“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Flopping onto my bed, I began my nightly ritual of critiquing my day’s parenting performance.
How do I know I am making the right choices for my girls?
Am I going to mess them up?
Will they still love me, even when they don’t always like me, like today?
Wise King Solomon emparted the importance of parents training their children to love, honor and obey God. This requires daily guiding, shaping, and redirecting. Liken it to training for a marathon. A couple of sprints around the block hardly makes one race-day ready. On the contrary, it takes weeks, maybe months, of conditioning. The goal is to train our muscles to remember how to perform so we’re able to cross the finish line, which is how we must approach parenting.
Our job is to prepare our children for this life as well as the next. However, they are the ones who must run and finish the race. We coach. We cheer. And hopefully, we congratulate.
Okay. How do we do this?
SET THE EXAMPLE.
Moses stressed to the Israelites the importance of teaching future generations about God’s love and His laws or requirements.
“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates” Deuteronomy 6:7-9
Children who see their parents read their Bibles, pray before making decisions and treat others with love and respect are more likely to engage in the same behavior than those whose parents simply tell them they should do these things.
Once I thought it necessary to spend every waking moment directly involved with my girls, frantically trying to squeeze my other responsibilities into a few hours after their bedtime. This totally exhausted me, but one day my pastor asked me, ”Laura, for what do you think a woman in the 1800s was primarily responsible?” Without hesitation, I replied, “Her home.” With no modern conveniences, if momma didn’t work, the family didn’t eat. Then where were her children? They were alongside her as she worked throughout the day to provide for her family’s needs. This caused me to pause and reassess. . .
Like most of you, I pray that my children will become God-fearing, caring and responsible adults.
How can I expect this, if they do not WITNESS these attributes in me?
Inviting my children into my day and giving them their own set of duties, allows them to interact with me without believing that the world revolves around them. Someone is sick? We write a card or take food. The house is messy? We pick up our toys. Mommy is working? We entertain ourselves, or, dare I say, just deal with boredom.
Do not let the Deceiver trick you into believing that you need to be omnipresent, constantly hovering over your children to satisfy all their needs and wants to the point that everything else takes a back seat to their happiness. (And let’s be honest here, we project onto them perceived “needs,” because fulfilling them makes us feel better about ourselves and definitely makes us look better to our friends.) Children don’t require much to be happy. Deep down, most every parent knows that.
By all means, take your children to church so they learn more about Jesus. But remember, HOME is where they see in action what it means to really trust and obey Jesus. There they observe how we spend our time and money, how we interact with our spouse and how we respond to the ups and downs of life.
DARE TO DISCIPLINE.
Strict. That was how my friends and extended family described my parents. As a teen, I thought they were uber strict, but now that I’m a parent myself, not so much. My parents knew that we needed guidelines and boundaries for our own well-being and protection — LOVE. They also believed it essential to teach us that there were consequences for ignoring God’s requirements, society’s laws, and their rules — DISCIPLINE.
“If God disciplines those that he loves, why then as parents would we withhold discipline from our children?” Hebrews 12: 5-7
Beware of telling yourself that bad behavior is just a phase that your child will eventually outgrow so there’s no real need to deal with it at the present. Maybe, maybe not. Most likely, not. In the meantime, NO ONE enjoys being in the same room with an out-of-control, mean and rude child, no matter how adorable looking, and YOU know it. Sadly, many parents throw up their hands claiming that confronting a strong-willed, disobedient or disrespectful child “is not worth the battle.” And for some things, like their wanting to wear mismatched clothes to school, I agree. Other things, however, need to be checked immediately, like backtalk or sass. And many things must be addressed repeatedly, like always insisting children say “please” and “thank you.”
Momma, ask the Lord to help you to wisely pick your battles. Some are definitely worth the fight, especially when not intervening could yield negative, even heartbreaking, life-long consequences. Not asserting our God-given authority over our children when they outright disobey or show disrespect because we want them to like us or because we worry what other people think or because we just don’t want to bother with the inconvenience and sheer exhaustion associated with a “showdown” is poor, lazy parenting.
