Two of my eight kids have made it, to college, that is. Two home schooled students, accepted to major universities, and receiving scholarships. If this doesn't do it for you, they both choose worship experiences, quiet times with friends and service projects when they are free to make their own choices. SO, how did we raise such awesome kids?
I would like to say there was some grand plan, but to be perfectly honest, we have mostly taken a one day at a time, allow the child to find their way approach, while offering lots of guidance, clear cut guidelines for behavior in our family, and as many opportunities to do the things they were passionate about as we could afford.
I know that's not very specific, so here at three things we did that I think all parents should do to get great kids.
- Know them. This may sound flippant, but it's not. In this day and age, most parents spend maybe an hour or two per day in the presence of their younger children, and almost none by the time they reach high school. We not only home schooled our kids up to high school, and my oldest son until graduation by his own choice, but we are also self employed, a choice that allows us to know our kids. We are there for them, one hundred percent. We attend every concert, every game, every play. We know those who pour into their lives and we know their friends.
- Build fences judiciously, and make them clearly marked. We set up a lot of rules in the beginning, too many. So, over time we boiled it down to love God, love others, and built our household rules around that. For instance, if you ever treat your best friends better than you treat your siblings, the best friendship will be long distance, or not at all. We tried not to change the rules, unless it was necessary, we tried to make consequences fair, and we kept conflict to a minimum by not making rules we did not need to make. I learned this from my own parents. We have restrictions, but they are fair, consistent, and few.
- Share your faith and ideas, don't indoctrinate. There is no way to force children into your belief system. It doesn't work. There is no way to restrict them into righteous behavior, or make them quote enough scripture to engrave it on their DNA. Share with your kids, often, tell them what you believe and why you believe it. Tell them what you expect, and what kind of consequences life will dish out for bad choices. Ask them what they believe, and use that as a springboard to converse more deeply. Point out logical flaws, and work to fill gaps in understanding, but you have no choice at all when it comes to what your children ultimately believe to be the truth.
There is so much more, that I am sure we have done, some intentionally, some intuitively, but I hope this saves somebody some frustration. Ultimately, it has been my goal, and we seem to be batting 1000 on this so far, to raise children who do not turn out to be a**holes. That's my advice, good luck, and relax, it isn't as hard as it looks. The hard stuff is up to God anyway.