18 Lessons from 18 Years of Parenting (Part 2)

A few weeks back I began a blog series on some of the lessons I have learnt in my 18 years of parenting. Please note that I am not an expert or a perfect parent but someone who is still learning. However, I am a reflective person and I have chosen to be intentional about my learning and to document some of the lessons deliberately.

Every parent plays many roles in the day to day care of their child. Today as I continue this 18 lessons series, I will be looking at parenting in the light of a couple of professions. In case you missed the first part, you can find it here. However, welcome to part two.

Lesson 5: Parenting is gardening

There are a number of similarities between the job of a gardener and parenting. The job description for gardeners include ‘planting and looking after trees, shrubs, and flowers; maintaining the health of these plants by watering, pruning, weeding, and applying pesticides where required.’ Parents have to tend their children and watch over them like gardeners do their plants.

A good gardener would plant his seed or seedling in the ground that is best suited for that plant. He would take care to monitor it’s growth and address any problem that might arise as time goes on. To get the best out of the plant, he would apply fertilizer or plant food where necessary, take out weeds which might be competing with the plant for nutrient, prune the plants to get rid of dead and unproductive parts and spray pesticides wherever he sees that they are attacking the plant.

Similarly, you as a parent must provide an enabling environment for your child to thrive at home and your chosen school or church. A good knowledge of your child and an understanding of God’s plan will help you position him/her right. You have to provide adequate support (fertilizer), prune wrong attitudes and unhealthy behaviours that could stop them from being their best. Be faithful to correct and discipline in love so that you can rid them of destructive acts of foolishness.

Lesson 6: Parenting is teaching and training

There are a number of parallels that can be drawn between teaching and parenting. As a trained teacher I know that teaching involves intentionality. Teaching involves passing across some information or instructions with the intention that the learner is able to recall and use them when needed. Good planning and thoughtful delivery produce a great lesson outcome. All of these points are useful in successful parenting.

Parenting involves giving information and instructions to your child. These must be age and ability appropriate, and there has to be a way of measuring the learning that has taken place. You should be able to track the progress that your child is making as well.

Training is different from teaching in that it incorporates the practice of what has been taught. If you have taught your child how to do the dishes or cook a meal, training goes beyond explaining, to showing, and also asking the child to have a go at practising the skills learnt. Raising your child successfully will entail that you teach and train in different areas of life.

Train Your Child to Become a Disciple of Christ

On the 16th of January, I hosted my first parenting seminar of 2021. These seminars take place quarterly with the purpose of enlightening and empowering Christian parents to raise godly and successful children.

In that first seminar we looked at the importance of having a vision for your home and practical tips to making your children disciples of Christ. The audio recording for the whole session can be accessed here. With this blog post I will be looking at some particularly important points shared on how to disciple your children for the Lord.

The speaker was Dr Goke Aiyegbayo, a parent, medical doctor, and a church leader. He introduced his presentation by comparing making disciples to building a house, and he emphasised the vital role of laying a solid foundation. He claims the foundation we have for raising our children is the word of God. He quoted Proverbs 22:6 which encourages the Christian parent to ‘train up’ their child, and Genesis 18:19, citing Abraham as a man that God could vouch for to train up his children to keep God’s commandment.

Additionally, the speaker read from II Timothy 1:5, mentioning the transgenerational faith from Timothy’s grandmother and mother which was passed down to him. Finally, he read Matthew 10:42 where he showed that Jesus expects children to be disciples as well. There is no junior Holy Ghost, so there is no junior disciple in the sense that God is desirous of making disciples of whoever it is, because He is not a respecter of persons.

Definition: According to the dictionary (Merriam Webster), a disciple is “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.

Purpose of Discipleship

Where the purpose of a thing is unknown, it has been said that abuse is inevitable. However, we will first discuss what discipleship is not.

Discipleship is NOT

  • Making compliant children. It is not about producing robots or children who say ‘yes’ and cannot think for themselves.
  • Making ‘successful’ children. It is not primarily about achieving life goals or successes in the eyes of the world.
  • Staving off trouble for yourself. You are not raising disciples because you do not want trouble for yourself in the future. If done well, you will stave off trouble but that is not the right motivation.
  • Making little images of yourself. Discipleship is not about turning your child into a mini-you.
  • Living your dreams through your children, especially your unfulfilled dreams and ambitions.

What then is discipleship? Read on to find out.

