The Most Important Parenting Lesson I’ve Learned

A few weeks ago Eden got glasses. Me and Katie both wear glasses. So, it makes sense that Eden would need to wear glasses. Still, there was a part of me that was disappointed and surprised that her sight wasn’t perfect.

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I realize it doesn’t make sense. Me and Katie don’t have perfect sight. So, why would our kids have perfect sight? It brought me face to face with this reality…

My children will most likely grow up to be like me.

If my eyesight is bad, it’s likely their eyesight will be bad.

If I have trouble saying, “I love you,” it’s likely they’ll have trouble saying, “I love you.”

If I don’t have a strong, vibrant faith, it’s likely they won’t have a strong, vibrant faith.

It reminded me of Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. In particular, it reminded me of the chapter she wrote on parenting. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book. This quote captures her thoughts…

Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting. In terms of teaching our children to dare greatly in the “never enough” culture, the question isn’t so much “Are you parenting the right way?” as it is: “Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?”

I’m well aware that there are many great people, who are great parents, whose kids didn’t turn out to be like them. I love and respect many people like this. I’ve got a lot to learn. But, I know enough to know that there’s no formula for parenting.

That having been said, this idea from Brene Brown brings three things to mind…

1. Becoming a healthy person is the best gift I can give my children.

I tend to think that if my kids have the right experiences (school, extracurricular activities, etc.), they’ll be the right kind of person. According to Brene Brown, these things are secondary.

The experiences that matter most in my kids lives are their experiences with me. What do they see when they look at my life? I believe that I have the greatest influence on my kids by being who I want them to be, by being healthy.

2. This is terrifying.

One of the hardest questions I have to ask myself as a parent is: “If my kids end up just like me, would that be a good thing?” This is terrifying and it should be.

I never want to be flippant with something as sacred as shaping a person’s life from birth. The sobriety that comes when I ask myself this question is a good thing for me. It reminds me that it’s a privilege to be a parent.

3. This is liberating.

This idea is terrifying but it’s also liberating. There’s nothing I have more control of than myself. While I’ll never have total control of who my kids become, I do have control over who I become. I’m not powerless. I can control myself.


I know I need all the help I can get. What’s the most important parenting lesson you’ve learned? I’d love to hear it!

  1 comment for “The Most Important Parenting Lesson I’ve Learned

  1. Tim Tripp
    October 5, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Neil, in reference to #2, I too have found it terrifying but I have also realized that my greatest job as a father is to point them to a heavenly father. Despite my weaknesses and shortcomings he makes up for where I lack. Thank you for your valuable insight!

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