An Attempt at Explaining How I Plan to Raise my Kids

on raising childrenI want others to respect my values and morals and to respect how I raise my children as a parent. There are parent’s out there that have warped values and child-rearing practices, and that often demands the intervention of a community and sometimes the law, but most of the time we respect different parenting practices. So here is a brief insight into my hopes of instilling certain values in my children, and then a brief defense of them.

I want to raise my children valuing the importance of relationship and community. I want them to see giving as far more enjoyable and valuable then receiving (yes even at Christmas time). I want my children to know, and probably lend me insight, into the paradoxes of Jesus’ teachings. Love your enemies, deny yourself, seek first the kingdom, faith like a child in a kingdom like a mustard seed. I want my kids to know that there are better uses of your time then comatose entertainment; that more toys won’t make you more happy. I want them to know that Christianity and Church is much more about hanging out in the park with the homeless and having banquets for the needy, than it is about singing songs, drawing pictures and eating out on Sunday with people that all look and act the same. I want my kids to know that worship includes planting gardens and giving food, clothes and shelter to others. I want them to know that we bike because it’s fun, and it’s taking good care of this lovely planet God gave us. I want my kids to know the importance of wearing clothes and eating food that was prepared justly and not by a child their age in a sweatshop. I want my kids to know that God will care for their needs, but that it is more important to live simply so that others might simply live. I want my kids to have fun, playing at the park, reading books at the library, going on adventures all over town, building castles out of refrigerator boxes, redeeming others trash into tree forts.

I know, my aspirations are high. I have ideas for how I might begin to instill those values, and I’m flexible with how, but those are values I want to teach them. Most people will agree these are good ends, it’s the means that people are going to have a hard time with. I don’t want to have a TV in the house. I’m not going to buy my children presents on Christmas. We aren’t going to fill our house with toys. We aren’t going to live a lifestyle that matches our income. Our cars, clothes, toys and haircuts might be less trendy then the neighbors. We’re going to live in a neighborhood where everyone doesn’t look the same, and BMW’s and SUV’s don’t line the driveways. And that might mean my bike gets stolen.

Can other’s respect that? Honestly, I think they’re going to have a hard time. Folks might disagree on when their kid’s can see scary movies, but they all think you should get toys on Christmas. They might disagree on smoking in the house, but most folks seem to agree you should get the biggest house you can afford (actually that the bank will loan you).

I definitely think the biggest obstacle to instilling these values in our children will not be the children’s willingness to embrace them, but other adults outright disagreement and disrespect of that set of values (however well meaning they are).

20 thoughts on “An Attempt at Explaining How I Plan to Raise my Kids”

  1. I can’t say much now, as I am at work, let me just tell you that your aspirations are not too high. You and Mindy will be living proof that having a baby does not have to change your lifestyle, you can still live simply and responsibly, help others, and be aware of what is going on in your world. Thanks for not following the crowd, and doing what you believe in. And thanks for your aspirations of not bringing another spoiled, lazy kid with way too many toys into this world. And another thanks just for sharing, you guys truly are an inspiration to Ben and I.

  2. Beautiful, Ariah. Beautiful.

    These are the same aspirations we have for our children as well. It CAN be done! You’re right in saying that you will face the most opposition family and most other “mainstream” adults. This has been the case with us for sure.

    Stay strong…it’s a truly wonderful vision for your family and one that is indeed very attainable. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Wow,
    I really appreciate all of the encouragement everyone is so eager to give. I guess I’m not too crazy for desiring to live this way. I’ll be posting a lot more thoughts on parenting and life with children in the future, so you might want to subscribe to not miss anything.

  4. Your aspirations for parenting are far different from what our culture expects. I commend you for taking a principaled stand based on your faith.

  5. My wife & I share many of your hopes & have spent the past 5+ years attempting to live it as we raise our 2 kids. As you might expect, we’ve had some successes, some spectacular failures and a lot of in-between. There are so many different factors, so many different battles. Remember, when you say “our culture”, you include grandparents, cousins, and kids of dear friends – all of whom you probably relationship. The challenge is helping others understand your values when your kids are still too young to have completely absorbed them.

    I don’t mean to discourage you from setting your standards high. Just be prepared not to meet them all the time. And spend lots and lots of time talking as a couple and with God to debrief and re-energize.

    My pathetic attempt at a blog has some examples & I’d be happy to share more.

  6. Hi there ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t think we’ve “met” before, and to be honest I have no idea how I ended up on your site at all. But I did, and I saw the title of this post in your sidebar, and had to take a look.

    I think your plans are wonderful! How old are your children, if you already have them? Others have referred to you and Mindy – I take it that’s your wife/partner’s name? Kudos to both of you!

    My “baby,” Katie, is 16 now. One of the very best things I’ve ever done in my life was to agree with my daughter’s father on some basic common principles as to how we would rear any children we had together. We did that before we got married. Unhappily, we divorced when she was pretty young, but we stuck to those principles, which made coparenting far easier than most divorced families seem to have things (and made everything much healthier for Katie).