The link between Parenting and ‘Nicodemusly’?

‘Nicodemusly’ is a word I have heard about in ‘my Christian circle’ for several years. I must confess that I have also used it many times. While preparing for this blog post I decided to look up the word online to see if there is a proper definition for it. My findings when I Googled the word ‘nicodemusly’ revealed that it means “to do something secretly, under the cover of darkness” or “to be pursuing one’s own agenda”.

The word originated from the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who went to ask Jesus questions in the night and became a secret follower. Being conversant with this story, I did not need any explanations the first time I heard the word ‘nicodemusly’. To someone who does not know the bible story, the word would not convey any meaning. It would seem like another language. I am sure many parents can relate to the fact that sometimes when their children speak, it sounds like a foreign language.

Years ago, when my children were in primary school, I went to attend one of the parents’ meetings on internet safety. The meetings were organised to help us parents understand the other world (virtual) that our children now live in. If I recall accurately, the invitations were only sent to parents of children in upper key stage 2 (usually 10 and 11 year olds in England) because in those days they were the ones who had mobile phones and were starting to get on social media sites. I attended every year for about four consecutive years and each year I went, I learnt something new.

Some of the lessons were on how to put security on the home Wi-Fi, and the importance of making sure that your children were accessing sites that were age appropriate. Each of those meetings was an eye opener. I will always remember being told some acronyms that children use to communicate with each other virtually. I was introduced to POS- Parents over shoulder, TTYL- Talk to you later and others.

Fast forward to over five years later, I am now ‘well established’ as a mum of teenagers (16 and 18!). Recently I attended a webinar on parenting teenagers, and I got introduced to many more acronyms as the presenter attempted to aid us in understanding our children. I find it both interesting and exasperating that I have to learn these things. You may think, why bother? It’s important for me to know the language of my children so I can speak to them and understand them.

I can liken this to learning to speak another language. There are many advantages of being bilingual or multilingual in our current world. The world has become a global village where individuals are connected quickly, and migration is greater than ever before due to technology and transport infrastructures.

If parents learn to speak their children’s language, what do they stand to gain? I will give you seven points.

1. Connection.

One of the most rewarding parts of being a parent is the ability to connect with your child. In the UK where I presently live, babies are handed to their parents as soon as they are born for skin to skin contact so that they can begin the bonding process. Beyond physical bonding, it is important to connect to your children at other levels. Being able to exchange interactions in their lingo will communicate to them that they matter, and you are wanting to connect. They may laugh at you, but they secretly admire your guts and appreciate your willingness to reach them.

2. See/ access their world.

The ability to speak another language opens up a new world of possibilities that would not otherwise have been available. In the same way, being able to speak your children’s language opens you to their world and puts you in a great position to understand them. This helps you to be open-minded and less judgemental about their ways. You are not merely looking from the outside, but you have a foot in and can see better and also lead and direct them better as you know where they are coming from.

18 Lessons from 18 years of Parenting (Part 1)

Nearly six months ago, my precious daughter and my first child turned 18. Here in the United Kingdom where I live, turning 18 is a significant milestone. At 18, you attain the legal (adult) age or the age of majority and will no longer be classed as a minor or a child. You can vote in local and general election, stand for election as an MP (Member of Parliament), serve on a jury, get married without parental permission, buy alcoholic drinks, or cigarettes, or drive a lorry (if you wish). The 18th birthday is a landmark one, ushering in wonderful and exciting rights with greater, but not so exciting responsibilities.

On the eve of my daughter’s 18th birthday, it occurred to me that by the help and grace of God, my husband and I have successfully raised a child to adulthood. The thought filled me with gratitude for the journey we’ve been on. Shortly after the birthday, I decided to travel back in time and consider what I have learnt over the past 18 years. Here in this post I will begin to share some of the lessons.

Lesson 1: Parenting requires wisdom

My very first blog post which you can find here, detailed the myriads of advice I received as a first time mum. Some of the advice was conflicting in what the role required of me. I recall that I was nearly confused with the answers I received, when I had questions on how to look after my new-born or myself as a new mum. Seemingly simple things like bath routines and feeding times were areas where healthcare practitioners and my wonderful “experienced mother” friends and relatives could not agree. It did not take me long to realise that I needed the wisdom of God to decipher what was the best one out of all the information I was receiving.

