My children are adults now and several have children of their own. We had lots of fun as a family, and I have lots of great memories of raising our kids. But in retrospect, I think I would have done a number of things differently. So, I share them in hopes that younger parents might benefit and not make some of the mistakes I did. Some things I would do differently:
I wouldn’t try to shelter them from every possible influence of the world.
Parents should try to be careful as to what their children are exposed to, but we can be overly protective. We homeschooled, kept our kids from playing public school sports, and didn’t let them go trick-or-treating. And we didn’t let our kids watch Sesame Street because Oscar the Grouch had a bad attitude.
Eventually, I came to realize you can put your children in a bubble and it still won’t guarantee that sin won’t sprout in their hearts. My wife and I thought that if we did all these things, it would guarantee our children would automatically follow the Lord. Now I’d consider each individual child as to the best kind of schooling for them. There’s no best way. The Bible just commands fathers to bring up their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.
I would try not to express disappointment or shock when they confessed sin to me.
Though I tried to not to act surprised when one of my kids confessed a sin, there were times I dropped my head or got a pained expression on my face, which certainly didn’t make them want to open up to me.
I wouldn’t emphasize manners as much.
It’s good for kids to learn to say “please” and “thank you,” but at so many of our meal times I bugged my kids about their manners. I justified it by saying, “Someday you may be invited to the White House, and you’ll be embarrassed if you have bad manners while you’re eating with the president.”
I would try to encourage them more.
Although I did try to encourage them, I believe that proportionally I corrected them more. Now I would seek to reverse that.
I would try to draw them out more as teenagers.
There were times when our kids were going through really painful experiences as teens, and I was too quick to dole out spiritual advice rather than empathize and try to understand what they were going through.
I would try not to expect our kids to change their attitudes immediately.
Even now, I’m not always quick to have a good attitude, yet I often expected my kids to “snap to” and change their attitude on a dime. Wouldn’t do that now (I hope).
Along these lines, I also wouldn’t look for fruit too soon. I was looking for change and maturity way too soon. Adult believers are slow to change. Sometimes it takes many years to see the fruit of the Spirit in adults, let alone in our children.
This doesn’t have to do with my parenting, but I would also not judge other parents.
At times if another parent was having struggles with their child I would think they must be doing something wrong. Later on, I’d find myself having struggles with one of my children.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.