My Parenting Christmas List

This was my first post about parenting, posted last year. It seemed like a good time to post it again.

The statements below are going to raise some eyebrows and questions … and that’s okay. I’ll explain more afterward so hang in there with me.

  • I don’t want my kids to be safe; I want them to be strong.

  • I don’t want my kids to be smart; I want them to be wise.

  • I don’t want my kids to be healthy; I want them to be whole.

  • I don’t want my kids to be scar-free; I’d rather they be resilient.

  • I don’t want my kids to merely work; I’d rather they understand why they work.

  • I don’t want my kids to be sorry; I want them to fully own their life and actions, be aware of how their choices impact others, and know when to ask for, and extend, forgiveness.

  • I don’t want my kids to feel special; I want them to know who they are, and that they belong.

  • I don’t want my kids to be consumers; I want them to know how to utilize resources, create, and re-purpose.

  • I don’t want my kids to be tolerant; I want them to be respectful and stand for what they believe, instead of being permissive.

  • I don’t want my kids to be educated; I want them to have teachable hearts, constantly learning and seeking, realizing they don’t have all the answers.

  • I don’t want my kids to be dutifully respectful; I want them to have a genuine sense of honor for others.

  • I don’t want my kids to get it right; I want them to dive in, take risks, fail beautifully, succeed gloriously, and know how to handle both with grace and humility.

  • I don’t want my kids to be proud; I want them to see a bigger picture with a genuine sense of gratitude for what they’ve been able to achieve, what they’ve been given, and how much more they can do.

  • I don’t want my kids to be good; I want them to mix things up, blow up injustice, make a difference, and make waves that impact the world around them for the better.

  • I don’t want my kids to be quiet; I want them to risk speaking up, and speak for those who cannot.

  • I don’t want my kids to think I have it all together; I want them to see me try, fail, succeed, struggle, fight for right, question, learn, and press on.

Instead of raising great kids, I want to raise great adults — a generation of mature, functional, responsible adults. Any of the goals listed in the first half of each bullet point above is a worthy achievement. But I see more. I want more.

Helicopter parenting has produced grown children, not adults. We’ve become worshipers of safety and “everyone is a winner.” We’re terrified of offending anyone. We don’t allow our kids to hurt, be disappointed, or struggle.

How else will they learn? Pain is a fabulous teacher. Struggle makes us strong. It teaches us that we still have room to grow and learn, and it builds compassion for others who struggle.

Disappointment forces us to learn how to move on and choose joy, choose forgiveness, choose to look for good. Offending others teaches us that we’re not alone in our choices and actions, that we have to work hard to communicate, confront, dialogue, disagree, forgive while co-existing.

I was a gutless parent when I first married into our family. Confrontation terrified me and I backed off my intended messages and hid from conflict because I was afraid I’d be tyrannical. I can’t tell you how much I regret my lack of understanding — how to stand strong and pull hard on the will and emotional make-up of my girls. Guiding and teaching was easy for me but when it was time for tough love, I was lousy. Over time, I’ve seen them grow into successful adults in spite of me but all around I see parents ushering entitled children into our culture’s future, instead of training young adults.

“No” is an acceptable answer. No explanation needed. Somewhere along the way, a child was offended by that answer and we are seeing the ripple effect.

I want more. I want more for our society and more for our kids. They deserve to know they can be smart, and smart is great, but wisdom requires character and provides something the smart-only people don’t have. With wisdom comes care for those you manage … people skills, and a vision beyond the circumstance. I long to see depth of character in our young adults, matched by their passion and action as they show honor, solve problems, and give generously of their lives.

We can do better. I want to do better. We can model deep, character-rich lives. But our kids need us to intentionally teach them. And parenting doesn’t stop. Ever.

So this is my grown-up Christmas wish: to grow up myself, and to find the teachable hearts in my life. And then pour every good thing I’ve got into them.

If we all do that, I think we will make a difference.

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