Practicing Parenting

Why do we call medical and legal offices “practices”? 

There’s an old joke in which one guy says to his friend, “I’m changing doctors. I just found out that my current one is just practicing!” To that fellow, I might say that his doctor also PERFORMS procedures. Per my regular, I researched too long about why and how the term “practice” came to be the norm. Ultimately, I got this from the Oxford English Dictionary: 

Practice: [verb] to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve, or maintain proficiency. 

I guess we should be HAPPY that folks are practicing medicine, and what I realized when I read over the definition is that what I’m doing in my home is practicing. I’m practicing parenting. This doesn’t imply inexperience – I’ve got plenty of that – it means that I’m trying to constantly improve.

I started my practice as a father just shy of 29 years ago (happy birthday, Jake). Thanks for noticing, yes, Sanja and I WERE young. We also had zero clue what we were doing. Saying “we” makes that statement not entirely true. If you know my wife, you’ll know she’s a natural with children of all ages. So, ‘I’ had no idea what ‘I’ was doing. I was thrown into my practice and had to start acquiring proficiency. I read some books; I talked to a lot of folks. Five years later, my practice doubled; Lucy came along. A GIRL!! Yay! And yikes! Sixteen years later (!), our practice doubled AGAIN. (For those of you keeping score, that’s 4 kids.) Despite many years of parenting, I was STILL practicing. 

Did you know that you can feed all of your kids the same food, use nearly the same discipline techniques, read them the same books, and on, and on, BUT they all end up different! One kid will take a reprimand and change negative behavior. Another kid can get thesame punishment and look at you as if to say, “Is that all you got?”

Throughout this journey, a memorable devotion and a few scriptures have aided my practice. I was at a men’s conference back in the mid-nineties when I heard the not-so-earth-shattering message that our children first learn mercy and grace through experiencing them through their parents. By demonstrating unconditional love, mercy, and grace, our children will have less trouble transitioning from earthly parents as authority to God’s authority and guidance in their lives.

My practice partner, my wife, Sanja, has been the main person that I see everyday seemingly effortlessly demonstrating the following scriptures in her daily life with our kids and everyone she meets. Her standard for this is one I admire.

Psalm 103:13 – As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7  – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 3: 2-3 – You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

That last one, WHEW! I don’t know about you, but I often forget that my kids are constantly reading the letter I’m writing. How am I being Jesus to others with my actions? How am I being the opposite? 

I hope this helps you as you dream or hope about your future practice as a dad, or as you continue your current practice. 

Carleton Lyon