Recently someone asked me to give my best advice for raising children? As I developed my response, my goal was to provide an answer that would transcend cultural context (for example safe usage of a landline phone in my parenting days versus safe cell phone usage today). I wanted my counsel to be beneficial to parents at any given point in time. What follows is the result of my pondering. I share it in hopes that it will bless you as you parent or grandparent.
- Raise your children to believe in the existence of absolute truth as found and taught in the person, character, and Word of God. Accomplish this by actively teaching them what that truth is. Teach them to know and understand that contrary to what most people believe today, true truth is not relative. Teach them that true truth does not depend on the opinion and mood of the individual or culture at any given time. Teach them that there are some absolutes that God has built into human existence that do not change with the wind. Nothing you teach them will build a stronger and stabilizing foundation in their lives more than this.
- Help your children develop a biblically sound worldview. An individual’s worldview is the lens through which he/she views and interprets life. Every person has one whether he/she has consciously identified it or not. Our worldview answers some basic questions about life: How did we get here and as a result what, if anything, is our purpose; why is the world so messed up and how can it get fixed – if at all; how do things come out in the end?1 A biblical worldview view answers those questions this way: God created the world and then created man in His own image. Therefore, inherently every person has value, and every person has a God ordained purpose that He is committed to helping us fulfill. This world is in a mess, not because of failure of our social, educational, or governmental systems, but because of the collective consequences of every person’s sin against God. The only way for that mess to be fixed is to accept God’s fix – God sending His Son Jesus to die for the sins of all mankind. Last, a biblical worldview looks and interprets life with a view towards the end, that this world is headed to a defining battle between good and evil, with God and good winning once and for all.
- Be a good student…
- …of your child – especially if you have more than one. The Bible counsels us in Proverbs 22:6 (NASB), “Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” In my reading I have learned that the phrase “in the way he should go” can also be translated “according to his bent.” A person’s bent involves temperament, personality, likes and dislikes, and inherent nature. The only way to successfully raise a child according to his/her bent is to know that bent. That knowledge only comes through observation of and interaction with that child. Bottom line…one size parenting does not fit all.
- …of yourself. Recently I attended a training meeting led by two licensed counselors on the subject of being an effective counselor. A principle they shared transfers over to parenting. We as parents need to be aware that if we allow them, the shadows in our past (where such things as our failures, insecurities, and crushed or unrealized hopes and dreams reside) will influence our attitudes, responses, decision making, and actions toward our children. Whether that influence is positive or negative will depend a lot upon how much we allow those deep shadows to control us.
- Teach your child early in life to respect your authority so that they will be ready and willing to respect the other authority figures they will encounter the rest of their lives – especially God’s. What helps achieve this is to consistently, lovingly, and firmly reinforce the boundaries (rules, guidelines, expectations) you have established for your child through effective age appropriate and “bent-appropriate” (see 3a above) application of discipline and consequences.
- Don’t try to be your child’s friend when they are young so that you can be once they are grown. Our youngest daughter taught us that when she was just out of college. A friend asked her, “How is it that you and your sister were raised in a pastor’s home and turned out so good?” She answered, “Growing up our parents didn’t try to be our friends. They were our parents.” Amy taught us that by not trying to be hers and Rebecca’s friends while they were young, we positioned them to be our friends now that they are grown. Very little we’ve experienced as parents can top that reality.
Effective parenting is a challenging assignment. Wisdom, God’s wisdom, is one of the essential resources a parent needs to meet that challenge. We need to remember the promise God makes to us in James 1:5-8 where James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man unstable in all his ways.”
Jerry Long, Minister of Pastoral Care