The one thing every parent needs to know

“I thought I had the parenting formula down.”

That was what my friend said as she described her kids’ behavior and attitudes.

For years, all their little bright faces, great attitudes, and constant successes were what she had always hoped for and then… what happened?

One boy started to roll his eyes and talk back. His brother got a tattoo without permission. She discovered one of the boys was drinking. Her youngest daughter didn’t want to go to church. One of the boys wouldn’t do his school work and when he did, his grades were terrible.

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It wasn’t all bad all the time, of course.

At least, the kids took turns acting up! And, all along, her oldest daughter was the model child — good grades, great attitude, an all around good girl.Same house, same parenting… different outcomes.

Her kids were not perfect and neither was her parenting.

“The formula failed.” She said as she giggled and shook her head.

Breaking news: There is no formula!

Here is the one truth every parent must always remember no matter the behavior of their child. Your child’s behavior is not a prescription for their future, it is a description of their present.

Did you get that? Where they are right now is not where they will always be.

So, if little Joey is tatted up, skipping church, and getting D’s, it is not a prescription for his future. It is a description of his present.

If little Josie is getting straight A’s, dressing like a saint, and always smiling, it is not necessarily a prescription for her future. It is a description of her present.

In other words, don’t fall into despair if they’re blowing it and don’t puff up with pride if they’re super stars. You can’t take credit for their greatness nor can you take ultimate responsibility for their failures. Sure, every choice they make is like a seed they plant. And, that seed grows. But, poisonous seeds, just like good seeds, can only continue to grow if they are watered and fed.

Their behavior and choices are hints to where their heart is gravitating. But, it’s a hint, not a prophecy. Those poisonous seeds don’t have to grow to be thorny vines that choke them. And, the good seeds can keep growing and blossoming as they are nurtured and fed. You get the idea!

Parents, tend to the hints and little seeds. Keep watering the good seeds with encouragement and keep lovingly pointing out the poison when you can. But, don’t assume that their today will be there tomorrow.

You just do your best. You aren’t a perfect parent and they aren’t perfect kids. Little Josie may veer from her perfect streak for a spell and choose attitudes and actions you don’t expect. Little Joey, who is wild and crazy as a teen, may very well cut his hair, get a job, and become an amazing godly man.

Now is not forever.

If they’re not living up to their potential or if they’re making poor choices right now, don’t throw in the towel (or choke them with the towel) and use today’s failure as a forecast for their future. God can use even the failure to help form a beautiful future for them.

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Trust that God began a good work in them and He will carry it to completion. Every day of their lives is a part of the path… not a destination. Every good choice… every mistake… are stepping stones getting them closer to maturity. Even the mistakes and missteps are just speed bumps, not dead ends.

What you can never forget is that if their behavior and lifestyle now breaks your heart, it is a description, not a prescription. And, if their behavior and lifestyle thrills your heart, pray it remains, but, realize it may veer at some point for some time. And if it does, it will be a description, not a prescription

God’s got this! He is the only perfect parent and He loves you and your kids perfectly. Trust Him to be the perfect Father to your children. His prescription for their life is better than you can even imagine.

When it comes to parenting, there is no formula… there is only faith.

“Point your kids in the right direction — when they’re old they won’t be lost.” Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

Watch: Kirk and Chelsea Cameron talk openly about raising six children 

This post originally appeared on and was republished with permission.

Jennifer Rothschild has written 14 books, including the bestseller Lessons I Learned in the Dark and Me, Myself, and Lies. She’s been featured on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil and is the founder of Fresh Grounded Faith events. Jennifer became blind at age 15 and now helps others live beyond limits.


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