Parenting is an incredible partnership with the Divine for the perpetuation of righteousness in the earth. Placing value on the child and on parenthood and recognizing both as gifts from God is a great place to start. Parents soon become aware their children will either become their greatest source of joy and pride, or they will become their greatest source of pain and heartache. My goal is not to conjure pain for anyone, but to help our parents, especially of young children, to raise children to honor the Lord and bring much joy to their lives.
Great parenting begins by being very intentional all the way through the process. As a parent you must first realize you have a very short window of time to establish the boundaries and parameters for great children. Literally, the first five years of a child’s life will establish many things, namely an understanding and reinforcement of right and wrong, of consequences or not for wrong behaviors and of responsibility for their behaviors. A new parent is wise if they seek out older, successful parents to help them become intentional about the parenting journey. Usually the journey is in five phases and each one of them requires the parent to play important roles in order for the child to grow into successful adulthood. Let me state unequivocally that a parent can never transfer that which he or she does not personally possess. Honesty, faithfulness, work ethic, service, and the ability to prioritize must begin in the parents’ lives and be faithfully lived in order to be successfully transferred to the children. Here are the phases as I see them.
PHASE ONE: Birth—Infancy: Here the primary needs of the child start with the physical needs (food, shelter, cleanliness, health) but does not stop there. I believe a righteous environment is a critical need at this early age. A child can sense an environment that is filled with love, peace, and the presence of God. This actually begins while the child is still in the womb. This is why we encourage prayer for the baby while in the womb. On the other hand, an environment of chaos and contention can preset a child for conflict and irritability. I encourage new parents to keep peaceful, godly music playing in the home. Make sure any personal conflicts are handled in a civil tone. No yelling and screaming. Pray often over your baby in gentle tones. Establish laughter and joy as a strong personality of your child by evoking these emotions through play and personal interaction. It is good to start developing patterns to life here too (as much as possible). This means a regulated bedtime, mealtime, and wake-up time. It may take time to establish this. However, such intentional scheduling subconsciously builds disciplines into the life of your child and they function better with a sense of regularity. This will serve them well all their lives.
PHASE TWO: Toddler-Adolescence: The baby soon becomes a toddler and as such learns to crawl, communicate, and express more vividly his or her feelings and desires. Incredibly, the fallen nature of humanity begins to be noticed with the attempted force of the human will to get his or her way, eat only what they like, or act any way they want to act. In my opinion, the real battle for control is won or lost in this stage. Either a child learns that ‘no’ means no…or they learn that ‘no’ means maybe or probably not or nothing at all. Be careful not to treat their rebellion as cute and wind up reinforcing errant behaviors. The Bible says, “Train up a ‘child’ as he should go and when he is old he will not depart…” The training has to happen as a child. This is the time to help the tender tree grow straight and not when the trunk is large and immovable! Correction should never be in anger, should never be abusive, but should bring enough pain to cause a change of mind and attitude. Spanking should be a matter-of-fact punishment and always administered on the buttocks (that are covered) and never in the face or elsewhere on the body. If correction is faithfully established early, I submit the child will need less discipline than one who is randomly ‘disciplined’ only when the parent is ‘fed up’ as it were. Expressions of love for the child after the punishment is important also and lets the child know you disapprove of the behavior and not of the child. As adults we teach them these valuable lessons they will carry with them all their days, and will eventually translate into greater blessing or consequences. An important part of training here is to remain consistent. Also, while their minds are in the most absorbing stage and free from the clutter and stress that later comes after the formative years. It is a most important time to teach Bible stories, songs, poems, verse, etc. Make sure they are in Sunday School each week and provide wholesome visual entertainment in the home. Urge your child to enjoy playing outside, and help them discover nature and the ability to use their minds to visualize, imagine, and create. Healthy minds help produce healthy kids. Certainly keep your child away from violent games and TV shows. Regulate usage of electronic media so that overt time is not wasted. Studies have proven how detrimental this can be to the mental and emotional makeup of children.
