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,
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"
The challenge in this area is how
to discipline in love. Anger in the parent produces anger in the
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!")
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
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