Mrs. Iseminger she whispered at my classroom door. Can you email my mom? Please tell her I was in class yesterday. She doesn’t believe me. She never believes me. It doesn’t matter how good I am.
And my heart shattered against the cold tile floor.
Sometimes I beat myself up as a parent. I set high standards that in reality may not ever be attained. But then. Then I look around my classroom at students beaten down. Beaten down by parents that don’t know what it is to love their children.
I see the deep sadness in the eyes of teenagers who have been told they don’t matter to the world.
I have seen the tears well up in their eyes as they whisper, My parent’s don’t care what I do. And I wish with every piece of my soul they were lying to me.
I’ve seen the child at the end of the day step into the car greeted with glares and not hello. I’ve left campus only to look in my rearview mirror and witness a parent shouting so loud my heart hears her through the windows of cars. And her son’s face? I can’t see something bent so far to the ground.
And then I realize, maybe I’m not such a bad parent after all. Don’t misunderstand. Mistakes abound. But there are things I am doing right. And you are too.
Being a parent begins with love. Love that is willing to do the hard. Love that spills-out self to make room for grace. Love that wants to be deeper—better.
So my broken students have taught me how to avoid becoming a broken parent. With each lesson I see a different pain-filled face of a student who dreams of a parent capable of such things.
This is the home I wish, with almost desperation, I could create for my broken students. It is the home I pray I am building for my own beautiful children.
Here are their lessons:
- Your child’s teacher should never be his biggest cheerleader.
- Understand this: Their world is a darker place than ours ever was, and their challenges greater.
- Don’t be afraid to discipline. Or to say no. If you don’t, they will one day say yes to everything.
- Give grace until it hurts. And then give more.
- Smile at your children when you pick them up from school. Or when they get off the bus. Or when they walk in the door from practice.
- Yell. Yell words that say your children matter. Every. Day.
- Kiss your children goodnight. Even if they’re three and wipe it off. Even if they’re teenagers and seem like ice.
- Respect your children. You will be amazed at how far it gets you in a conversation.
- Instill the value of learning from life, not just the Algebra and Literature taught in the classroom.
- Notice the good in your child. Even when their choices have been so, so bad.
- Tell them you appreciate them. You are grateful for who they are and what they do. Watch their faces light up.
- Let them fly while tethering them to earth.
- Foster the dreams God has set before them—not the dreams you feel they should have.
- Allow them to make their mistakes. Lessons will be learned. Hard lessons. But important ones. You once learned them too.
- Know rigid legalism will destroy your chances of a relationship. Consider the Biblical Pharisees. Or Les Miserables’s Javert.
- But follow the rules. Even if they seem silly. Your child will grow up knowing what integrity looks like.
- Consider it’s not how much money you have—it’s how much time you spend.
- Don’t be afraid to recognize weakness in your children. Maybe then those weaknesses can become strong. If left ignored, weakness can cripple.
- Set boundaries. Fences don’t just keep us in—they can keep evil out.
- Admit when you are wrong. They will learn to do the same.
- Guard the modesty of your daughter from the beginning. What she wears at six, she will want to wear at sixteen.
- Refuse to settle for the mantra “boys will be boys.” Teach them to be men. Of honor.
- Love. Love until it hurts.
- Pray, with face to the ground.
- Pray your mistakes will not scar.
- Pray you parent in a way worthy of the gift God has given.