Being a parent, there are a lot of numbers swirling around in your head. Birth stats, special dates, medicine dosage, how often your kid poops… It can be overwhelming. And as if your mom brain hadn’t already suffered enough trauma, we have to throw you back to pre-algebra class with those pesky sets of numbers called ratios.
You hear these numbers a lot, but if you’re like me, you don’t often give them much thought:
2:1 – Add 2 ounces water for every 1 scoop baby formula.
13:1 – Day care licensing allows 13 preschoolers to every 1 teacher in class (p.s. that’s a lot of kiddos; can we give a hand for the preschool teachers out there?!).
3:1 – Mix 3 parts water with 1 part vinegar, plus some other stuff I think? for that homemade cleaner you saw on Pinterest and swore you would use instead of that poison Scrubbin’ Bubbles, if only you ever remembered to make it.
And I don’t even want to think about the ratios in all those essential oil blends y’all coming up with!
With all those numbers competing for mental bandwidth, I am here to give you just one more, but I promise it will be one that makes a world difference in the healthy growth and development of your child. That magical number?
Five non-parental adults pouring into the life of your one child.
Research from Fuller Youth Institute shows that children and teens who have 5 or more adults engaged in their lives are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and adhere to the positive values parents want to instill. Fuller Executive Director and co-author of Sticky Faith Dr. Kara Powell says this doesn’t mean you pawn off your children or “outsource” their emotional development to five other people. Rather, you intentionally and strategically invite trusted adults to speak into your child where you cannot.
In the early years of parenting, mommy and daddy are the sun, moon, and stars for little ones. Isn’t that feeling of being so loved and so needed just completely glorious? Well, yeah, but it’s also completely exhausting, and we often load up on mommy guilt for sending them off to day care or the babysitter’s or even Sunday School just to catch a mental break. But as lovely as it is to be the center of all your child’s affection, it is actually healthy and beneficial for him or her to love other adults and be loved by them. Not only can other leaders encourage and support your child as he or she grows, they can reinforce the values and truths you are already teaching them, and that can have an impact well beyond what you can accomplish on your own.
For example, my 7-year-old loves danger. Driving fast cars, cliff jumping, and skydiving are already on his bucket list. One thing that he has loved since he was a toddler is motorcycles. One of the special adults in my son’s life is Josiah, another risk-taking, danger-loving, motorcycle-driving male who gets my boy’s drive for adventure. But, Josiah is also old enough to know the real dangers. He always wears full gear when he rides his motorcycle, even when it’s crazy hot out. I can tell my son all day long about the importance of wearing his bike helmet, but if Josiah says it, his word is gold! Because Josiah is someone who not only loves my kids but also shares our family values, I know that my son will learn good habits while feeling validated, empowered, and secure in his self-worth.
There comes a time when all kids start seeking influences outside their parents, whether we, as their parents, like it or not. After over a decade in youth ministry, I can assure you that day will come regardless how well insulated your family is or how closely you fly your helicopter, mom. The healthiest, most positive outcomes result when parents actually encourage their kids to develop outside relationships while providing them with a solid foundation on which to land when they come home. (And as long as you give them a safe landing, I can also assure you they will come home.) By being intentional to help bring in positive influences, you can give your child healthy role models, a network of support in times of crisis (real or imagined… I work with teenage girls, after all), and a wall of defense against bad influences when they try to work into kids’ lives.