Parenting: Control the Controllable During COVID
Risen Magazine: Parents are overwhelmed, especially now with the current state of the world from pandemic, to homeschooling, black lives matter to wildfires, hurricanes and mental health… what do parents need to know?
Cynthia Yanof: There’s so much going on that we can hyper focus on any one thing. But what we’ve been trying to do in our house, and what I’ve been focusing on here, especially during COVID is controlling what we can control. So, the first thing I say is just that, control the controllable. We can’t control when our kids go to school, what that looks, whether or not they get sick. All these different things that we’re looking at, the best education we can give them, all the things that used to be our normal. But what we can control is the narrative in our home. And so we can choose to have kids that are adaptable and resilient, that learn to trust the Lord, all these things that we can do in our home. Those are things we can control, this bigger picture for our kids.
And so what I like to say is, we’re working towards kids that understand the bigger picture. And I guess that would probably be my second point too, is parenting bigger picture in our kids during this. Instead of being overwhelmed in the immediacy, let’s look at what we want our kids to be when they’re 20. And what are we doing today to get us there? And so we’re just parenting these bigger picture things. Like I said, the narrative in our home, how our kids are adapting.
And then the third is, I really think it’s important right now in the middle of this, is just to be people that are building up what others are tearing down. It’s so easy right now to look on blogs or anywhere you are, social media, everyone’s got an opinion on everything. And I think that becomes overwhelming to us as parents. So, if we can just start building up in those places, building up our teachers, the authorities around us that are trying to get things right. Just in our homes and also outside of our homes, just building it up, encouraging others. I think that naturally overflows into our homes when we’re willing to do that.
RM: Sometimes it can be really hard to see big picture when we are struggling in the day to day, what tips can you share to keep everything in perspective?
CY: Practically speaking, what I do is I look at what doesn’t matter? What’s not going to matter in a few weeks or few months, or few years? There’s stages that all of our kids are going through, all the time. And especially now, they seem so much more pronounced, I think, because we’re with our kids so much. But what isn’t going to matter long term? My toddler is a horrible eater. At the end of the day, is this really going to impact his overall wellbeing the rest of his life? Probably not. At some point, he’s going to eat more than the three things he eats now. And so I’m trying to focus on the things that don’t matter, we’re going to let them go. The things that do matter, we’re going to really hold tight and we’re going to dig in.
The things like grit, the things like character, those things where we see things that are bigger, not personality issues, but true character issues. That’s where I say we dig in. If we’re going to be overwhelmed, which we don’t need to be overwhelmed, but if we’re going to be, let’s be overwhelmed with leading them to the truth of who they are, their identity, what they’re meant to be. Let’s speak those truths in them. And let’s worry about those things, but let’s not worry about the little things that seem overwhelming. And I don’t want to make it sound like they’re not important. Because I mean, sometimes they are.
My middle schooler, his room is a disaster. I can spend my life obsessing over whether or not that child’s room is really straight, but at the end of the day, I just want him to love the Lord. I want him to be a good friend. I want him to be someone that people can rely on and count on. I want him to sit with a lonely kid in the cafeteria. Those are the things I’m going to focus on with him. And then, I have a senior in high school and same thing. There’s so many little nuances of things that can overwhelm me, especially when we’re looking down the barrel at college. But with her, I’m just praying through, does she know what she needs to know to stay true to what we believe as Christians? What’s important in our lives? And what are those last minute things that I want to feed into her that really develop who she’s going to be as a person, as an adult. Rather than the little things that I could nitpick now and worry about.
And so those are, at different ages, depending on where your kids are, just ideas of don’t focus on the little stuff that doesn’t matter. Find the things that are enduring, the things that are their character, are these bigger principles in our life. And that’s where you dig in. And if you’re going to have a battle, make it the battle over the things that matter, not the battle over the trivial.
RM: You have a podcast, Pardon the Mess, with honest conversations about raising kids in biblical truth in a fast-changing world… share some of the things that you’ve been most excited about through those conversations.
CY: What I love about Pardon the Mess is we’re just really honest. I try to be completely candid in raising kids, and there’s no perfect parent out there. I’m not raising your kids, you’re not raising mine. It looks different for all of us. And so just be willing to walk the road together in honesty and being able to laugh about it, is what we’re trying to do. And so with Pardon the Mess, we interviewed lots of great people that have lots of great Godly advice on raising kids. Some of it applies to all of us. Some of it may be particular to whatever road you’re walking. But that’s been the goal in Pardon the Mess, is talking to people about their parenting journey and just encouraging each other in the Lord. And the thing about parenting today is that the standard keeps changing. I always laugh about when I was raised, my brothers were completely crazy. I can’t even discuss the sibling rivalry. But they were so tough on me. They’re twins and five years older. They did everything from hiding me in a closet with a mattress cause the tornado was coming, but there was no tornado. Or throwing a broomstick in the spokes of my bike and sending me airborne. Now in today’s day and age, if our kids were doing that to each other, we would be freaking out, we’d be trying to figure out the right counselors. But my parents were like, “Hey, just be nice. Get along and come back for dinner.” And so the standard of parenting changes, whether it’s how we discipline them, what we feed them, academics, what school they go to, what’s successful, what’s not.
But God’s standard in parenting never changes. And so I think what’s critical is we’ve got a lineup all the advice we’re getting, all the things we’re considering in our parenting journey. Line it up with the word of God. And what does God say is essential? Who does God say we are as parents? Who does God say our kids are? What’s that healthy perspective between parent and child? And so I think with Pardon the Mess, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get practical advice and talk to people who are walking these roads that we’re all walking in parenting. But also let’s line it up with what God’s word says is truth, in our parenting journeys.
