How fitting that this "No Smoking Permitted" sign is placed in front of parents protecting a child playing. My first thoughts when seeing this sign were how smoking in front of children severely impacts children's health. Yet, I see this taking place all the time. Even if the smoking doesn't take place in front of the child, there is research that shows there are still negative consequences of the second hand smoke on children. The smoke remains present in clothes, couches, cars, etc. and has a negative impact on children.
Being a parent has so many challenges and, while we may not physically "smoke" and cause damage to our children in this way, there are many other ways we all cause damage through our parenting. Our "smoke" does not look the same.
When I first got pregnant I was so excited because I had infertility challenges and I finally was granted the gift of life to steward. After that initial excitement lessened, fear and doubt soon crept in. I had absolutely NO idea how to be a Godly mother. In fact, the thought of it intimidated me.
Almost 12 years into this whole parenting thing, I have made my share of mistakes as a mother, as we all have. The "smoke" I permitted in front of my children has surely caused some "damage" along the way. However, instead of focusing on all the negatives, I want to share four things I have learned to help minimize the "damage" my imperfect parenting may have caused. We aren't called to be perfect parents and God will grace us to parent and raise God fearing children, despite all our deficiencies. Lord knows I have needed that grace! Romans 3:23 - "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"
1. Model humility and forgiveness (James 4:6)
I learned early in my parenting to ask my children for forgiveness. Geez....I have to humble myself, admit that I am wrong, and ask my children for forgiveness all the time. Through my humility, I have imparted important Biblical principles and taught my children how to respond when they make mistakes. You will make mistakes as a parent. Maybe it won’t take the form of “smoking” in front of them (like this sign), but the toxicity of whatever “smoke” or mistake you engage in front of your children can similarly have life-long consequences if you don’t learn to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. If your children have never heard you apologize and ask for forgiveness, how will they learn to humble themselves and admit when they are wrong? Which, by the way, is a Biblical character trait we should all want our children to possess.
I’ll let you in on one of the weaknesses as a parent I’ve had to daily overcome and ask my children for forgiveness. Don't judge me...we all have our parental deficiencies and today you may find yourself having this same one. When I get frustrated with my children, I have a tendency to raise my voice and yell. I can blame this reaction on things I was taught as a child or take responsibility for my own actions and break this terrible, ugly response. My response is my choice. I may not be “smoking” in front of my children (as depicted in this sign) but this toxic reaction proved to be harmful for our entire family’s communication.
I remember trying to stop and even reduce yelling when I got frustrated, however, because of my prior patterns, my children tended to only listen when I was screaming. They’d grown so accustomed to my yelling conveying the message that I was “serious,” so unless I communicated in this negative manner, they wouldn’t listen. The manifestation of yelling when frustrated got so bad that my husband and I would hear our children getting frustrated with each other and screaming at the top of their lungs. I put my head down in shame and saw how they were merely modeling what they saw in their mother when she got frustrated.
I could’ve had pride and failed to take responsibility for how my behavior was negatively impacting my children. Instead, I’ve humbled myself and apologized to my children for mistakenly teaching them this faulty and ungodly mode of communication. I’ve shared how I haven’t modeled or taught good or Biblical skills in dealing with their frustration and anger. I asked if we could hold each other accountable and together get better at communicating. Yes, I asked for my children's help!! We all have permission to correct the negative communication patterns when they rear their ugly heads. Here is a novel idea: you can teach your children and allow them to teach you as well. But this will take humility, confession, and repentance. When you model this pattern, your children will subsequently reciprocate these Godly traits. True leaders don’t just dictate. They learn from: people leading them; people they are leading together with; and people they are leading. If you see your children as “beneath” you, you will lose opportunities to learn from them. What a sad state that would be. My children have taught me so much and surely helped me to draw closer to God.
2. Specifically pray for your children in these three ways (Proverbs 22:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17):
Hopefully as parents trying to raise our children in a Christian home, we incorporate prayer into our every day home life. Here are three ways maybe you have or haven’t consistently prayed for, that I believe are powerful weapons.
Pray for their future spouses:
First, do you regularly pray for your children’s spouses? If not, I encourage you to pray for God to guard and protect their future spouses and keep them pure. Pray from the time they are conceived that God will guide your children to marry God fearing spouses and that you will have a healthy and close knit relationship with their spouses. I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want daughter and son in law drama. It’s never too early or too late for you to incorporate this into your regular prayer life.