Of course over the years, as I became mum for the second time and as my children grew, the need for godly wisdom did not diminish. I have learnt to pray for this wisdom and to believe that the Lord would give it to me because it is such an essential tool needed to navigate the parenting journey safely.

It is important to understand that acquisition of knowledge does not equate wisdom. The ability to use the knowledge productively to achieve the desired outcome is wisdom. Also vital is the fact that being street wise or current on world issues is not the same as godly wisdom. Characteristics of godly wisdom are listed severally in the book of Proverbs and in James 3: 17; shown by good works, peaceable, gentle, and full of mercy.

Lesson 2: Parenting requires courage

Courage is defined as ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’, or ‘strength in the face of pain or grief’. The word courage is synonymous with bravery.

At many points on the parenting journey, you are bound to face issues that will be scary; decisions that are frightening; options that make you want to turn back if it was possible. Being a parent has given me greater respect and appreciation for what every parent does for their child, especially the countless decisions they make when they don’t yet have all the full details.

The Power of the Right Story

People love stories, especially children. I remember that when I was a child my grandmother lived with us for a period. As the oldest member of the household she was the ‘unappointed’ but official storyteller in the house. After she moved away, my dad took over, and he was an excellent storyteller – he could change his tone of voice if and when required in the story, he acted story parts like a pro. We loved to hear him tell stories and sing.

Personally, I love a good story anytime any day. Stories inspire, teach moral lessons, educate, and enlighten. The power of a story can be used positively, but it can also be used negatively. For us as children in my days, we got told specific stories aimed at teaching us bravery, patience, diligence, perseverance, or some other virtues, and those meant to warn us of the danger of certain vices such as stealing, laziness, etc.

Stories are sometimes manipulated and told wrongly to give the teller an advantage over the hearers. Just the other day my husband and I discussed this, and it struck me that the stories we tell our children can make or break them; it can equip them or rob them of their right future. Jephthah in the bible gives us a good illustration of this point.

In an Old Testament book of the bible (Judges), we read about Jephthah. Chapter 11 of Judges open with a short description; a great warrior but an illegitimate child. His brothers threw him out of the house because they did not want him to get any of their father’s inheritance. However, when they were facing an impending war they went to look for him to lead them in battle against their enemies. They promised to make him their ruler if he was victorious in the battle.

Jephthah decided to find out why the warring nation Ammon decided to engage them in battle. The response that he got from the messengers who came from the king of Ammon was that the Israelites “stole” his land when they came out of Egypt. The king went on to give the description of the area of land that he claimed was stolen from him.

Even though Jephthah had not been born when the Israelites went out of Egypt and he was not a witness to the things that took place at the time, he had a different version of the story; one that was the opposite of the narrative that the king of Ammon offered. Jephthah sent a message back to the king of Ammon letting him know unequivocally that Israel did not steal his land.

The true events were accurately recorded in the book of Deuteronomy (chapter two). Israel did not take the land of Ammon or Moab because the Lord specifically instructed them not to. The Lord made it clear that He would not give any of the land belonging to the Ammonites or Moabites to Israel, and Israel was not to engage in battle with them over their land. Jephthah had it right.

The enemy offered a version of story that would satisfy his interest but fortunately Jephthah’s ancestors had been diligent to pass down the accurate narrative so that on the day that it was required, the truth could be told.

What stories are you as a parent telling or keeping away from your children that will be vital on the day that their rights to inheritance will be called to question?

Dear Parent, Stop believing lies!

This morning I started a new bible devotional on what Easter means for our work (YouVersion bible app). The very first sentence of the devotional convicted me. It reads, “Now more than ever, our culture tells us to look to our careers for our sense of self worth and identity.” It goes on with a quote from Madonna – a megastar in the music industry who claimed that her drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre, and even though she has become somebody, she still has to prove that she is somebody. The devotional concluded that what we are all looking for, including Madonna is a verdict for our lives. And yes, I know how that feels…

For a number of years after relocating to England from Nigeria, I was a stay at home mum, and there were many days I did not properly appreciate the vital and valuable role I was playing in the lives of my children and my family. I was measuring my life by ‘how much I could have been earning’. With the benefit of hindsight I can now see that the unnecessary pressure I put on myself in those years prevented me from enjoying them as much as the Lord would have wanted for me. The simple fact was that I was buying into many lies I had unconsciously taken in.

