If you’re looking for an “expert”, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Many well intentioned people make the false assumption that having five children makes me a parenting expert. If anything, having a bunch of little ones only serves to accentuate a brutal reality: I have no idea what I’m doing.
But who cares! Admitting my lack of control over the future is actually pretty freeing. It makes focusing on the complicated demands of today a little easier.
So when it comes to being a dad, I’m somewhere in the “average” category. And that’s not false humility. I’ve seen plenty of guys doing it better. Their triumphs and my fumbles have resulted in these lighthearted, yet practical tips for parents:
- Eat pie. But not just any pie. A big, fat, juicy slice of humble pie. And smear it all over your face in front of everyone. Parenting humblebrags aren’t helpful, and are just masking significant struggles. Want to look like an awesome parent? Remember that true wisdom starts with genuine humility.
- Be a follower. Mentorship isn’t just for kids. Every parent needs a mentor. So get over yourself, and find some relatively normal parents that are further along the journey than you. Tell them about your struggles and failures. If anything, you’ll figure out quickly that you’re not alone. And you might even get some helpful ideas.
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- Accept failure in advance. You’re gonna fail. Way more often than you’d like. Make it a point to expect mistakes, and own them when they happen. That will make it a little easier to recognize the wins, and take the occasional victory lap.
- Put your kids third. Your marriage is way more important than your kids. I think I’d collapse and die if I had to do this alone. My admiration for single parents is indescribable…but I don’t want to be one. So put your spouse before your kids. Then put Jesus in front of them all. Why? Following Him will give you invaluable parenting advice. And eternal salvation is an obvious bonus.
- Ignore all of the “experts”. They have interesting ideas, and they’ve made lots of money on them. Some of their advice can be adapted, but most of it is completely worthless. Why? Because each kid is completely different, and each family is unique. No expert knows how your culture, genetics, finances, circumstances and faith intersect to create the environment where your kid exists. So instead of listening to experts, try listening to your kid. Give them what they need. Not what someone who doesn’t know them says they need.
- Let go of your ideals. It’s good to be a dreamer. But sometimes hanging onto your ideals can do more harm than good. That amazing parenting theory you idolize might not work at all for your kid. And selfishly sticking to it will damage your family. We had visions of rocking and snuggling all of our babies to sleep. But one of them hated it. He’d actually scream until you put him down. I know – super weird. But we learned something from it. Don’t give your children what you want. Give them what they need.
- Assume everyone else is a better parent than you. Why? Because arrogant and overconfident parents are super annoying. Their condescending looks and theoretical assertions about how they’re planning to raise their kids five years from now makes the rest of us throw-up in our mouths. So start by looking for ways other parents are better than you, instead of scoffing at their decisions.
- Believe that your ideas won’t work. Don’t get me wrong, your ideas will likely work really well. For you. But that doesn’t make your ideas directly applicable to any other families. In fact, your specific parenting strategies are shockingly awful when applied to others. So get rid of any superiority complex before it starts. Encourage others to take the spirit of what you’re doing, and make it better. And assume that they will.
You’re not going to win any parenting awards following my advice. If that’s what you’re aiming for, there’s plenty of parenting books out there with depressingly unachievable suggestions. But you’re welcome to join me in the “average” club. We take it one day at a time, do our best and pray a lot. And when it’s all over, we’re aiming for more wins than losses.