3 Ways to Cheer on Parents as They Run the Parenting Marathon
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Several years back, the city I was residing in launched its inaugural city marathon. (Confession: I am not a runner.) But many of my friends registered to run. I had never witnessed a distance race in person up to that point in my life. Out of curiosity about the race and a desire to support my friends, I found myself on race day standing on the edge of a closed city street.
As I settled into my spot along the racecourse, I was not prepared for what I observed. People lined the streets with hand-crafted posters, noisemakers, and there was even a little girl gripping pompoms in anxious anticipation. As the first runners approached our location, the energy level increased, and the cheering began. What surprised me most was that the crowd’s energy level didn’t peak for the race leaders. Instead, the crowd continued to cheer and encourage, even increasing in noise and positivity for those struggling to run or resorting to walking. The crowd were not spectators; they were participants. No, they didn’t run the race. No, they didn’t train. But they made an impact.
Over the next few years, I would find different locations along the racecourse to cheer on the racers. Every year the crowd continued to encourage the runners along the way. Spectators become participants by making an impact on the race. One year, in particular, I remember a poster that
produced audible sighs of relief and skips in the stride from almost every passing runner. It is important to note that this race is one of the hilliest courses on the marathon circuit. The race developers left the steepest hill for last. Can you imagine being at mile nineteen and seeing this huge hill standing in your way of the finish line? I can still vividly picture the person standing on top of that final hill holding a poster that read - “You did it! No more hills!”. As the runners read the sign, a smile would spread across their face, and a little spring could be seen in their next few steps. One handwritten sign influenced the runner’s race.
Have you ever considered the impact one note or word of encouragement can make on a life?
Without a doubt, one of the most difficult long-distance races in life is parenting. Consider the physical, emotional, and mental toughness required to persevere. Contemplate the dedication needed to overcome adversity and setbacks. The pace of the parenting race isn’t a sprint; it’s a mundane daily grind, year after year after year (mile after mile after mile).
How can we encourage parents as they run this grueling race?
Here are a few observations I have learned while standing on the marathon sideline:
1. Understand Encouragement.
“Run faster!” “Pick It Up!” These people were in the crowd, and they seemed to be missing the fact that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Screaming from the sidelines doesn’t motivate.
Neither does telling a parent how you would have handled that situation or agreeing with a teenager that their parent is overreacting. Proverbs 12:18 says,“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings health.” Perhaps a better aim would be with softer encouragement “You look strong.” “You’ve got this.” “Good pace.” When it comes to encouraging parents of the students in your ministry, think less like a bad high school football coach and more like a good kindergarten teacher.
2. Respect The Walkers And The End Of The Pack.
No one plans to get a muscle cramp on mile twelve. Failure isn't a pre-race goal, but it happens. Sometimes you just have to walk. And that is okay! Let’s adopt the mindset that perseverance to keep moving forward is inspiring. Admiring that the racer continues to move forward despite the setbacks. But don’t keep your admiration to yourself. Communicate the encouragement. Creatively and consistently messaging support influences the runner, the walker, or the parent.
3. Fill The Dead Zones.
How difficult would a race be if all the spectators were waiting to cheer on the runners at the finish line? Instead, the crowd spreads along the entire racecourse. Consistent encouragement is more impactful than reserving encouraging words for special moments. My wife appreciates a card on our anniversary, but she probably isn’t surprised. Though when she finds the
note, I tucked into the pages of her current book, a smile begins to grow across her face. Be intentional to spread your encouragement to parents throughout the daily grind, not just reserving your words for milestone accomplishments. Consider making “parent encouragement notes” as a permanent appointment reminder in your weekly schedule.
The parenting marathon is a grind that is often “thankless and unappreciated.” A real need exists for caring people to line the racecourse, ready to cheer on and lift up the runners. It doesn’t require anything elaborate, but it is essential to be genuine, consistent, and intentional.
Don’t forget! — Simple encouragement throughout the race can make all the difference.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- What if you adopted the mentality of the girl gripping her pompoms in anxious anticipation to cheer on the racers as they run — how would your ministry, community, or church be impacted if you consistently and intentionally looked for ways to encourage parents?
- What are two strategic ways you can lift up parents in the next few weeks?
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