If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbor, family friend, married, or single, then this is for you. If there is a child in your life, consider yourself blessed. Through this child, you have a chance to influence a future you will not see.
Being a parent is the most exciting, fulfilling, defeating, exhilarating, upsetting, amazing, frustrating, emotional, and demanding journey you will take—ever! I am the proud father of three adults. Their mom, Kim, is right there with me, and I have not forgotten that she made a far greater sacrifice for these kids than I did.
It has always been my belief that all of us, as parents or other caring adults, must do four things for every one of the children in our sphere of influence: understand them, love them, provide for them, and prepare them for the future.
When it comes to understanding our children, we need to understand their uniqueness—what makes them who they are. It should be our goal to know our children, how God made them, and, in turn, how we should lead them.
There’s a verse in Proverbs 22 that can seem daunting:
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. --Proverbs 22:6
The Hebrew translation for “the right path” basically is “according to the child’s way.” Training and discipline, then, should be tailored to fit the needs of each individual child. In our case, we learned that we could not utilize the same methods to discipline or guide each of our children. They were each wired to understand and process things differently and we quickly learned that one size does not fit all.
We must love our children. How did Jesus tell us to love? Generously. Unconditionally. This is how we are to love our children. I believe we do this by giving freely of our encouragement, time, and conversation.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. --Deuteronomy 6:5–7
If I could boil these verses down to one thought for parents, it would be this: Be ready to seize moments for great conversations. These are moments when questions can be answered, boundaries can be clarified, and love can be exemplified. I found a lot of these moments came when I was saying goodnight to my kids. Sure, sometimes they would use questions as a means to extend their bedtime, but I used those moments to listen and then to offer some perspective and encouragement.
Providing for Children
In most families these days, parents provide far more than basic needs. Too many children today do not hear the word no nearly as often as they need to. Kim and I provided several things we felt would go the distance for our kids. First, we provided a safe and comfortable home. It doesn’t matter how small or how large your house is; what really matters to your children is knowing that it is a peaceful and loving place.
So many children are growing up in homes that are modern-day war zones. With the high divorce rates, kids are facing uncertainty about their futures. Parents, you may be able to handle a conflict-filled home, but your small children cannot, nor should they have to endure this when they are young and unable to protect themselves or excuse themselves from the situation.
Preparing Children for the Future
Kim and I knew one thing that would help prepare our children for the future was teaching them to respect others, especially those in positions of authority such as school teachers, Sunday school teachers, pastors, and all adults in general. Our society is suffering a great deal today from a generation of young people who don’t respect authority. When I was a kid, if I got into trouble at school or church, I was in trouble when I got home. These days, if a kid gets into trouble at school or church, the teacher is in trouble. This isn’t right.
We were committed to do what was needed, what was best, and what we knew would bring good things into our kids’ lives in the future, even if they didn’t always like it at the time. But we knew that we were the adults. We knew what was ahead; they didn’t. We can do wonderful things for our children if we help them prepare for a future they do not yet see or comprehend.
My children are now adults. They are still our greatest joy and we have to be very careful not to let our pride get out of hand. (Especially since our oldest son and daughter-in-love have given us two amazing and practically perfect grandsons.) All three of them graduated from college. They continue to grow in their faith, and they all love and serve our church. I am beyond proud and thankful for the adults they have become.
You can read more on parenting in my new book, Restored, which hits bookshelves next week!