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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Parenting 101--Seven Suggestions for Success

When we had our first child, I searched the Scriptures for clear solutions to the issues we were having. At first, my baby didn’t sleep. The Bible doesn’t tell us how to put babies on a schedule. We had other normal baby issues. All along, I wondered where the Bible's Steps 1, 2, and 3 were for parenting. As our little person grew, so did my list of questions. I’ll bet I’ve read The Strong-Willed Child* more times than anyone else on the planet. (It didn’t have the answers, either.) Why doesn’t the Bible give us a simple plan for parenting? A correlation to that question would be: why are all children so different? Maybe the first question answers the other and vice versa. I'm not sure.

I've heard it said, “The Bible contains everything you need to know for faith and practice.” Is that true? Of course it is.

So, how about parenting? How does the Bible help us know what to do with our children?

Are you ready?

This is my seven-point, Bible-based mini-course on parenting:
  1. Children are a blessing. If we understand this, we will welcome them into our home—however they get there. Some of you have natural children. Others have adopted children. Some of my friends have blended families. Grandparents and aunts and uncles may be rearing little ones. It is important to know in our heads and hearts that these feisty little punkin' heads are blessings. The Bible says, Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward (Psalm 127:3). Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (Psalm 128:3-4).
  2. A parent who genuinely loves God is a good parent. Read what God says to parents: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart (Deuteronomy 6:5-6). This also means that parents need to know their Bibles.
  3. It’s the parents’ job—get this—to teach love for God and His commandments to their children. The rest of the above passage goes like this: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:7). This implies some kind of Christian schooling and spending time with your child. You are to teach God’s Word in a natural, flowing way—all day long. I believe you can delegate some of this to a good Christian school, of course, but it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure that the Bible is being taught to his children—and talked about all day long.
  4. Parents should decide on boundaries and teach their children obedience within a loving atmosphere. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4).
  5. Sometimes, corporal punishment is necessary. He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Proverbs 13:24). Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Proverbs 23:13-14). This is talking about correction to get the child’s attention and teach him—in a loving, restrained way—not beatings or cruelty. This is not talking about abuse.
  6. Parents should teach their children to serve God from a young age. I personally believe that this is best done when the whole family ministers together in their local church. This ministry can take many different forms, of course, but when children serve along with their parents, they grow up knowing how it’s done and with a desire to keep on serving God. How do I know this? Look at percentage of missionary kids and pastor’s kids who have followed in their parents’ footsteps. Although there were others, an Old Testament man named Heman comes to mind. He and his children served God through music. And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king's order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman. So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the LORD, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight (1 Chronicles 25:5b-7).
  7. The goal of Christian parenting is beautifully expressed in this verse: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace (Psalm 144:12). We want to have mature sons—that will be able to lead their households someday. We want to see our daughters grow up to be strong, beautiful, elegant women. We want all of our children to love and serve God.

I believe much of today’s parenting is off base. We have forgotten the purpose and substance. Our goals are wrong. We indulge our kids and then wonder why they’re brats. We don’t even know what the Bible says ourselves. So, how could we possibly parent from a biblical standpoint? Society substitutes mere education for a Christ-centered one. We show our kids by example that we’re only interested in making money, spending it on pleasures, and in helping them to follow us in the same. We don’t even serve in the church ourselves. How will we possibly instil in our kids a love for God’s house and serving others?

Another huge problem is distraction. Kids have gadgets in their hands all the time and screens in front of their faces. They don’t even talk anymore. They text. I think there should be times at home that are completely phone free. (See mypost, here.) And, I think we need to connect with our kids again, on a personal, emotional, caring level.

If parents do everything right biblically, does that guarantee perfect adult children? Of course not. The philosophy used to be: good parenting = great kids. Well, there’s a better chance of it, for sure, but every child is born a sinner. Every child needs to be born again. Every child has the free will to choose. As he approaches adulthood, those decisions will begin to define him and his path in life. A parent must allow his child to make his own decisions. Beginning with salvation, the parent can’t do it for his child. Along the way, each child is responsible for his own choices. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

If you’ve read this post and feel a little bit overwhelmed about parenting, take one concept at a time. Love God. Give Him your heart’s trust and loyalty. As you grow as a Christian, share your journey with your kids. Be transparent. When you make a mistake, confess it to your children and keep going. There certainly is no such thing as a perfect parent, and there aren’t any perfect children, either. We all muddle along the best we can—with the Lord’s leadership and help.

I am convinced that God works alongside parents. He takes over where we fail. He wants all children to come to Him, and He woos them to Himself. Also, husbands and wives combine differences in parenting styles. I believe God is in those, too. Each spouse ultimately balances out the other.

As the children grow, it's their responsibility to make wise decisions.

My son, if thine heart be wise,
my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
(Proverbs 23:15)

* The Strong-Willed Child is by Dr. James Dobson.

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