How To Successfully Raise Children!


November, 2004

Dear Ministry Partner,

What makes some children turn out well, and others not so well? Is it God's pre-determined plan, or is it things parents do or don't do, or is it the child's DNA, or is it just luck of the draw? One thing we know for certain is it costs society billions of dollars for the crime, court systems, and imprisonment of the children who don't turn out as well. This is not to mention the "hard to measure" costs of illiteracy, drug abuse, divorce, and public welfare for children who manage to stay out of prison but grow up to be dysfunctional adults.

Let me state the obvious right up front, and that is the number one goal of parents is to get their children born-again at the earliest age possible. Contrary to our preferences, this is not the job of the church — it is the job of the parents. Certainly the choice of churches can make a huge difference, but one of the most basic responsibilities of any Christian is to be able to lead others in a salvation prayer, and certainly one's own children. And this prayer should not only be done as early in the child's life as feasible, it should be repeated as often as situations present themselves through the growing years. A parent can't see the child's heart or whether they really repent and have faith, so if it did not truly produce a new spirit within the child the first time, it may be the second or third prayer when the child becomes truly born-again. It makes a huge difference in a child's behavior over the years to be born-again! And as an obvious extension, the ongoing spiritual growth of the child is priority number one for every parent. This includes water baptism, buying the child his or her own Bible to read and seeing it is being read, developing a personal prayer life, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This certainly works better if the parents are modeling the desired behavior, but failure in the parent's spiritual life is not a release from responsibility for the spiritual growth of the children.

The second key issue is making the children obey the parents. The flesh of every human being has a rebellious nature, and it is up to the parents to require obedience in their children — whatever amount of effort and creativity that requires. Many parents feel like it is no one else's business how they raise their children and whether they go to the effort to make them obedient. Nothing could be further from the truth, and parents should actually be held legally and financially responsible for their children up until they are considered an adult. That would wake up some negligent parents! God also had a solution to prevent negligent parents from being able to afflict all of society with their delinquent young adults. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 instructed the men of the city to stone them to death! That makes spanking look pretty mild.

It does take significant effort to discipline and correct children, especially the more children one has. (This may be a significant reason God did not ever encourage men to take more than one wife.) Even some of the great men of God in the Bible failed in the area of requiring obedience in their children (Noah, Eli, Samuel, David, and others). God thinks so much of this area that He made it a requirement to operate as an elder. "An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient" (Titus 1:6).

The challenge in this area is how to discipline in love. Anger in the parent produces anger in the child. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Do not provoke your children to anger." And it has been said that punishment without relationship produces rebellion. So while our parental goal is not to get our children to like us, we still need to demonstrate a caring attitude and tangible love to get them to receive from us. Most parents usually don't discipline until they are angry. A Biblical key is to discipline before we get angry — which takes commitment and self discipline. (As the disciples said, "Lord, increase our faith!")

James Dobson says swats can be given between the ages of about 2 until 10 or 12. I have to admit that the corporal punishment which was widely accepted in my public school days all the way through high school was the biggest deterrent to my own temptations to misbehave. Those coaches could really swing a paddle, and schools were much safer then than now. When they took the paddles out, they had to start replacing them with metal detectors, uniformed law enforcement officers, and entire "street schools" built with millions of tax payer dollars to house the disobedient children a safe distance from the main student populations.

Besides discipline, children need appropriate tangible physical expressions of love. A hug, a pat on the shoulder, a kiss on your daughter's forehead — is very important! It has been found in studies that a lack of physical affection from a particular parent can create homosexual tendencies in the child toward that gender — trying to get the affection never received from the parent. In addition, positive, encouraging words of genuine praise are often interpreted as love. Try to sometimes especially notice something your child is doing right, and comment on it!

And real Christian love — the kind that never fails (1st Cor.13), is unconditional love. We live in a society that is very performance oriented — you get "rewards" if you perform well (and get rejected if you do not perform well). This is not God's love (agape in the Greek language). For a marriage to succeed, parenting of a child to succeed, for any relationship to succeed — unconditional love has to be the foundation. The child needs to know the parent still loves him or her even in spite of disobedience. Again, this is not usually easy, but this is perhaps the biggest key to having children that turn out right.

Another important key to love is that children usually spell love T-I-M-E. Busy parents often don't spend time with their children. I recently read that in 75% of families, both parents work and the average amount of quality time with the child is 7 to 12 minutes a day. But if a parent will work at remembering this issue, often younger children can accompany the parent many places (if they have been disciplined to be obedient in public). Another way to get quality time with children, especially older children, is to take them somewhere they want to go — the zoo, a baseball game, rodeo, car races, etc. (the purpose being to have time to talk and build relationship). Kids always have time to talk if they are being driven where they want!

Last, parents must actively teach and train their children. We cannot and should not assume they will "figure it out". They might not! We need to deliberately teach them the important issues in all arenas of life. Spiritual issues and Christian character are the most important, but it is also important to teach them basic independent living skills like cooking, keeping a check book, and washing their clothes! This actually removes insecurity, builds self-confidence, and ensures they will lead a successful life in the fullest sense.

God once showed me the essential child-raising ingredients are parallel to the things a plant needs: soil, air, light, and occasional water. In fact, the Bible refers to children as plants (Psalm 128:3). Children need to be "rooted and grounded in love" (their soil), they need to give out and take in communication like breathing (the air), they need teaching and revelation (the light), and they need occasional discipline (the washing of the water of the Word).

Your children (and grandchildren) are your personal missionaries that you are sending into a time you will never live to see. You have a relatively short space of time (perhaps 18 years) to aim (train) them in the right direction while they are being launched. Children are fragile — so handle with prayer! As they get older, it takes more indirect influence (and more prayer!). But a Godly heritage is worth the effort, expense, and faith required to do it right!

Raising the parenting standard,

Dale & Judi Leander


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