My daughter Lindsay graduated from high school last Friday night. She is the last of our four children to graduate from high school. And of course as a parent I am so proud of her.
The thing that I so appreciate about Lindsay is her tender conscience. Lindsay is a strong willed girl! And she has been that way since she was a child. But her strong will is tempered by her conscience which moves her to do the right thing! When Lindsay was a little girl, I would discipline her, and the next morning she would have a note of apology stuck underneath my bedroom door. That warmed my heart. My goal as a parent has been to raise conscience driven children.
I am thankful to say that my children walk with God. Many times “PK’s” (pastors kids) are known for their rebellion. I want to share with you several important ingredients we’ve lived by as parents to instill in out children a desire to please God.
Training up a child in the above verse really means to train up a child in the mouth of his way. That is, to give the child a taste of something. To introduce our small baby to a new food, we would put a dab of the baby food on our little finger and place it on the roof of our baby’s mouth. The child would become accustomed to the taste and then not mind eating that particular food.
We’ve done the same thing spiritually. And here’s how. First of all, Susan and I made a choice to walk with God personally and live the Christian life so our children could see how they are to live. Someone said you teach what you know, but reproduce what you are! Children learn, in fact we all learn, by observation, association, and influence. You have perhaps heard the adage what you do speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying. Our children largely become what we are!
Secondly, Susan and I encourage our children to develop their own personal relationship with Jesus. When they were young, we read the Bible to them and prayed with them. I often put them to bed in my arms while singing praise songs. As they got older, we set the example of fellowship with God, and they naturally developed their own fellowship with Him. We didn’t have to force it. They just gravitated to what they saw.
Thirdly, we spend quality time with our kids. Over the years we’ve stayed involved in their lives. Playing with them, reading to them, participating in family events such as vacations, or just spending a few hours together as a family, we showed them unconditional love. When driving to events throughout the week, I would just spend time talking about whatever concerned them. Children need unconditional love. When it’s provided, they blossom.
Fourthly, we disciplined our children when they did wrong. And we chose to be consistent with the discipline, even when we didn’t feel like it! We have three rules for our home, and if violated, they were disciplined. The three rules are 1) Always obey all authority 2) Get along with your brothers and sisters 3) Never, ever lie. I have a CD series explaining how to discipline your children and I’d encourage you to listen to it!
Fifthly, we gave our children space to be themselves. Sometimes I think Christian parents try too hard. They try to force their children to like the right kinds of things so much that they smother the child. Then the child ends up with a rebellious attitude. As children become teenagers, they need space. They need to learn to think independently and separately from their parents. If this process of separation is hindered, personal growth is stymied.
Sixthly, we have carefully watched what kinds of people our kids chose as friends. When they were young, we chose their friends for them. Then, as they became teenagers, we were advisors, and carefully monitored who they were with, where they went, and what they did. Relationships with the opposite sex were carefully observed, and we never allowed them to be alone with the opposite gender.
Lastly, we repented in front of or to our children when we did wrong. Many times I’ve said or did something that hurt my child, and I went to them and asked them to forgive me. That instills in them a sense of fairness and shows them that you play by the rules too! It creates respect for you in the eyes of your children.
I could go on and on here but I must close. We have one chance to do it right with our children. Let’s give it our best shot! No parents are perfect. But with a right heart towards God, and the grace of God to cleanse mistakes, we can obey the mandate to train up a child in the way he should go.