Last weekend, Christi was out of town and I (Josh) had the kids by myself. I paid particular attention during those intensive 72 hours together to their behavior, and I saw quite clearly the milestones our kids were thriving in. I also glaringly saw the milestones they weren’t.
I praised them specifically for the thriving milestones. However, I also helped them see where they needed to grow. The conversation ended something like this:
Me: “Okay, so Landon, you’re working on what?”
Me: “Right. And Kennedy, what are you working on?”
Kennedy: “Not being whiny.”
Me: “Great job, guys!”
Then came the best question of all from our inquisitive son, “Dad, what are you working on?”
In our family, school never ends. When we stop learning, we stop growing. We ended prayer time last evening talking about the one way we did a good job that day with the milestone each of us is working on—Christi and myself included.
The school year ahead should be no different for how we parent. Make no mistake, research consistently shows our kids become who we are.
So whether you choose to send your kids to private school, public school, or you homeschool, spiritual growth and character development are always in session at home—for everyone in the family. And there’s no better time than at the beginning of a new school year to highlight the milestones we too, as parents, most need to grow.
That said, refocusing our attention after summer can be difficult. Here are four ways we refocus in our family (and as corny as it may seem, the alliteration using the letter “S” helps us remember them):
- Surrender your year to God and ask Him to reveal His agenda for your kids. In other words, we have to drop our parental agendas for our kids (i.e. my daughter must make the dance team, my kids must make straight A’s, etc.).
In your mind, what goes in that blank? What expectations do you have for your kids that may only be your expectations? One of the best ways to uncover unhealthy agendas is to be honest with God about your fears as a parent.
For example, the story you might be telling yourself is, “If my son doesn’t join baseball now, he’ll be so far behind later on.” But what if your son has shown no interest in baseball whatsoever? Is it wise to put our kids in sports or activities we’re passionate about but they show no interest or talent in?
The previous example is the exact one in our home. I love baseball. But my son shows zero interest in it. I have had to surrender my dream for him to pursue God’s dream for him. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.”
Notice that verse doesn’t say, “Start a youth in your way…”
As parents, we must become students—students of our own kids—paying attention to how we can come alongside their passions, gifts, and milestones to shape them into who God created them to be.
If you’d like to journey with us and hundreds of other families this school year in discipling our kids together, you can sign up for a free trial of 22:6 Parenting by clicking here.
- Set expectations of who you want your kids to be.
In the opening illustration, we each found one area we needed to focus on for growth. As a parent, it’s too easy to find a million things in our kids we get frustrated about. If we try to fix every annoying behavior at one time, we will exasperate our kids (Ephesians 6:4). Remember, childish behavior is called “childish” for a reason.
Instead, hone in on two traits that speak into your children’s growth areas. Last year, the traits we used in our home were being kind and brave. Every morning on the way to school, we prayed for those two traits. At the end of the day, we celebrated when our kids were kind and brave that day.
With school about to begin, we have invited our kids into prayer and discussion about what this year’s two traits will be for our family. As you invite your kids into finding two traits they can focus on in the year ahead, you can use the What Am I Feeling? book to help guide them with their own fears and expectations for the year ahead.
- Simplify your lives. We have found in our own lives that if we’re not intentional, we can too easily get caught up in the frantic pace of the culture around us.
That’s why in 22:6 Parenting, we have journeyed together with other families to set values that guide the decisions we make.
Before the school year begins, make a point to set family values that will guide your family this school year. As you set those values, look at your calendar and see what activities you may need to eliminate.
For example, we decided last year that it would be best for our kids to not be in any activities that fall. Our son was starting to attend school all day, every day for the first time, and we didn’t want our family to be overtaxed emotionally or physically.
This fall, each child chose one activity. We know other families involved in more—and that’s okay. Our family values just look different. But if you don’t know your values, you’ll ebb and flow with the next cool thing, not the next best thing for your family.
- Serve. In other words, be others-focused. Remember, our kids become who we are. When we use our gifts to serve others, we show our kids by example that our talents were given to us for others, not merely for ourselves.
Help your kids learn how they can use their gifts to bring others joy or to cheer up a friend who is sad. The Bible calls us to love God and love others, so instead of focusing merely on good grades or personal achievements, ask the question, “How did you use your gifts today to serve others?”
In 22:6 Parenting, we use pit stops to help implement the monthly milestones we teach our kids. Here’s an example of the pit stops you can use to refocus your parenting this school year.
Week 1: Ask God, as a family, His agenda for the year ahead.
Week 2: Establish two yearlong qualities each child should prioritize each school day.
Week 3: Review your calendar and say yes only to what aligns to your family values.
Week 4: Help your kids identify one gift they can use to serve others at school.
Looking to continue to grow as a parent? Check out the Straubs’ six-session Bible study, Homegrown.
Josh and Christi Straub are speakers, authors, and marriage and family coaches. They are Co-hosts of the “In This Together” podcast, co-authors of their new Bible study Homegrown, and they lead an online community of parents called 22:6 Parenting. Josh (PhD) is a professor of child psychology and the author of Safe House: How Emotional Safety Is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well. Josh and Christi have two fun-loving kids, Landon and Kennedy, and a feisty puppy named Copper.