Parenting for future healthy relationships

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“If you don’t hit pause long enough to consider the direction in which you are parenting, you may wake up one day to the realization that you parented in the wrong direction.” — Andy Stanley

Am I getting parenting right?

There’s no question that every parent has wondered about the answer to this question at some point while raising their children.

You may still be holding your first baby, wondering if your approach to meeting and caring for their needs is the best.

Or perhaps you have a toddler pushing all boundaries (and your buttons), and you are unsure whether your discipline method is working.

It could be that your teenager entered that stage when the loving child you had a year ago is now closed off, shutting you out of their life.

And you wonder. “What am I doing?” or, worse yet, “What am I doing wrong?”

This insecurity invariably grabs hold of every well-meaning parent.

When my children were young, and we were trying to teach them discipline and respect, I often wondered how to be effective while preserving a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, the fear of becoming over-lenient would sometimes translate into some “because I said so” moments, which, looking in retrospect, I am not proud of.

But I know I am not alone. Most well-meaning parents err in their quest to do it right. That happens because we often and inadvertently repeat patterns seen or experienced in our home environment. However, some of us intentionally change certain things we experienced growing up. I know I did.

The story is not different for Atlanta-based author and pastor Andy Stanley, who, together with his wife Sandra, decided early on in their parenting years to establish goals and raise their kids with their future relationship with them in mind. For years, they have compiled information gathered from counseling families, learning from mentors, and raising their three children. The result is a must-read book for every parent: “Parenting: Getting It Right,” released in January by Zondervan.

The Stanleys are the parents of three adult children who, as Andy says “still enjoy being around us.”

Isn’t that our ultimate goal?

As a mother of a teenager and an adult, that is undoubtedly my biggest desire for my relationship with our daughters.

Indeed, nothing fills my heart with joy better than when I get a text from our adult daughter saying: “Mom, guess what? I gotta tell you something.”

She still wants to be around mom and dad and loves hanging out with her “little” sister. I believe that happens because, even though we have certainly made many mistakes, like the Stanleys, we prioritized preserving a healthy relationship above everything else. The result is lingering discipline taught through life lessons instead of harsh punishment and, better yet, children who still like us.

The Stanleys call the concept their “North Star” — the one thing that kept their minds and hearts anchored when parenting their children through what they call “The Four Stages of Parenting”: discipline (0-5 years old), Training (5-12), Coaching (12-18), and Friendship (18-plus years old).

In our interview, we discussed the challenges and rewards of parenting with the relationship in mind. Among other things, it takes understanding each child’s unique personality to improve communication and changing how to approach discipline to help a child develop character rather than simply following rules.

This idea of parenting reminds me of how Jesus guided his flock while walking on earth. He was all about building and restoring relationships. He taught while bridging the gap between rules and heart. He saw each person and loved them uniquely. He disciplined to guide, not to judge. And thus, he showed the love of a father who wants us to remain close to his heart, even when the world tries to pull us away.

Are you parenting in the right direction? Will your children still want to hang out, even when they don’t have to be around? These are questions worth asking. With God’s help and sound resources, it’s never too late to change the course.

Find out more about the Stanleys’ book at For the full interview, visit God-Sized Stories with Patricia Holbrook on YouTube and via Podcast.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, podcaster and international speaker. Website: For speaking engagements and comments, email