As a little girl, every Sunday morning, my mom would get my three siblings and me ready for church and loaded into our old school Ford van. Remember the really awesome full-size vans with the stripes down the side and the bench seat in the back? Yes, that's the one -- ours was blue. So, we'd load into the van and trek to church (through rain, snow or blizzard) and arrive at church early because, as Dad would say, "If you're not early, you're late" (groan). We'd then go to Sunday school, stay for a second service, and then return again for evening church.At some point during the day, one of us would inevitably ask (read: pester) my parents, "Why do we HAVE to go to church every Sunday?"
My dad would swiftly reply, "You don't have to go to church. [Insert dramatic pause.] You GET to go to church."
We would all groan at this completely unsatisfactory response, and we'd ask the question again the following week.
To this day my family jokes about that phrase so ingrained in our minds as young children. But somewhere along the line, I realized that those simple repeated phrases, though they made me groan, are what stick with me into adulthood.
Beneath that phrase was a belief in the importance of community fellowship and a grateful heart. And those are values I hold to this day.
Now, as a mom of two young preschoolers, I often find myself scrambling for answers. Sometimes I happen upon something that seems to come out well, and other times I fumble through it, hoping I didn't cause any psychological damage or unknowingly undermine my own parenting efforts.
It's all basically a big experiment, full of trial and error, and one that I have FAR from figured out. But I have realized that in the stressful moments of life, it certainly helps to have thought things through. I am most confident as a parent when I am intentional. Conversely, I am most stressed out as a parent when I have no plan.
Okay, disclaimer: I realize parenting is full of unexpected moments. But I also find that when I've taken the time to think through how I will respond and what I want to teach my children, I am much more effective at modeling those things.
And so, a few months back, I took on the task of outlining some of the values we want to instill in our children and developing some language to express those values.
We've all been at the park and heard that mom who gives the seemingly perfect reply when her child falls down. And then, we think "I wish I'd thought to say that to my kids." Or even better, "I'm totally borrowing that."
I have learned so much from fellow parents (peers and those who have bravely paved the way before me), and in fact some of our language has been "borrowed" from family and friends, but for me, this exercise is much less about identifying the perfect language, and much more about the process and intentionality behind the language.
I have no idea if these phrases strike just the right tone, but I do know that I've put thought into them and that they reflect values we as a family hold. And maybe someday our children will laugh and repeat them in a teasing voice. But maybe they will also value kindness, determination, empathy and responsibility.
This is just a starting point for us, but I've shared a few of our favorites below:
Priorities:People are more important than thingsDetermination: In our family, we do hard thingsKindness: We can always choose kindnessResponsibility:Everyone can do somethingRespect:We treat others with respectPerseverance: What do we do if we fall down? Get back up again // What do we do if it doesn't work? Try againThankfulness: A thankful heart is a happy heartEmpathy: We always check on a friendFriendship: What kind of a friend do you want to be?Generosity: We have things to give thingsIdentity:God made you just who He wanted you to beLove:Love others as God loves youAnd as an ever important reminder: I'm so thankful God gave you to our family!
What are some of your favorite parenting phrases? I’m always looking to grow our list, so please share!
Amanda Lahr is mom to two adorable little kids and Editorial Lead for Bittersweet Monthly, an online publication that creatively and artistically tells stories of social good. She lives in Alexandria, VA, attends NCC's Potomac Yard campus, and loves tennis, hand-lettering, Jeopardy, pretty cookbooks, Ethiopian food, and her wonderful family (though not in that order).