"What's your biggest parenting challenge?"
That's the question I asked as I traveled the country speaking to civic, church and school organizations. And everywhere I went the answers were echoed.
As I also sorted through countless e-mails over the last four years from readers of my column, I found that two basic themes kept coming up over and over.
The biggest concerns can be divided into two major categories: relational and practical.
Parents are having trouble in this techno-era connecting with their kids. They also feel as if timeless values are under attack and they need tools they can use to fight back.
And within these two major categories - relational and practical - the particular challenges were also consistent. I kept hearing things like, "Life is busy. The modern media is teaching my kid that it's normal to have sex as a teen. The culture has my kids in their cross-hairs. I can't connect with my children. My daughter dresses like a street walker. My son is distant." Over and over you could hear the heartbreak in their hearts - the hopelessness in their voices.
I began to wonder: What happened to the joy of parenting?
Perhaps the happiest moment of a couple's life is when their precious little one is placed in their arms for the first time. Close your eyes for a few moments and try to remember. Go ahead. Stop reading and close your eyes and think about what it was like.
What emotions did you experience - what was it like? I remember being in a fog of wonder. The little person that I had felt moving inside me was now in my arms - and he had an itty-bitty nose, unique expressions, an identity all his own. As I touched his tiny fingers and toes I marveled at how both delicate and strong they were. I remember the softness of his skin. The warmth of his body. The precious cry. The utter helplessness of that baby. And I remember desperately wanting to protect him, to hold him, to make him deeply happy.
For some strange reason, God had chosen me to be the one to nurture and shape that child into an adult that could make the world a better place. It was up to me to keep him safe, to make warm lasting memories and teach him important lessons. To make him laugh, and think and learn. I was up to the challenge. I was ready - and it was a sheer delight to begin the journey. My husband also felt "the call" - and we considered it our greatest and most important role in life.
I think most parents feel that way - at first But, sadly, an entire generation of parents are now missing the sheer delight of parenting. Some feel so bombarded by outside forces that they've virtually thrown in the towel. Others have grown weary and freely give up their parental roles to the easy convenience of childcare, a school system that will educate them, and technology that will keep them entertained. Many get so caught up along the way by their careers, or their status, or the pressures of the economy that they have forgotten the most rewarding experience in life is a close relationship with one's own offspring.
And they awaken one morning to a teen who is distant, who exhibits sexual behavior way beyond her years, and to a feeling of hopelessness.
The good news is: You can rediscover the delight of parenting. You can experience the pleasure of having a close relationship with your child. You can grow kids who are secure and even grateful because they know that mom and dad are watching their backs, and are committed to them as unique individuals.
Helping to strengthen families - and thus find the joy in family - is the purpose of my new book, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
I'm so grateful for the calling I have to help parents understand and embrace their own individual charge to truly parent - and to find the joy that comes with fully committing to it. And I'm overwhelmed by the support I have received from parents and friends around the country who are rallying behind the vision and purpose of 30 Ways in 30 Days. A very special thanks goes out to Sean Hannity who wrote the foreword and is encouraging parents and small groups, and organizations around the nation to use it as a manual to create stronger families. I asked Sean to write the foreword because he and his wife Jill live out their faith, their commitment to each other and to their kids in a powerful way. Sean has done much to strengthen families and secure our rights as parents to raise our kids - it is a blessing to know him both as a friend and as one of the family's strongest advocates.
My book is dedicated to all the parents, grandparents and youth leaders who want to create the leaders of tomorrow. And to keep you encouraged, informed and equipped in the most important role of your life, I have also started a weekly e-mail service. You can sign up to participate in surveys, receive pointers about the latest cultural challenges, and practical that have worked for other parents who have been down the challenging roads you are facing. To sign up for the free weekly e-mail, just visit my website. You can also e-mail me through my website and ask questions as you take the concrete actions in 30 Ways in 30 Days. I want to continue to hear your stories and successes so I can share them with others. (Only first names are used when I quote from readers.)
It doesn't take an act of Congress to take back your family. It just takes a commitment on your part to do so. It's my privilege to help.
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