By Ellie Gustafson
That our children turned out well might indicate we did something right as parents. Even though bad kids can come from good parents, God is the moderator in such matters. Parenting works best when plugged tightly to Him.
Both Jim and I had good parents. They gave us books, music, and places for the imagination. They loved us with firmness. Our small town was safe. Church was a given, and except for my parents splitting up, I had an idyllic childhood.
But how would my parenting go? First of all, what do you know in your early 20s? Not much, and we made lots of mistakes. Doing it over, I’d go about it differently, learning from today’s excellent books on parenting.
What did we do right?
- Play—our most valuable tool. We romped on the floor, chased the kids, played games, read aloud, taught skills (boys sewing buttons, girls changing tires) and generally had
- A pow-wow around a fake campfire in the middle of our living room gave each of us opportunity to bring up topics, and we’d talk briefly about each. As parents, we could discuss a range of sticky things.
- I learned mid-course that encouragement was a better “fixer” than admonishment and saw child #3 go from slouch to straight after we changed our ways.
- We bought a large forest as a tree farm. Like, just plain woods. No electricity, running water, shelter, bathroom. We all learned to make do without the basics. The boys ran chainsaws and drove truck and tractor. Rachel, though, balked at firewood hauling and opted to train as a Christian camp counselor. We sent her off with our blessing.
- Daily devotions were a sometimes thing, but we tried to model our faith in day-to-day choices and conversations.
What did we do wrong?
- How do we sin? Let me count the ways… Observing sinful parents who are saved by grace isn’t a bad lesson for kids to learn.
- We were selfish, often inconsiderate of our children’s needs and schedules. I remember making son Eric wait nearly a half hour to be picked up—for some frivolous reason. He was not pleased, and I’ve always felt bad about it.
- We slept in, requiring our kids to make their own breakfast and school lunches. They rose to that reality with reasonable grace, but it was not a good thing.
My bottom-line advice? Be there. Be available. Be supportive. Be positive, even in correction. [Oh, I’m sorry you chose to do that. What can you learn from it?] Give choices; make consequences clear. Train in self-management—money, habits, choosing friends, etc. Hard work, yes, but the rewards are eternal.
Proof of the pudding:
Eric and Lee—You gave us fun things to do (Indian clothes, tepee, snow trains), and even dangerous stuff (chain saws, driving tractors, logging). We appreciate you!
Rachel–You’re a fine example of life-long mothering. I’m watching and praying for you in this next stage.
April Joy— Happy GRANDmother’s Day! I feel so fortunate to live with you. Thanks for faithfully following God and pursuing Him.
Books I wish I’d had earlier:
- Any of John Eldredge’s work.
- Parenting with Love and Logic books—Foster Cline and Jim Fay.
- Paul Tripp is new to me but seems to have a good following.
About Ellie Gustafson
Ellie Gustafson began thinking up stories at a young age but didn’t begin writing and publishing until 1978. A graduate of Wheaton College, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story. I’d love to hear from you about your parenting adventures. Connect with Ellie at www.eleanorgustafson.com.