This is going to sound strange, but I do wonder sometimes if God got it backwards when it comes to parenting. I’m not really questioning God’s wisdom, so don’t respond with a super-spiritual answer to correct my logic, just let me think out loud for a few minutes. Why did I start out as a dad during the busiest and hardest years of my life?
I became a parent like a lot of you, while I was still trying to figure out who I was, build a career, manage a minimal income, establish a healthy marriage, etc. It seems like it would make more sense to find my identity, build a strong marriage, retire and then have kids. Now I have more margin in my time and finances. Back then, I was always running out of everything. I just think I would be a much better parent now than I was in my twenties. I actually hear young parents giving advice to other young parents sometimes and think, “that’s never going to work.” I start to interrupt and then just think, “you will figure this out.” I really do wish I knew then what I know now. Not that I have all the answers. . .I just think I would be a smarter dad. So here’s some advice I would give to myself if I were starting over as a dad:
Listen more, talk less.
(I can’t count the college students who tell me they don’t feel like their parents ever really listened.)
Don’t “send” your kids to bed, put them in bed.
(You only have a short window of time when they are young enough to want you to tuck them in.)
Ask better questions.
(Learn to shift from performance questions to heart questions.)
Guard Saturdays to create family traditions.
(There are a little over 350 Saturdays between the time your kids are 1st grade and when they become teenagers, then Saturdays change forever.)
Don’t sign up your kids for everything.
(We tend to make our kids experientially rich, but relationally poor.)
(Have fun together, build memories playing board games or card games, etc.)
Don’t take things too serious.
(What you think matters right now will probably not matter as much as you think it does later. What does matter is what you communicate during stressful or dramatic moments.)
Never punish anyone relationally.
(Don’t withdraw your relationship to make someone feel bad for something they have done wrong.)
Do chores together.
(Kids who work with their parents have a better work ethic and tend to be more responsible.)
Say “I love you” everyday.
(It’s just a healthy habit you can never start too early.)
(You might as well admit when you do something wrong, everyone knows it anyway.)
I could keep going here. . .What advice would you give yourself if you had to do it all over again?
Reggie is founder and CEO of Orange. He has co-written two parenting books, Playing for Keeps and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity as well as other leadership books including Lead Small and Think Orange. Reggie lives in Georgia with his wife, Debbie, and has four grown children, Reggie Paul, Hannah, Sarah and Rebekah. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.