These days when I have the opportunity to speak with another parent who chooses to stay off paid work for a season, I celebrate them and encourage them to celebrate themselves. The big lie that our worth and value comes from work has been perpetuated by the enemy. The thought that we must justify our existence by what we do is not a persuasion from the Lord. The truth is that whether we work or not, we are valuable to God.

As I thought about this, I asked myself, “What lies have I bought into on the matter of parenting?” At some point on the parenting journey every parent hears some lies, and if care is not taken you would believe them and live without the liberating truth that is yours in Christ.

I am reminded of the story of the Galatian churches. Paul the apostle had founded these churches and had given them the word of God and instructions on how to live by faith in the Son of God as Christians. Later on, some other people came into the church and began to teach them differently, asking them to obey the Mosaic law. This was going to put a heavy burden on these churches where the majority were Gentile believers, and eventually lead them into a life of ‘works’ instead of ‘faith’ – living by the flesh instead of by the Spirit.

Paul was upset with the Galatian believers and reiterated to them the true gospel. He assured them that attempting to live by the law was not a persuasion from the Lord who called them. This made me begin to ask myself whether the parenting advice or counsels that I listen to are persuasions from the Lord who owns the children that I am raising and called me into this partnership with Himself.

Choose Appreciation over Apprehension

Many years ago, I heard and fell in love with a song by the couple, Rick and Cathy Riso. The song is titled “A Thankful Heart”. It is one of the tracks in their album As For My House. Recently I found myself singing the song again after reflecting on a bible passage…

The track came back to me as I was reading an account of the children of Israel while crossing the Red Sea as recorded in Exodus. The story is familiar to many people. The Israelites had been forcefully thrown out of Egypt after the tenth and last plague in which all the firstborn of humans and animals were killed by the angel of destruction. The ten plagues were sent by the Lord to show God’s power and to punish Pharaoh for his stubbornness and refusal to allow the children of Israel to leave their bondage in Egypt.

After the Israelites left, Pharaoh suddenly realised that their free labour was now gone. He called for all the chariots in Egypt and assembled an army together and they went in hot pursuit of the Israelites. Meanwhile the Israelites were being led to go through a path that would serve God’s purpose in two ways. First, it was a path where they would not have to fight any wars so that the Lord could keep them committed to their freedom and they would not be tempted to go back to Egypt. Second, the path was through the wilderness, to entice Pharaoh to pursue them because he would reason that they could not possibly survive the journey.

As the children of Israel journeyed, they came to the Red Sea, and we see their typical behaviour manifested whenever they encountered a problem. Their usual practice was to start complaining to Moses asking him why he brought them into a difficult situation. On many occasions they voiced it out to him that they wished they were back in Egypt! It seemed their memory of their previous life in Egypt had completely been either wiped off or rewritten in the exact opposite of what it was.

Just before condemning the Israelites, it is good to understand their position. They could see the army of Pharaoh pursuing them, and the Red Sea (yes, SEA) right ahead of them. As far as they were concerned, this was going to be their grave. Moses cried out to the Lord and He came to their rescue. He parted the Red Sea, making the waters to stand as walls on their left and their right so they could walk on dry ground in the midst of the Sea. This miracle was the first of its kind in their lives and in the history of mankind, but did Israel grasp the full implications of this? I wonder…

Mothers are Golden!

On this wonderful Mother’s Day (14th March 2021), I can’t but reflect on motherhood and mothering. Of course it is familiar terrain for me because I am a mother (Yipee!) and I have been raised and influenced by many wonderful mothers.

When I was a child, we used to sing a song that is translated ‘mother is as precious as gold, she is of an inestimable worth’. The song is an ode to motherhood and praises the efforts a mother makes in looking after her child. It speaks about the unconditional love of a mother and her devotion to her child(ren). It makes mention of the nine months of pregnancy and the commitment of looking after an infant.

It is no secret that mothers are a unique bunch. Crafted specially for the role they play in birthing and nurturing the next generation, mothers are specifically equipped for their job description.

All the way through history, a mother’s love has been shown and documented in various ways. Right from Eve the first mother, up to the present time, the devotion of a mother cannot be underestimated. A songwriter attests to this in the lyrics of his song when he says that when he is ill, his mother runs ‘up and down’, praying to God to make him recover.

The instinct in a mother to protect a child from harm makes some go to extreme lengths. Jochebed defied Pharaoh’s order by keeping her baby (Moses) for three months instead of allowing him to be killed. Rebecca was happy to be cursed in the place of Jacob when she asked him to go and deceive his father to receive the blessing of the firstborn. Mothers would go hungry for their children to feed well, making sometimes unimaginable sacrifices.

