“So what’s your parenting secret?” a friend asked over coffee one morning.
“My parenting secret?”
“Yeah. You’re raising such great kids. What’s your secret?”
“Oh, it’s not a secret. It’s God,” I answered.
“OK,” she replied, “but there has to be some kind of formula. What do you do when your kids won’t listen or they fight or they’re just plain lazy or defiant? Or doesn’t that ever happen in your house? I suppose your kids always this nice?”
“No,” I laughed, “my kids aren’t always this nice. They’re kids after all -- growing and maturing, headstrong and impulsive, inexperienced and definitely not perfect, and there’s also no patented, fail-safe formula for parenting, because if there is then even God failed.”
“You know God can’t fail!” blurted my friend in exasperation.
“Yes, I do,” I smiled, “but think about it. God created Adam and Eve, placed them in the Garden and gave them one rule: Don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, and what did they do? They ate from the forbidden tree! Two perfect people, spoken into being by a perfect God, living in a perfect world in perfect communion with their Heavenly Father, and they willfully disobeyed. How can we expect different from our kids who are living in an imperfect world surrounded by truly imperfect people? Parenting isn’t about a perfect formula. It’s about listening.”
“Listening?” queried my friend skeptically.
“Yup, and this might sound a little corny, but when Kyle was two we read Winnie the Pooh’s A to Z a lot. In it Kanga asks Roo, ‘Why have we do you suppose, two eyes, two ears, but just one nose?’ Kyle asked why and I answered, ‘Because “mouth” doesn’t rhyme with “suppose.” We only have one mouth, but actually two nostrils in our one nose.’
“’Why?’ he asked again in perfect two-year old form.
“‘Because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak,’ I answered and it’s stuck in my head ever since. Years later, as a family we were memorizing James 1:19, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.’ About that same time I was hurt in the accident and it hurt to talk, much less to raise my voice, so I simply stopped, and over time our house became a quieter, gentler, calmer place to be.
“What I’ve discovered is that ‘where words are many, sin is not absent.’ Too many words escalate into arguments or debates which resolve little, and necessitate apologies. But by far my biggest listening revelation is that sometimes my kids’ words and actions aren’t even related to the current situation, but to a far deeper issue, something they don’t yet have the wisdom or experience to navigate alone. Listening gives us a chance to work through those issues together in a meaningful, positive, constructive way.
“So, I guess in the end, my not-so-secret formula for parenting is listening, first and always to God and then to our precious, priceless children, for at its core, listening is the heart and soul of all true relationship.”