3 Ways Parents Can Lead Their Kids Well

Arlene Pellicane
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You’ve probably seen a parent walking through a crowd with a toddler wearing a leash. Tweak that picture and think of a child walking a parent on a leash instead. Preposterous? Sure, but that is how we behave sometimes. We find ourselves at the beck and call of our children. The children direct where we go, what we eat, what we watch, and when we sleep. Parents become overqualified servers, cooks, and chauffeurs.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, says:

The Bible is very clear that parents are responsible for the rearing of children. We will get help from the school and the church, but it’s still our responsibility. I think some of the key elements are to have clear rules following God’s model, clear consequences if you break the rule, and consistency in applying those consequences. That’s the way God treats us, and that’s the model for parents.

If you’re ready to make the switch and call the shots with your toddler, child, tween, or teen, here are three proven ideas to get you unleashed and launched into leadership.

1. Leverage the power of consequences.

Create negative consequences that speak loudly and clearly to your individual children. Natural consequences are best. If your child yells at you because you won’t let her watch another TV program, the natural consequence would be no TV the next day. When your child disobeys or misbehaves, the consequence should be so swift and decisive your child will think twice before pulling a stunt like that again. Consequences must be enforced, no matter how inconvenient, so your child believes you mean what you say.

“Don’t be afraid to step up and lead your children.”

Don’t be discouraged as you begin these consequences. Realize you may inadvertently have trained your child to ignore your first (and second and third) warning. It will take time, patience, and perseverance to change this pattern, but it can be done.

2. Don’t count on your children to meet your emotional needs.

If you’re depending on your children to be your closest confidants and support system, it puts an undue burden on them and subtly hands them the power to manipulate you. If you depend heavily on the approval and love of your kids, you won’t want to rock the boat with your kids. You’ll let your teen go to the dance against your better judgment because you don’t want her to be mad at you. You’ll get your eight-year-old that video game so he’ll think you’re the greatest or lavish you with a hug.

Instead of looking to your children to meet your emotional needs, look to God and other adults. Get yourself emotionally healthy and fed so you have the resources to parent well. You might join a small group for parents at your church or have a monthly dinner date with your spouse or trusted friends of the same sex. Chat with the children’s minister at your church, and ask if he or she knows another family you might click with. As John Townsend writes in his book Boundaries With Teens, “Parents can’t support their child if they are depending on him to be their support system. So don’t look to your teen for support. Reach out for connection elsewhere.”

3. Seek wisdom.

Wisdom isn’t easily found on the surface of life. You won’t find it in headlines, sitcoms, billboard music charts, or video games. You must mine for it. The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). What a great promise from God! Search for wisdom regarding parenting in the Bible and through prayer. Take an older, wiser parent out for coffee and ask for advice. Job 12:12 asks, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” At a friend’s church, every middle schooler and high schooler is matched up with an older member of the congregation for mentoring, and many adults of all ages have mentors within the church family. Even if your church doesn’t offer formal mentoring programs, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pastor and ask for help to find a mentor.

You might even find a mentor in your own family. When Noelle was two, we engaged in the ever-popular battle over naptime. I’d place her into bed. She’d pop out of her room, look for me, hug me, and run back into bed. You may think, “How cute.” But it wasn’t cute the fifteenth time she did it. I told her to stay in the room and that the door handle was a “no.” She nodded her head in agreement, then a few moments later proceeded to grab the “no” door handle and rush out with abandon.

I tried different forms of discipline without much success. I sought wisdom from James, who coached me to keep the mindset to win. It was like the Winston Churchill quote, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

The next day I tried again. I took away her doll, then her bear, then her blanket, then her teething ring. We went back and forth, like two boxers in a ring. Then finally, the little boxer fell asleep. After a few days like this, the battle was won. I wrote in my journal on December 3, 2008, trying to encourage myself to stand firm in my resolve, “There’s nothing more important than taking advantage of the parenting moment and showing Noelle I am consistent and that rules are to be followed.”

Remember the clarion call. We are your parents. We love you. We are in charge. The greater culture hinges on what happens in the microcosm of our homes. Don’t be afraid to step up and lead your children. Your decisions won’t always be popular with your kids. I feel a kid’s T-shirt slogan coming on: “Someday I will thank my parents for being parents.”

For Further Reading:

Parents Rising

by Arlene Pellicane

How to raise godly children in a godless world Do you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle? Against the culture, against the...

book cover for Parents Rising