Pray over and anoint their beds and bedrooms:
Second, when your children aren’t around, get anointing oil and pray over their beds and their bedrooms. I learned this practice from my mother and sister in law who regularly went in their children’s rooms (including my husband’s when he was a child) and laid hands on the walls and on their beds. I get anointing oil and pray for the dreams my children will have when they lay down on their beds and that God will speak to them prophetically during their sleep. I pray against any attacks that may happen in their rooms in their minds, in their actions, and against any secrets/lies that may linger within their bedrooms. I firmly believe these prayers have caused my now almost 10 year old daughter to come to me literally almost daily with things she needs to share to make sure she has a “clear conscious.” I pray the conviction of the Holy Spirit in each of their rooms and if there is anything that is not of God within the walls, that it would have to flee, in the name of Jesus. Oh and if you have a teenager who doesn't want you in "their" room because of "privacy"...guess what? It is your house and your room that they get to temporarily call "their" room while they live in your house. Go in "their" room and take back dominion the enemy may have claimed under your roof!
Pray over and anoint them while they are sleeping:
Lastly, I pray and anoint my children when they are sleeping. I pray over and anoint their feet, that God would order their steps and lead them in the paths of righteousness and keep them from evil. Over their ears that God would cover them from hearing wickedness. Over their minds that God would grant them peace mentally and advance them intellectually. Over their eyes that they would abstain from looking at perverse or ungodly things. Over their hands, that everything they touch will find favor with God and with man. Over their hearts, that they will remain pure and steadfast after the ways of the Lord. While they live under your roof, take advantage of the time you have to lay hands and pray over your children!
3. Take your children on individual date nights (2 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 11:22)
We have three children and sometimes it can be difficult to have one on one time with each child because of schedules. However, we’ve made it a tradition in our family to set boundaries so we can consistently take our children on what we call “date nights.” Because we have built these patterns, our children have come to look forward to their "date night" with either mommy or daddy and we are sending them consistent messages that they are a priority to us.
Don't be too busy in life that you don't carve out individual time regularly with each one of your children. Creating this space will probably involve prioritizing and cutting something - yes even something "ministry" related - but you will NEVER get back years with your children.
Taking your children on these "date nights" doesn’t necessarily have to cost anything. Sometimes, I go on a “date” with my oldest son and we go on walks. Recently we walked to a local pond and sat on a park bench and talked, held hands, and just watched the swans and ducks paddle by the moonlight. Learn what your children enjoy and build memories together. My daughter and I, for as long as I can remember, have a tradition of going to Panera Bread together. We have laughed, cried, and been silent after arguments at Panera Bread. This is “our spot.”
Be intentional and don’t let time slip through your fingers. Create patterns of space individually for each one of your children. They will carry them for the rest of their lives. My prayer is, if I live to be 80, that my daughter and I have continued memories at Panera Bread that may even include some day grand and great grandchildren.
4. Teach your children how to war (Ephesians 6:10-18)
I remember going through a difficult season with my daughter which caused me to learn a valuable lesson. The enemy was consistently attacking her in one particular area over and over. I was warring for her but ultimately she was finding herself in situations where the same attacks were taking place. One day, I was talking to (more like crying my eyes out to) a friend of mine who, ironically had no children. She deposited an important truth in to me that day: I needed to teach my children how to war for themselves. Instead of always “coming to the rescue,” we are teaching our children how to fight in the spiritual realm. They need to know how to lay hands on their OWN minds, on their OWN eyes, on their OWN heart, on their OWN feet, and bind and loose. They need to know how to “put on the full armor of God.” I cannot put the armor on for them. They have to know how to fight and surrender their battles to the Lord.
Maybe today you find yourself as a parent and feel guilty for mistakes you've made with your children. Maybe you are blaming yourself for decisions your children have or are making and feel like it's your fault. Maybe you are comparing your children to other people's children and feeling like a failure.
Let me encourage you to not parent out of comparison or guilt. I can speak from personal experience, parenting out of guilt only does more damage. Forgive yourself for mistakes you have made, ask your child for forgiveness, move on, and learn ways to be a more Godly parent.
No matter what age your children are, it is not too late. You will ALWAYS be your child's mom. You will always be your child's dad. You may not have the authority to restrict and protect them as their parent like you could when they were younger and living under your roof, but you can have the ability to influence, coach, and most importantly listen. You can be present. You can incorporate these four Godly principles, no matter what stage you are in as a parent….even if they aren’t under your physical roof...you can still lay hands in the spiritual realm on their beds, walls of their bedrooms, their eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc.
Chose today to have “No Smoking Permitted” near your children. You can’t change yesterday, but today is a new day. Hallelujah! God specifically chose you, out of every person He could have, to be your child's parent. Extinguish and Stop Smoking!
P.S. Thanks Stephanie Kelleher for the picture of this cool sign (or "photo creds to Stephanie Kelleher" as my young friends would say....although I don't have that cool photo emojee)!
If you see a sign that would make for a good blog, feel free to snap a picture and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org