by finding a cause that your family is passionate about and volunteer for that cause regularly. Help kids to understand the motivation behind serving others (1 John 4:19) and the joy it brings to all involved. Send a clear message that serving others doesn’t need to come with compensation or reward—we do it out of love for those around us and for the God who created us. In serving, we also come to appreciate all the blessings that God has showered upon us!

Then, I encourage parents to teach children the value of work and how to work, starting at a very young age.

As soon as they are able, give children age-appropriate chores, then add responsibility as they get older. Teach them that all members of a family need to contribute to keep a household running smoothly. Once they are old enough, encourage them to secure a job outside the home to help them learn the value of work and responsibility with finances. After all, one of our main jobs as parents is to raise our children to be productive members of society!

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three 20-something sons.


My favorite advice: “Say yes first.”

My toddler wants ice cream right before dinner? “Yes! That sounds yummy. Let’s eat supper as fast as we can so we can have ice cream!”

My over-stretched middle schooler wants to take on a paper route? “Yes! That sounds great. What are some factors to think through before you sign on? Can you foresee anything you wouldn’t like about it? And you do know I won’t be getting up to help you, right?”

My high schooler is thinking about studying art or music at a pricey college? “Yes! How could we make it work? And what will you do with your art or music degree?”

When we say yes first to our kids, we’re shifting the responsibility to them.

They have to weigh the ramifications. And if they choose unwisely, they have to live with the consequences. That’s what growing up is all about.

And the best benefit? Saying yes means they’ll keep coming to us with all their schemes and dreams. They know we’re not the dream crusher. We’re the cheerleader! We’re excited to watch them decide how they’re going to take a big bite out of life and make a mark on the world.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her adult daughter and son and his teenage son.

A lesson from my dad

He listened quietly and patiently while I poured out my frustrations concerning the new place I was living. Out tumbled discontent with my job, the church, the choir, the location, and more. When I finished my long string of aggravations, there was a brief pause. Then, “Well, I am sorry to hear all of that. Life isn’t always easy, nor what you had hoped. But, God does have a plan and purpose for your life there. Grow where you are planted, Rachel.”

Rachel and her dad, James.

Rachel and her dad, James.

As we hung up the phone I have to admit I was far from satisfied with Dad’s answers. I don’t really know what I was hoping for, but “grow where you’re planted” was not it. At least that is what I thought in that moment.

As I considered what he said, I realized it was what Dad had been teaching me all along—through new family houses, financial hardships, the anxiety of his pastoral calls, different schools, moving hours away for college and law school, breakups, and job loss. It was, in fact, even an intrinsic part of my confirmation verse that he, as my pastor, had chosen: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The context for this Bible passage was the Lord finally allowing the Israelites to enter the promised land of Canaan. God gave them the promised land but didn’t promise them a perfect life in that land.

Dad has shown me this throughout my life.

God puts us in certain places and situations for a reason. We can either follow God’s command to not be afraid and discouraged, living our lives to reflect his love and be joyful in our circumstances—or wallow in self-pity and push away our loving God who has plans beyond measure for us.

Life has changed significantly since that phone call. I have since married; become a mom of four children; moved two more times to two different states, two different churches, and three different companies, yet I continue to apply Dad’s advice.

Rachel Learman is the daughter of James Aderman, one of Heart to heart‘s contributing authors.