A mother’s strength is incredible. Irrespective of how tired she is, if her child requires her help she quickly springs into action. Whatever would make her child’s life more comfortable, she is prepared to do. The Lord himself compares the comfort of a mother to the comfort He would give to his people (Isaiah 66:13).

In many instances, a mother is the one closest to her children and from her they learn valuable life lessons. The unfeigned faith in Timothy was passed down to him from his grandmother and his mother. The influence of godly mothers cannot be overlooked. The author of Proverbs advises that a mother’s teachings should be held close to the heart. God asked the Israelites to honour their mothers and fathers.

Book Review 5: Kingdom Parenting

Most people who follow the ministry of the late evangelist and gospel minister, Dr Myles Munroe from the Bahamas would know him as someone who preached and taught about the Kingdom of God a lot. He was also a prolific bestselling author who wrote many books on the subjects of Purpose, Potential, the Kingdom of God, Marriage, and Leadership. Munroe was one of the two authors of the book being reviewed today.

Kingdom Parenting is co-authored by Dr David Burrows, founder of Youth Alive Ministries and formerly the youth pastor under the ministry of Myles Munroe. He is currently the Senior Pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries Church. He has also authored many other books.

Written from years of personal experiences of the two authors as parents, and from garnered professional understanding as counsellors and pastors to children and their parents, Kingdom Parenting offers valuable insight into parenting for Christians especially during the teenage years. Interestingly, it is the first book I have read which includes chapters for teens to read.

Divided into four sections comprising of the first three sections as the main book and the last one as a study guide, Kingdom Parenting is an easy read. There are numerous examples that make the book relatable and practical. The three sections are in 15 short chapters.

The first section is by Munroe and it focuses on Foundations – the foundational goals of parenting. He writes that these goals are to reproduce the nature, character, and behaviour of the parent in the child. Early in the section he encourages parents to raise their children without fear and to be sincere imitators of God in order to give children the right model to pattern their lives after.

Intentionality in parenting was stressed.

“No one parents effectively by accident. Effective parenting must be intentional; it must be planned, focused and have an expected end in mind. Good parents don’t leave the job to chance; they do everything they can to prepare themselves and to know what they are doing.” (Pg. 15)

The importance of training a child with conscientiousness right from the formative years is mentioned in section one, as well as the benefits of consistent and age appropriate discipline. The section closed with the example of Jesus who grew in wisdom, stature, favour with God and men, the author cited these as four areas that parents should focus on in raising their children.

Raise Your Child to Serve God Without Pressure

As a mother with young children, one of my greatest desires was to raise my children in such a way that they would love God and serve Him without pressures from me or their dad. I had realised while I was growing up that the fact that parents were fervent in serving God did not automatically translate to the children following in their footsteps.

Sometimes the more fervent the parent(s) were in the things of God, the less interested the children were. When I was a child, pastor’s or vicar’s children were notorious for being very hypocritical at the best or completely anti-God at the worst. They were the ones who flouted the school rules the most even though they pretended to be saints at home. As soon as many were away from their parents, all they wanted to do were the exact things that their parents forbade them from doing.

For many of these children who departed from the godly training they were given, they saddened their parents hearts by their ungodly choices. The consequences of wrong actions made their own lives more difficult as well. I desire neither of these situations.

I do not want my children to live double lives – pretend to love the Lord when they are at home and under my influence but have nothing to do with Him when they leave home. Of course trends like this were reducing in some areas by the time I became a parent, it was still quite rampant in other quarters. Many factors within the society were not helping matters too.

Years ago, life was simpler and less complicated than it is these days. The advancement of technology has made life easier on one hand, but on the other hand it has introduced new challenges. For example, it is great to use social media to connect with friends and families around the world, the same means now quickly disseminate ungodly trends everywhere you have a mobile device and internet connection.

So, what is a parent to do?

In my opinion, there are a few things you can do. It must begin with a desire that you take to the Lord in prayer. After you have prayed, believe, and start to act.

In my case, I looked back into my own upbringing to see if there was anything that I could use to help me. I found a useful arsenal that I could use in this battle. Yes, it is a battle for your child’s soul. It was the way my parents modelled their love for the Lord and His service. A story comes to mind.