Yesterday was one of those CRAZY days at our house. Every parent knows the kind of day I'm talking about. It seemed like chaos from the morning drama of trying to get the kids out the door before the school bus drove off all the way up to a noise-filled bedtime with a screaming toddler and two naked, unbathed gradeschool boys jumping on their beds. By the time the house was quiet (for the first time all day), my wife and I both looked like we needed to be treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!

I think we've all had days like that (especially if you have a house with young kids), but even on those hard days, I try to remind myself that those kids are a huge blessing from God, and I have to find the strength to remember the most important parts of parenthood. The seven guiding principles below have been a tremendous help in my own family (especially on the hard days) and I believe they could help your family too!

1. Kids need your Presence, not your Presents

The greatest gift you can give your kids is your time. They can do with less of almost anything if it means having more of you. Make time together a priority and try to be fully engaged (phones off, etc.) in those moments. I especially try to focus on bedtime, because it's the time of day where there seem to be the fewest distractions (once the kids are actually in bed) and it creates the best opportunity for communication.

2. Rules without relationships lead to rebellion

I stole this one from Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family. I've found it's so true. Rules only make sense to kids within the context of relationships which refers back to principle number one: Kids need your presence.

3. My kids will follow my example more than my words

I want my kids to obey just "because I said so!" But, I have to accept the reality that my short-term influence and long-term impact in their lives will be tied to my example much more than my words. I've got to live the values I'm trying to get them to learn.

4. A strong family is built on a strong marriage

I watch so many couples put their marriage on hold while they're raising their kids only to wind up with an empty nest and an empty marriage! One of the greatest gifts you can give you kids is the security that comes from seeing their mom and dad in a loving, committed relationship with each other.

5. I need to be my kids' biggest encourager; not their biggest critic

There are definitely times where I need to correct and discipline my kids and it's an uncomfortable necessity, but overall, I want the tone in the home to be encouraging and life-giving. Kids' young minds and hearts and like wet cement and the words a parent speaks will leave lasting impressions. I want my impressions to be as encouraging as possible.

6. If I don't teach my kids, someone else will

There are plenty of people, TV shows and entertainers that will teach my kids about life if I'm not the one doing it. Sometimes it's hard to compete with all the voices in culture, but the secret is simpler than you might think.

7. Share as much faith, food and fun as you can!

Make faith the foundation for all you do. Eat as many meals together as you can and create as many opportunities for fun as possible! Laughter should be the soundtrack of your family. Give yourself some grace on those days when you feel like you've blown it. Even on the hard days, remember that you're making a huge impact!

This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.

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