I tend to overthink things so I like to use short phrases I call “one-liners” to keep me on track. Examples: “Let go and let God,” “Feelings are not facts,” “DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.” That last one is my favorite and the one I lean on the most.
My wife Lee and I recently co-taught a sermon series titled “Family One Liners.” We’ve been married 37 years and the sermon series was based on the one-liners we have developed throughout our marriage that helped us relate to each other, to our parents, to our children and to just about everybody we’ve ever encountered. They come from our own experience, our interaction with folks as a pastor and counselor, and from God’s Word.
In honor of June as National Family Month, I’m posting a summary of each of the three sermons. Here’s the first one…
RELATIONSHIPS WITH CHILDREN
And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice. (Ephesians 6:4 TLB)
1) You have influence, but no control. Maybe we should learn a lesson from how God parents us as our Heavenly Father. Despite being all-powerful, He does not try and control us; He gives us free will. As parents, model what you want them to be. What they see in us is more than likely what they’ll become (good and bad). “You should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT). As we’ll discuss later, the stronger the relationship, the greater the influence.
2) Your job is to empower, not to enable. How are children ever going to be prepared to deal with setbacks and obstacles, if they never have to face and overcome them? One of the ways we empower children is by allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices (the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat). Don’t bail them out. Better to learn the lesson when they’re young, when the stakes aren’t as high.
3) If it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. Consider this criteria: would it matter if it was someone else’s child (e.g. hair color, grade, habits)? Put another way: Choose your battles wisely. And another one-liner helpful in determining if it really matters: If their hair isn’t on fire, wait. Employing that principle, many times we’ve found out it really doesn’t matter so we end up doing nothing. Other times, God shows us a creative way to handle the situation. Remember: majoring on the minors is Satan’s way of getting us (and them) off-track, so focus on the “big stuff” (spiritual matters, character issues; not externalities). “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8a NLT)
4) Focus on progress, not perfection. If the standard is perfection, we’ve all failed (and every parent before us). Remember, raising a child is a process, not a project. The Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (vs. “Tell a child the way”). Practice, practice, practice. You don’t have to get there today. Besides, the journey is the destination (enjoy your children where they are). Here’s another good one-liner to remember: Good enough is good enough. Celebrate where they are, instead of looking at where they could be.
5) Preserve the relationship at all costs. A fellow pastor’s advice to me when I was struggling as a parent of two teenagers (with struggles of their own): “There’s no magic pill, just preserve the relationship.” He also added, “When they’re at their worst, amp up the love.” About the same time, someone told me, “Say what you mean and mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” It’s okay to set boundaries and impose discipline, but how you communicate it is as important as what you say and do (and maybe more so). “When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need – words that will help [them] become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT). Kindness, compassion, forgiveness are keys to preserving the relationship. No matter the size or age, every child is a fully functioning person. So don’t demean or talk down to them. Instead, show respect and give them value.
Invitation: In your relationship with your children, what is the next right thing you can do, especially to preserve and enhance your relationship with them?
What are some of the one-liners that guide your life? I’d love to hear about them! Email me at email@example.com. Happy National Family Month!