Practicing with Children

Fourteen steps to be a better parent

I’m just kidding.

With the proliferation of lists for the coming New Year, resolutions and a better life, I wanted to share a brief story with you.

Eight years ago, I was a bad dad.

Nearly New Year's Eve 2013

Nearly New Year’s Eve 2013

I didn’t abuse my kids, physically or verbally, but I also didn’t pay attention to them. More often than not, I saw them as an interruption to what I’d rather be doing. It didn’t really matter what I had been up to: working on something at home, studying, watching a movie, etc., time with them wasn’t my highest priority. It wasn’t the second highest. Daresay, it wasn’t even third.

But then I read through a 3 book series called “The Good and Beautiful: God, Life, and Community” and things shifted for me. I started to see that I had been selfish and that I have a precious little amount of time to spend with these young souls. I saw that in doing things like spending Sabbath with them, listening to them tell me of their days, watching their steps and talking to them about better choices, I changed.

A significant contribution to this change was a definition from Dallas Willard. He said that to love someone is to “will their good.” So I started to do just that: Love.

One day, I’ve written about this before, my daughter was ringing a chime hanging in the kitchen and I saw her smile as she did this. I realized that having ignored her, having been inattentive, not loving as a I could, hadn’t permanently damaged her. She still experienced joy and I could do better.

This isn’t magic; it’s work. Even now I have to set aside my self and pay attention, but I don’t regret the times I do set my self aside. And am often (not always) rewarded with unforgettable moments. There aren’t fourteen or even steps, really to being a better parent. I might be able to cook them up, but it boils down to one thing: Love. Will their good. Gently instruct. Patiently listen. Set aside self. Love.

Happy New Year and thanks for being a part of this community.

AT

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One thought on “Fourteen steps to be a better parent

  1. as a parent I really identify with this essay! the children can be so distracting from things that are important to me – but then they’re grown, and I try to remember the activities we did together.

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