You can’t impart what you don’t possess. And so that’s probably the best parenting advice someone ever gave me, “If you don’t have it in your own life, you cannot give it to your kids.” If we’re not walking with the Lord well, and we’re not really giving it all back to Him and trusting Him and trusting His faithfulness and going back to those places, where He has been faithful in our lives and He’s pointed us in the right direction. It doesn’t mean there wasn’t hard roads to walk, but if we can’t have those experiences, those places with Lord, then it’s really hard to teach that to our kids. But really at the end of the day, live well with the Lord, commit all that you’re doing, commit your ways to Him. And then let the Lord sort out a lot of the parenting stuff. That at some point, we just have to trust that He created us, the parent, for a day such as this, times such as this. Of all the times he could have put us on this earth to raise our kids, from Adam and Eve to the second coming, he chose now. So it might be in a time of complete political discord and COVID and all these things going on, but He chose us for now. And so if He’s going to put us here now, He’s going to equip us to do this in his name, if we’ll just rely on Him.
RM: Taking it a step further, you just launched the Christian Parenting Podcast Network, and several different podcasts from all different angles are in one place.
CY: Right. The Podcast Network, what we wanted to do is just have a resource for everyone, a one-stop shopping. Where you can go and whatever you’re walking, whatever your parenting journey is looking like, you will find a podcast there that will speak into it. Just like how I’m raising my kids doesn’t look identical to anybody else’s. We want to have all the different options. So, if you’re a single parent, we’ve got someone speaking to that. If you need someone that’s more on the psychologist or psychiatrist side, we’ve got people that are speaking into that and some of the mental health issues that go with that. There’s just so many different places we are in parenting. On any given day, I have 10 different places where I could use someone speaking into it. And so that’s what we’ve got, this Christian Parenting Podcast Network is just a bunch of different, really strong believers that have podcasts that speak into parenting. It’s in one place, you can say, “Okay, yeah, this is where we are right now. I can use this.” Hopefully it’s a place for everyone to get the practical, spiritual guidance they need, to raise their kids.
RM: We like that you’re doing some of the background checking and leg work for us.
CY: Sure. Biblical standards, that’s the key, strong biblical standards. We’re all looking for the right spot. And so that’s what we want this to be, where you can trust that if you’re listening to it, it’s biblically sound. And it’s people that love the Lord and that are also raising their kids the way we’re trying to raise ours.
RM: Technology is so powerful and it gives us an avenue where we can have podcasts and can connect with others. But the idea of navigating tech and social media with our kids, especially right now during COVID, where so much communication relies on a device, what’s your philosophy on that?
CY: I think a lot of us feel, myself definitely, that if there is a way just to say no, “No technology, no social media,” I don’t like it, we’ll stay away, it makes us nervous, we would. But it’s out there, it’s a reality. And so we have no choice, but to embrace what technology is. And so I know in our home, we’ve ran very conservative with it, what we let our kids have and at what ages. But they’re one friend away from having access to everything. And we can’t control all the time, who has what, where they are. I always say, the power is in the hands of the kid with the phone. Even if my kids don’t have phones, that kid that does, he has the power at that point.
And so I think what’s important is just as a family, and if you’re married, if you get together with your spouse and you make these decisions as a family unit, on how you’re going to handle this. And why, what’s the reasoning behind some of it. But really having a game plan on technology. I also think the second thing is you’ve got to get in front of it. You’ve got to be smarter than your kids on technology. And that is hard to do with my older kids, trying to stay in front of the newest apps, whether it’s TikTok or whatever they are. Reading, finding the experts you can trust that can tell you what are the pitfalls and talking to your kids about them.
But then yes, I think social media can be used for good. And I think it’s important that we help our kids in that. And teaching them inclusivity, what that looks. In the old days that would mean, I invited you to my house and not just my best friend. In the new days that means we tag the right people, all the people that were there. We do those nice things on social media, that show what we’re about. And so just speaking into it with our kids, we can’t afford to avoid the realities of it. It’s out there. So let’s get in front of it. And then obviously precautions with what our kids can see, and who they can interact with on the internet. With our middle school child, he has a phone but we’ve taken the internet off of it. That’s just a personal choice. That’s just a way at this age, we feel we can best monitor it, is not have it right now. Our high schooler has social media, but we are on her accounts, we see it all, watch it all. So, I mean, I think it varies per family. I think it’s very individualized. No judgment on what ages or how it works. But at the same time just being in front of it and just having the conversation, the dialogue with our kids.
RM: This month of October, you’re having a digital event for families — Perfectly Imperfect Parenting Event. You have great contributors and Christian influencers like Mark Batterson and Korie Robertson. What is the vision behind this?
CY: I love Mark Batterson! There are so many great speakers. The hope would be, in this day and age, I don’t know anybody who couldn’t use a little bit of parenting expertise right now. Especially having been home with our kids for so long and trying to walk this new road with COVID. So we wanted to have a digital event where we bring in speakers that come and speak into our parenting. And it’s been such an amazing opportunity because so many people want to be a part of it. It’s digital, you can totally do it at the leisure of your couch or your home. And you can hear from people that are speaking in all the different areas of parenting. Whether that’s parenting when you’re suffering through grief and loss or people speaking on parenting, bigger pictures for your kids, technology – there’s all kinds of speakers that are talking about all kinds of topics. Whatever it is you’re thinking about that’s on your mind, or maybe it’s not even on your mind yet, there’s someone that’s going to speak into it and bring biblical truth. It’s October 23rd and 24th. You sign up for it online and then you will have access that weekend to all the speakers through the end of the year as well.
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