You can become a a father or a mother in an instant, but it takes a lifetime to learn to be a good parent. After all, kids arrive without instructions and each child is pre-wired (no 'blank slates'!) uniquely.
What are some important principles for parents?
Your greatest influence is who you are, not what you say. Kids do what kids see. Be an example of the kind of person you'd like them to become. This requires us to deal with our own personal character issues, so that we don't pass negative habits on.
Love your kids with all your heart. After all, they are yours. Kids have different love languages. For some it is encouraging words. For others it is giving them gifts, doing something for them, or appropriate physical affection. For many kids, love is spelt T-I-M-E. Quality time comes out of quantity time together.
Establish and enforce appropriate boundaries. Do this consistently and with fairness among siblings. Don't have favourites. As children grow and mature, gradually release them to more responsibility for their own lives and choices. Try to say "yes" more than "no." You can't die on every hill so don't make every issue bigger than it needs to be.
Always keep rules in the context of the relationship. Josh McDowell says, "Rules without relationship leads to rebellion." No issue is worth more than the relationship that you have with your children.
Encourage your children. Don't approach parenting with the goal of always correcting, disciplining and keeping your children in line. Look for where you can sincerely praise, compliment and encourage your kids. Notice and approve of what they do right. Then you can correct mistakes in a positive climate rather than continually pointing out what they're doing wrong. Are we as quick to notice the good things as we are to pounce on our kid’s mistakes? Is your approach to go around trying to catch kids doing something wrong or stop them before they do something wrong? Are we quick to criticise and slow to praise? That's negative parenting. Catch them doing something right. Is the fastest way to get dad's attention to do something wrong? Fifteen out of twenty kids would say "Yes!" How many things can you appreciate about your kids if you stop and think about it right now? Speak up and tell them what you see. We all thrive under encouragement, affirmation and praise. Praise becomes a motivator for proper behaviour.
Don’t parent alone. Partner with other family members, with your children's peers, with the school and the church. See your local church's children's ministry or youth group as an ally.
Pray for your children that they will develop their own relationship with God and help your children discover God’s purpose for their life. Talk about spiritual matters with them and create or take them to environments where they have the opportunity to experience God for themselves.
Ultimately, we have to trust our children to God and release them over time to be responsible for their own life choices. God the Father created the perfect environment for Adam and Eve yet they made a poor choice. This did not make God a failure as a parent. In the same way, parents should not carry inappropriate guilt or shame when their children make choices that disappoint them. Like Father God, continue to love and reach out to your children – no matter what.
There are many good books on parenting but I especially encourage you to check out The Parenting Book, a recent release from Nicky and Sila Lee.