Staying Motivated As a Parent
by Perry C. Coghlan
Child training is a process that takes years of effort, progress, regress, and intention to continue. The motivation of many young parents, particularly with only one child, is often high at the start. A new school year brings the same kind of refreshing reminder that we have a new opportunity to renew and repent. Another opportunity on this journey of life to make progress and reclaim what was lost.
For all parents the motivation tends to dip as time goes by without a self conscious effort to combat it. Thankfully, there are ways to combat failing motivation. Wisdom, by way of methods, strategies, and tactics that enable us to get up when we are down, move on when we have stopped, and “press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus” as parents.
Clearly Articulate the Biblical Goals of Parenting
You’ve heard it before: you can’t know how to get somewhere unless you first know where you are going! Before you can establish the route of the trip you must know your destination. May I suggest two simple destinations for parents to keep in mind? The first is proximate and the second is ultimate.
Parents, you are preparing your child for adulthood. You know, that time wherein you launch upon an unsuspecting world another unique person, for better or for worse, to live beyond and outside your direct authority for the rest of their lives and who will have an immeasurable impact (at least for us) upon a huge number of others live, again, for better or for worse. It is inescapable. Children grow up and leave home. Parents ought to put that mark upon their forehead like the Hindu places a red dot. It ought to be ever before us and a central consideration as we “train up the child in the way he should go.” Never forget it. You may live to regret it or rejoice in it, but you will not escape it.
Secondly, parents must keep in mind the reality of eternity. You are preparing your child for the time they will stand before their Creator and God and hear one of two words: “depart from me I never knew you” or “well done good and faithful servant….enter into the joys of your Lord.”
As certainly as children grow up after they are born, they will certainly stand accountable for their lives and their response to the comprehensive Gospel of Christ. If the reality of eternity is not a major factor of your child training, you and your child will suffer. You will suffer for not keeping your short term and long term (goals) destinations in view. You will suffer because as the bumps, distractions, difficulties, and hardships of life present themselves you will tend to forget. You may get “off track” and lose your course. If you have your goals clearly articulated and destinations clearly defined you can make course corrections as needed and restart the journey.
By having your destinations clearly defined you will be better able to take note of the markers along the way. Those points in the journey that tell indicate to you, over and again, you are headed in the right direction though the trip may be long and difficult.Your trip may stall. You may run out of gas for a time. You may encounter unexpected hardship and difficulty (and you will) but those short term markers, those milestones that tell you you are making progress and moving toward the will reassure you that you are moving in the right direction still. A long trip becomes less daunting when you have broken the trip down into smaller segment that all move you toward the destination.
Throw Away The All-Or-Nothing Mentality
A friend of mine observed this: “Black or white, perfection or failure, these themes both have one thing in common—they’re thought patterns that set you up for failure. “ He is correct. There is no perfection in this life. There is no silver bullet. There is no magic wand you can wave. Commitment to arriving at a particular destination must deal with the reality of traveling along a highway filled with other imperfect travelers, unexpected delays and events, and sometimes tragedy. This is different than the “all-or-nothing” commitment principle. The principle of discipling my child to love Jesus and keep His commandments. This mindset recognizes that progress and setbacks are to be expected along the way, without compromising one’s commitment to principle. In spite of setback and even failure the goal, destination, and principle does not change and is never compromised.
Parents need to think incrementally. Think in terms of child growth and development. From birth to adulthood progress is slow, often imperceptible, and yet non stop. You remember those times that suddenly come upon you when you ask yourself “when did my child get so big?!” I remember when our youngest (of six) turned 21. I had that kind of moment when it struck me hard that my “little girl” wasn’t so little anymore. Through many years of progress, struggle, and frustration we made it. There was no “defining moment” during those years of child training. Taken together, by the grace of God, the process, all of it, had combined to produce a young women of intelligence, godly character, and humility. It was not one thing, one success or failure, or one person. It was a combination of many things, persevering through difficulty and parental failures, and the influence of many persons that brought this to pass, including the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Be grateful that God has given us years, not days, not weeks, not months, but years of opportunity to train up our children and make corrections. Years of opportunity to correct our mistakes, repent of our sins, and renew our commitment to move forward in the preparation of our child for adulthood and eternity.
One of the regrets I have is that I was not taught the importance of keeping a written journal as our children grew up. I cannot emphasize enough how important I believe this for you and for your children. “Remembering” is a Christian virtue and ONLY of value in terms of the presuppositions of a biblical worldview.
Because history is the unfolding plan of the sovereign God who declare “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10) and ordained all of my days “fashioned for me when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16) we take history seriously. We study it. We seek to recognize the unfolding providence and promises of God in history. We take every life, every child, every person as being significant, made in the image of God, with a divine purpose and plan. No life, or life of a nation (Acts 17:24-26), is without significance, meaning, and purpose. Therefore we should record, for ourselves and our children, the hand of God’s providence unfolding during the course of our lives in order to learn and remember. Forgetting has moral implications and consequences for a people (Judges 2:10). Remembering does as well (Deut. 5:5; 7:18; 8:1-2; 8:18; 9:7; Matt. 5:23; Mark 8:18; Luke 1:72; 16:25; 17:32; 24:6-8; John 2:22; 12:16; 15:20; Acts 20:35; Romans 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:8; Jude 17; Rev. 2:5; 3:3).
Both young and old are admonished by God to remember (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6). It is incumbent upon parents, that is to say parents have a duty to teach their young children the art and practice of remembering in order that we can constantly remember “the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12: 13-14) all the days of our lives in preparation for eternity.
Journaling will provide the opportunity for you to record, clarify, comment upon, and remember over the years, the hand of God’s providence, and our responses to it. Because “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9) our children need to learn that our experiences will, in principle, if not in actuality, be theirs. Joy, and suffering, hope and pain, friendship and betrayal, and the host of other life’s experiences will be theirs, and God is ruling over all of them. Children need the foundation of strength and maturity that a written record will give them. They need the warnings and encouragement that a written record will give them (1 Cor. 10:1-14).
Journaling will record for them the importance of community life and the instrumentality of the grace of God present through your life and the lives of many others in your life. We are made, from the beginning of our lives, to be part of a community called a family. Our lives depend upon the investment of others in us, from infancy. That pattern is taken too lightly by many, by their diminishment of their need for a covenant community, a church community, into which they can invest themselves and enjoy the instrumentality of God’s grace into their lives. Journaling, remembering, will help remind them.
Life is often difficult and, for many, very difficult over a long period of time. We have internal challenges to staying motivated (Romans 7:14-20) as well as external challenges (John 15:20) and therefore we need to take advantage of all of the encouragements of grace that God has given us so that we can “pass the baton” of hope, boldness, faith, and obedience to the commandments of God into the generations to come.
You, Mom and Dad, hold that possibility in your hands.
Perry is the husband to Patsy for over 45 years, father of six grown children, grandfather to 27, and co-founder, with this wife, of Spring Hill Academy, a Christian classical school in Spring Hill , TN. You can contact Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org