We want our kids to have the very best. We find out their wants and needs and we save up to buy it for them. But the best gifts we could ever give to them cannot be purchased.
My Parents’ Example
In 1994, at the 25th wedding anniversary of my parents, my sister and I created a video presentation for my parents. The main point of the presentation was that their love for each other through thick and thin was part of the basis for the stability in my life. As I was making that presentation at 23 years old, I remember unsuccessfully fighting back tears as I thought deeply about what an invaluable gift they had given to my sister and I.
All throughout my life we never wondered if they truly loved each other and the question as to weather they were going to stick together or not, never even crossed our minds. Sure, there were minor mistakes and learning experiences made all throughout their marriage. But as I was growing up I rarely knew about them. And the challenges and disagreements that I did know about, I never doubted that all would be resolved quickly. Every hard decision they had to make, they made together. I trusted my parents to make the right decisions and get through it. Were they perfect parents? Close, but not perfect. But what matters is that they got the important stuff right. That’s the kind of stability that I’ve vowed to give to my own kids.
The Secret Gift
Stability is the “secret” gift that will make a huge difference for your kids. That is not to say they won’t survive if they have instability. Many of you have survived despite instability in your own home life. But without some type of stability, kids automatically have the deck stacked against them. No matter what your situation is, there is always a way to offer some type of stability in your kid’s life. If you are a single parent or have an uncooperative spouse, you may have to work harder at it, but you can make it happen.
When you create stability in your home, you are giving your kids:
Ingredients of Stability
So how do I create stability in my home? First of all, if stability is absent, it doesn’t happen overnight. And because of this it requires the first ingredient in the list:
- Perseverance. “We are not quitters.” Just because it doesn’t happen right away or the first time doesn’t mean we give up. Show your kids that if it’s worth accomplishing, it’s worth sticking with it.
- Unconditional Love. There should never be a question as to weather your kids are loved by you, and if you’re married, that your spouse is loved by you. Not only love them in your heart but SHOW them and TELL them constantly that you love them and each other no matter what.
- Routines. This is a crucial component in creating stability. It defines a grid in the days and weeks. “Free floating” their time will only make them (and you) wonder where the time went and why nothing got accomplished. This is a cure for sloppy days.
- Consistency. If your kids have to wonder whether or not you are going to stick with what you said, you are breaking down trust. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you want your kids to be faithful to church after they leave the nest, then it’s important for you to take them to church every time the doors open. Be consistent in everything you commit to do.
- Buffers. Think before you speak or act. If you are a reactionary person, work extra hard at this. There should always be a zone between what would cause a reaction and the reaction itself. Unbridled reaction will always lose to thoughtful words and action. In some instances, no words or actions at all works best.
- Self-Discipline. Your kids shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re going to get out of bed and do what you’re supposed to do. Be a person of discipline. The other side of this is not doing everything for them either. Give them responsibilities and model to them the satisfaction of accomplishment.
- Engagement. Be there for them when they need you. Don’t just be the Disneyland parent that throws them a bone of attention every once in a while in order to remind them that you are “there”. Get into their every day world. Be not only physically present, but interact with them on an intimate level often. Before your kids care about what is important to you, you must care about what is important to them.
- Accountability. Every person in the world needs accountability to succeed. God has placed you in your kid’s life to be their accountability partner. This applies to virtually every aspect of their life including curfew, chores, what they watch and listen to, who they hang out with, how they are spending their time when you’re not around, and so on. Anyone with no accountability is in dangerous territory. Accountability builds rightful trust.
- Leadership. The parent/kid relationship shouldn’t be a dictatorship, but it also shouldn’t be a democracy. You’re kids don’t need you to tell them every little thing to do and they shouldn’t get to vote on everything either. What they need is strong direction. They learn by their own mistakes, but many unnecessary mistakes can be avoided with corrective guidance. Leadership is walking in front of them down the same road that you’re asking them to walk.
- Authenticity. Be real. That doesn’t mean giving full disclosure of every stupid thing you’ve ever done, especially in a boastful way. Save your juicy stories for the moment when your kids need to hear it and, if it can be used for good, tell it. Show them that you are human and refuse to gloss over your own faults. When you blow it with your kid, admit it and ask for their forgiveness. This will build trust that will fortify a stable home.
No human being masters all of the ingredients of stability (and there are probably more than what is listed). But if you can just take a look at what is lacking and make small adjustments, your kids will reap great rewards. If it sounds like hard work creating a stable and balanced home, that’s because it is. But stability is a lasting, prized treasure that your kids will pass to their own children.
OK, here’s me working on my authenticity: I struggle with some of these ingredients. One thing is my buffer. I sometimes react to comments when the best thing is silence. Another ingredient I am now struggling with is engagement. When my kids were younger I had virtually no problem relating and getting into their world. But as they get into the teen years and their world expands past my own world, I have to work extra hard to get into their world.
Out of the attributes listed, which areas do you struggle with the most? That’s where you start.