    One of the most basic things was that we wanted to raise children whose company we would truly enjoy. We hated seeing people have kids when they obviously couldn’t stand spending time with them, and we weren’t going to have ill-behaved children who nobody would WANT to be around (who were usually acting out because their parents were inconsistent and didn’t give them enough real love and attention in the first place).

    Katie’s father died in 1999, shortly after her 9th birthday, after a two-year battle with leukemia. I can honestly say that those nine years were very good ones, and she has many memories of real time spent with her father.

    The legacy of consistency and an emphasis on respect towards every being, and acting with true (not superficial barebones “etiquette”) courtesy towards everyone will serve every child for a lifetime. It opens doors for Katie every single day. People in every setting seek me, my partner, and my parents out to comment on Katie’s grace and poise, and how well she interacts with people of all ages. When they learn that we homeschooled her for five years after her father died, they’re especially surprised (they usually assume that homeschooling = social awkwardness, which is silly). She’s comfortable with little ones and elderly people, and has retained a sweetness that I don’t see in many teens. Since her friends tend to “hang out” at our house, I have many opportunities for comparison – I don’t think I’m just bragging!

    We constantly wage a quiet campaign to get relatives to support our greener lifestyle in terms of gifts and the like for Katie. Just a hint: It goes over better if you ask them to give gifts of family memberships and magazine subscriptions and the like, Instead of focusing on “no toys” emphasize the fact that the gifts will last all year, and that the kids will be reminded of Grandma or Aunt Susie every time they go to the zoo or get the magazine in the mail. I’ve made up lists of suggestions in the past, but FlyLady has (or had – let me know if you have trouble finding it) a “no clutter gifts” list on her site with suggestions for all ages which would probably be more appropriate for you.

    Best of luck to you!

  7. Patrick, Phil and Cynthia,

    Thanks for the encouraging comments. I’m quite glad you took the time to stop by and leave a comment. I’m definitly continuing to think about the issues that I talked about and brought up in this post. I recently wrote a response to an email from another reader of my blog, that you might want to check out:

    let me know what you think.

  8. We are really glad Jody told us about you guys. We are on a very similar journey and you are way ahead of us, which I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. i’m so glad that i’m finally finding people who are genuinely say no to the american dream, which is such a nightmare for much of the rest of the world, and saying yes to at least consistently pursuing how Jesus showed us to live in regard to money, possessions, and the least of these. I feel like i’ve been asleep just going along with this horribly wrong system for so long, and God has been waking me up…We are studying the Word with you, learning about injustice issues worldwide with you, grieving about them, and longing for the alternative possibility with you. I genuinely look forward to learning more about the alternative possibilities you all are living out right now.
    I have much more to say, but maybe another time. We’d love to meet you all and learn from your lives and example.

  9. It looks like a lot of people are subscribed to this post, so this comment is in hopes of stirring up the conversation again.

    I’m one month in to fatherhood and it has been splendid. I’ve been taking a break from blogging sort of to try and reflect on the very things this post (about raising my children) is about.
    I figured since so many of the comments on here were so encouraging I’d try and reignite the conversation again and see if anyone wants to dialog about raising kids in an ethical and justice manner.

    Any thoughts?

  10. I may be too late to chime in on this thread, but I am deeply interested in the topic of raising your kids with Christian values in continuity with lifestyle choices. My daughter will be 2 in June, and we our expecting our second (a boy) this June.
    While most of the comments are very encouraging, I have found that “the world” is very vocal and extremely opinionated about how you raise your kids. For example, I have heard all sorts of criticism about the fact that my husband and I do not intend to foster the myth of Santa Claus.
    It seems like child-rearing is one topic that everyone feels entitled to express their thoughts on- loudly, obnoxiously and without concern for political correctness. To that end, if you ever have a particularly discouraging conversation with someone centered on raising kids- reread the above comments. Keep us all posted on how parenting is going. It’s an adventure no matter how you do it!

  11. Great goals!

    My worry is that you will have to be on the lookout for rebellion.

    Often times the lure from friends and peers is difficult.

    When they test your boundaries it will be important to communicate why you do the things you do and then to love them anyway, even if they sway.

  12. Just found this post– I really like it. Adam & I resonate a lot with your ideas as far as the kind of environment we want to create for our children as they grow. Would you consider doing a follow-up (or maybe you already have and I didn't see it in the archives) about what life looks like now that you have been a parent for a while? (e.g. what kind of non-electronic activities do you guys do to stay busy/occupied all day, etc…) We DO own a TV that we don't really use for TV but rather for home movies and some dvds, but I'd love to have it on even less than we do now.
    My recent post How I get my kids to eat all the food groups. In one dish.

    1. Tara,
      Thanks for chiming in! I did actually publish this over a year ago in Geez Magazine, and included a little "Afterward". I posted it on my blog for those not subscribed to the magazine:

      But that's a fairly brief summary. And since then we adopted our son and now have two crazy toddlers to contend with. So, I should maybe write more.
      Did you have specific questions in mind? What specifically are you curious about? We haven't figured it out, but I'm happy to share what we are doing…

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