There was a song back in the 1980’s written by the actor Will Smith (Fresh Prince) called “Parent’s Just Don’t Understand”. Why would I mention a secular song in a spiritual article? Those lyrics came from a teenager who was acting rebellious toward his parents. It was totally the wrong view kids should have toward their parents. Sometimes, kids still think their parents don’t understand them. But good parenting is more than being “cool” or relevant. You are not trying to be their best friend It involves modeling Christ to them.
Those who were the kids when that song came out are now the parents and we DO understand. The older we get, we realize that our parents were not really crazy after all. They, just like we do, have a tough time communicating truth. You are really never fully ready for parenting. I remember when the hospital let us take our first born daughter home. They gave us no instruction manual (not that guys would read it anyway). The first night we were home alone and all the company left I was faced with the reality - I was a parent!
So how do we do parenting well? I think we act out what we preach to them by living our lives for Christ.
1. We radically love them! John 3:16 says God radically loved us and we don’t have to work for His love. When we mess up, He still loves us. We need to show them what real forgiveness and repentance looks like. When we mess us, we repent. When someone wrongs us, we forgive. When someone is in need, we love them. Model this with your spouse and closest friends.
2. We should bless and discipline them. Psalm 2:8 says, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” This doesn’t mean we should buy them any and everything they desire. We cannot buy their love or pay them off when our relationship is bad with a present. But, our hearts should want to bless them and ensure they have all they need to be what God wants them to become. We should also discipline them. The parameters of discipline should be wrapped around Biblical principles and scripture with the goal of making them more like Jesus. God disciplines us. Proverbs 3:12 says, “because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Don’t just try to be the good guy or their best friend. Be their parent and steer them on the right track towards a relationship with Christ.
3. Spend time with them. God did not just send Jesus to the earth so we could go to heaven one day. He sent Him so we could have a relationship with Him. God desires to be close to us and we should desire the same closeness with our kids. Be creative and do something meaningful with your children each day.
4. Teach them about God when trouble comes. God wants us to know Him intimately. He is always teaching us, even when we don’t want to be taught and even when life throws curve balls at us. When your kids or family go through rough times, point them toward Christ. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Don’t compromise.
5. Don’t live your life through them. Our jobs are not to dictate their future but to teach them to fall in love with Jesus. Yes we have to guide them but more importantly we help them to listen to His voice. Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a plan for their life. If we can get them connected to Him then He will direct them. Dance class, gymnastics, and baseball are great but if we do all of that and never lead them to a relationship with Christ, we’ve failed.
6. Don’t send them to church. Take them to church. We have to model the Christian life for them. Before they were our kids, they were God’s kids. We are only stewards of them. If we want them to do right, we must model it. If we want them to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we must be practicing them. They need to see us do it and live it out for them.
7. Pray for and with them daily. Before they leave for school, before they go to sleep and everything in between requires prayer. Take time to intercede on your knees for your kids. Not just when they mess up but before. Let them see you praying. This will teach them a lifestyle of prayer.