I think those were important coversations for us to have. It helped us know how the other felt about parenting issues before they ever came up. Learning from others' mistakes also helped us avoid some when we finally became parents. (And also let us eat our words later!)
In fact I still learn a lot from those I see around me. Most of the time, I learn from people who are doing things I DON'T want to do. (Note to self: Do not ever let young one hit me or cuss at me.) But sometimes I see families I want to pay attention to.
A few weeks ago at a restaurant we saw a family eating at a table near us. From what I could tell, it was 2 parents and 2 teens. The teens were talking nicely with their parents, sitting up straight and engaged in coversation with their family. Not at all like other families I've seen where the teens are slumped down in their chair, making no eye contact and the whole family was basically ignoring each other. I pointed this family out to my husband and asked him, "How do you raise kids to be like that when they are teenagers? Because that's how I want our family to look later."
Now, admittedly, the teenage years are a bit far off for us. I've said this before, but I heard the question posed once, "What does an 18 year old disciple of Christ look like?" I think you really have to look ahead in your parenting. If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time and all that jazz. This applies when they are newborn and you are watching a preschooler pitch a fit. (Now what will I do in that situation?) It also applies when you have young ones and you are looking ahead at the teenage years. (How do we turn out teenagers who act this way and not that way?) Of course we can't MAKE our children turn out the way we picture it. But having a vision of what you are aiming for is vital.
So I find myself looking around for families a little farther down life's road than us. Families that I would like to learn from. Once I have it figured out what I'm looking to achieve, then I have to figure out how to get there.
Let's take dress code for example. If you've been out of your house in the last month you have probably seen all manner of dress that you would deem inapropriate. Maybe, like me, you think "I will never let my daughters dress like that!" But how does that happen? Do I just argue with them about every single thing they want to wear until we reach an agreement and then repeat that behavior until they move out and dress however they want? No. Instead I make the choices for them right now. Things that don't make the cut are not even put in the closet. Looking down the road has caused me to say, "Even though this looks cute on a 3 year old, will this type of outfit still be OK when she is 16?" If the answer is no, then the 3 year old doesn't wear it either. But that's not all. I also have to teach my daughters WHY we dress the way we do. I have to show them in scripture what pleases the Lord in this area. I will pray about it with them. We will discuss attire and how it affects others. I will model appropriate dress for them. See? Getting them where I want them to be when they are teens takes work. And a plan. It doesn't just happen.
That is why the thing I am going to start praying for my daughters (future teens) is wisdom. I have learned some exciting things about wisdom. Do you know how it starts?
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 110:10
So first, they must have a healthy fear of the Lord. There's my starting point.
And do you know what comes from wisdom?
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13
So humility comes from wisdom? I want humble children. Shoot, I want humility myself! I guess I should really start by praying for wisdom for us, the parents! And here's the REALLY good news...
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5
Isn't God good?