Last night, my brilliant and beautiful wife, Ashley, and I went out on a date. It's a weekly tradition to get away and reconnect and it's one of the most valuable habits we've formed in our marriage. On this date, we had a newborn with us, but a date with a baby is still better than no date at all!

We ended up at a new restaurant which just opened up in our town. Augusta, Georgia isn't a huge city, so whenever a new restaurant comes to town, it's kind of a big deal for us! We're excited to check it out and take some selfies. I'm kind of dorky like that.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I hopped out of the minivan and turned around to discover that I'd done a horrible parking job. I was nowhere close to being inside the lines. I tried to figure out how I'd parked so poorly and I realized that I parked using the car next to me as my standard instead of looking at the lines on the ground. He was parked poorly, so now I was parked poorly too.

When it comes to raising a family, I think we can make the same critical mistake. Instead of basing our "success" on a specific standard (like the parking lines), we base our decision on what everybody around us is doing (regardless of whether they're in the lines or not).

While it is great to learn from others and have mentors, our standards for marriage and parenting can never come from playing the comparison game. Our family's legacy must be rooted in something more solid. If we don't know what we're aiming for, we'll miss every time!

Below is a set of guidelines I use as a compass to keep our family on the right track. I blow it every day (literally), but knowing the standard helps me to make corrections and keep going. If you don't have a set of standards like this, I encourage to examine your goals and values and then develop your own standards.

Our 7 standards for success as a family:

1. God's word (the Bible) is the final word

My opinions and feelings change by the minute, so if I'm basing my parenting decisions on something fickle, our family won't be anchored to anything. The Bible provides a clear roadmap for how a marriage and family should work.

2. A healthy marriage makes me a better parent

I've seen too many couples put their marriages on hold while raising their kids only to wind up with an empty nest and an empty marriage! Give your kids the security that comes from seeing their mom and dad in a loving, committed relationship with each other. Have the kind of marriage that makes your kids actually want to get married someday!

3. Every season is a gift, so treasure every moment

It's easy to want to rush through the difficulties of infancy or toddlerhood or the teenage years, but when we're always trying to rush to the next season, we miss the countless blessings of the season we're in. Treasure every moment.

4. Time is the currency of relationships

There's no such thing as "quality time" because all time has the same quality. There's no shortcut to investing a high quantity of time into our family. Time is our greatest asset and the most powerful way to invest into our family.

5. There must be unconditional love AND high expectations

Love is given fully and freely regardless of performance. Our kids must know we love them no matter what, but they must also know we love them too much to allow them to settle for less than the best they can be. This gives them the freedom to fail with grace, to succeed with humility an to believe in themselves.

6. Success is about relationships, not accomplishments

Accomplishments and accolades are nice, but high grades and high paychecks are nothing compared to a high value on our family and friendships. Any "success" that we achieve at the expense of our loved ones isn't real success. At the end of my life, my faith and family will be all that matters, and I don't want to wait until then to make them my highest priority!

7. Choose faith over fear

We want to embrace the adventure God has for our lives with fearlessness and enthusiasm. There's not enough room in our lives for both fear and faith, so each day, we have to decide which one gets to stay.

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

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