Did I like when my parents disciplined me? No. Did I deserve it? Yes. Am I thankful now that they chose to engage and address my sinful actions and attitudes even when it wasn’t convenient or comfortable? Absolutely.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Y’all, our children are born with hearts that are naturally wicked and wayward. Even though they smile up at us like little cherubs from their cribs, they are full of “devilment.” I cringe now thinking of times I willfully disobeyed my parents and God and seemingly got away with it. Many times over, a merciful God spared me from the horrific consequences of my sin, not to mention the wrath of my father.
Yes, children will disobey and rebel even when Godly parents make every effort to teach them right from wrong, good from evil and lead them to Christ. Nonetheless, that does not excuse a “que sera, sera ” approach to parenting. It takes constant vigilance and continual, consistent engagement to mold our children (and ourselves) into Christ-shaped vessels filled with the Holy Spirit to be used for God’s glory.
Don’t be fooled. The battle for the hearts and minds of our children is real, and it began when they drew their first breath, long before they head off to public school or secular universities. If we sit back, unwilling to fight Satan for their hearts and ultimately their souls, the Enemy will gain control, and once he sets in, he will destroy them. God doesn’t just expect Believers to actively teach their children right from wrong, He commands us to be involved, to “get in their faces,” when necessary.
Be confident in your calling as parents. Do not allow children’s feelings for you in the moment to prevent you from making right decisions and taking action. Your Heavenly Father charges you to train and discipline out of love and care for your child’s physical and spiritual welfare. He gives us wisdom and guidance from Scripture and strength from the Holy Spirit to do so. Therefore, we parents have no excuse not to obey Him. How can we expect our children to obey us if we don’t obey the Lord in all things ourselves?
SEIZE THE DAY.
Upon the birth of my girls, my father gifted them stock and set up an account for each of them for future gifts. Although the accounts are in their name, he named me as custodian, and for now I have complete control. However, when they turn eighteen, the accounts are theirs alone. A scary thought, but it doesn’t have to be.
My hope is that my husband and I will have deeply instilled in our daughters the fundamentals of stewardship, smart saving and spending, so when the time comes for them to take total control, they will manage the account wisely. But, what if they sell all the stock and blow it on a trip to Vegas — forty-eight hours of fun at the cost of eighteen years of investment and saving?!? Even so, I won’t be able to stop them because I no longer have control.
Although time often seems to stand still when we’re swimming in diapers and action figures, before we know it, we will be moving them into their first room away from home. The day will come when we must relinquish control of our children and give it to our children because legally, we have no choice. But that is what real parenting is about — preparing them for that day.
As a parent, this concept is difficult for me to accept because naturally, I always want to shield my children from the many cruelties of this world and the pains of growing up. Forever. Recently, one of my girls fell and needed stitches. Needless to say, I hurt deeply for her and wanted nothing more than to take the pain away immediately.
Protecting our children is a natural, healthy response, but when we refuse to acknowledge that they belong first to God and He loves them even more than we do, we tend to move toward excessive control and unnecessary worry over our children. This is not God’s intention.
So what about releasing control now by giving them to the Lord and acknowledging that they are not ours to manage forever but only for a season? They belong to God and are part of His larger plan. He established us as temporary custodians of our children, so we’d better “get it right” or to put it more eloquently, “seize the day” while we have the time and authority to do so.
“Make best use of the time because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16
After all, isn’t this exactly what we promise to do when we publically present our babies to the Lord before a congregation of ministers, family and church members as witnesses? That service is more than a photo op and occasion to show off our beautiful baby in a special gown. It’s a serious moment when parents and a community of Believers resolve together to guide that growing child, in word and in deed, toward faith in Jesus Christ and claim God’s promises as cited in Proverbs 22:6.
That event marks the beginning of our commitment, the easiest part, actually. Everyday, we must teach them right from wrong, instill love and respect for others and obedience to proper authority, realizing that ultimately they, alone, will answer to God for their choices, their conduct and their sinful, human condition. Just as we will.
We must submit to God’s ultimate authority over them, trusting that He is omnipotent and Sovereign, believing that His ways are better than our ways. Isaiah 55:8
Momma, I hate to burst your bubble, but you will never be the perfect parent.
Neither will I. Only God is perfect. Even so, God chose YOU to rightly parent the child HE gave you. Do not solely rely on social media, blogs or run to friends for advice on how to rear your children. Read God’s Word and listen to His voice.
Finally, pray and persevere. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.
Happy Mother’s Day!
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