PHASE THREE: Childhood—Teenager: The joys or struggles here are directly related to how well one has done their homework in phase two. There needs to be a good balance between reward and discipline. Be intentional as a parent to do things your children enjoy. This is where you can put some reward on their responsibility. Show them they are appreciated. This gives you the leverage to bring the discipline when needed and you, as a parent, aren’t put in the place of only saying ‘no’ or being a disciplinarian. Rest assured there will be times when you have to pull away as their ‘friend’ and resort to being a responsible ‘adult.’ Stay the course and remain lovingly firm. They will thank you for it in years to come. Curfews and the filtering of relationships are part and parcel to the job at this stage. Satan will have much ‘bait’ for your child. You must be wise and proactive staying fully engaged. Encourage healthy eating choices and physical exercise. Obesity is a curse to this age of children these days. Activity and healthy eating behaviors will create an early awareness that will follow them throughout their lives. Further, I believe it is important for young people to have responsibilities or chores to do. Caring for an animal or regular chores such as laundry, doing dishes, mowing grass, taking out the trash, and cleaning their rooms give them a sense of responsibility. I am old-fashioned enough to believe they do not need to be paid for it all the time either. A sense of entitlement can come from feeling they need to be paid for doing things. I’m not talking about using them as slave labor either, forcing them to do all the housework and all chores that are rightfully the job of parents. But some tasks are good for young people to do regularly. Consider giving allowances for reading assigned books on leadership or biographies or for conducting personal interviews with successful businessmen or women.
PHASE FOUR: Graduate—Young Adult: As your child moves closer to graduation from high school, they should be given more freedoms based upon their ability to appreciate them and handle them wisely. As the parent you must hold the reins on this, but do so more loosely now. By now your child is ready to start trying their wings. They want to drive, stay out later, and do more things independent of you, the parent. Again the previous training through all the steps will be crucial to their ability to fly successfully on their own. Keep them in check, but let them fly. Talk to them now as adults. Treat them like adults. This is a great time to get them familiar with budgeting, banking, savings and thinking in terms of their financial successes. Always affirm the good and correct the error. Remain their friend as much as they will allow without suffocating their individuality. And incidentally, as they discover their individuality they will probably cause you to want to hide, or cry, or disown them at times. Just stay the course. Cut them some slack. They will eventually swing back to center and your years of constant training will come into play again. Remember righteous principles always work, so focus on these. Continue to cover them daily in prayer.
PHASE FIVE: Adulthood: Parents…the verdict of our parenting will eventually come in when our children reach adulthood. There are a few exceptions to this rule, of course, but not many. Either we did it right and were faithful to the task we were given or we were lax and missed those golden moments to example and train children in the faith. What a joy it is to see our God-given job of parenting pay off big time. I’m not talking dollars here. The greatest payoff is to see that your children walk in truth! (see 3 John 1:4) That is, they understand a successful life is to live for Jesus first and to be strongly connected to the Body of Christ through the local church. If this is not modeled for them year after year by the parents, it is highly unlikely they will get it. Equally rewarding is when children understand their financial resources are given to them by God, and they demonstrate their thankfulness by giving the first tenth back to Him…you will be a blessed parent indeed. Payday will have come! When your child serves the Lord by serving his/her fellowman, and gives back to the community or to the church, you will know the most delightful joys of being a parent. In most cases children grow into adulthood and realize at last how smart their parents were. This is cool too! Rest assured one never outgrows the need for their parents and the value that comes from their love and affirmation. Truth is…you never stop being a parent! Children will grow up to appreciate all you have done for them, even when they did not like it in the moments of their immaturity.
It is said that no man is a success until he sees in his grandchildren the faith he possesses. This means his children were trained successfully and ‘bought in’ to the degree they passed on the same faith to their children. 2 Timothy 1:5 shares this insight when Paul wrote, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” There is the paradigm of true success displayed in three generations. I pray for God’s best to be upon you as you raise your children with intention. Parenting is God’s trust in you to bring up the next generation to honor the Lord. I pray we will do it well!