Nothing is as challenging as being a parent. Children have no on/off button. They cannot be put in the closet like clothes, turned off and parked like cars or placed in a kennel for the night like pets. They’re on a constant quest: poking, prodding, pushing, pulling and climbing.

When our children were little, we weren’t allowed to strap them down in the back seat (it was a long time ago). As soon as they got in the car, they looked for buttons to push and knobs to twist. When I turned on the key the blinkers blinked, windshield wipers wiped and the radio blared, vibrating the windows. The same was true for our bedroom and kitchen.

They grew up to be responsible adults. But the path wasn’t easy. Every passage brought new challenges: the first day of school, a move from familiar neighborhoods to a new city, puberty, a driver’s license, dating, computer games and technology.

Parenting requires a constant learning curve that never stops, even after children are grown and on their own. Relationships constantly change and adjust. As a parent, you’re always entering new and unfamiliar territory.

I found across the years that there’s no “fix it” book for parenting, no “cure-all,” “read this” or “do this” simple solution. Every child is different, and every parenting situation has its unique challenges. But there are some essential tools that make the difference: patience, consistency, authenticity, trust, love, faith and a listening ear.

Most of us don’t come naturally equipped with these essential tools. Most of us have to learn them and acquire them while we’re on the job. And all of us have room for improvement.

Years ago, I visited in the home of a young mother who was caring for several preschool children. I was amazed at her patience and attention with the children and complimented her on it. She responded by telling me this had not always been the case. Before she trusted Christ, she said, she had no patience with children, but after she gave her heart to Jesus, he gave her a gift of patience, not only for her own children, but for others.

The Bible says John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the world by turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to righteousness (Luke 1:16-17). Every generation must struggle against the natural desires of the flesh: envy, jealousy, resentment, anger and self-indulgence. These attitudes destroy the family.

When we put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ, he gives us a new heart. He produces in us the fruits of the spirit that equip us to be parents: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” All of these, the Bible says, are the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit www.tinsleycenter.com. Email bill@tinsleycenter.com.

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