Yesterday, I wrote about a friend from long ago who emailed me about raising children. I promised to include my response to her. Well, here it is. Perhaps it will help you in your parenting.
Here are some thoughts about our parenting that might be helpful to you.
First, I’m assuming that you (and your husband) are passionately following Christ, loving and trusting in the gospel every day, and deeply involved in a good Bible teaching church. That’s the whole key to all of parenting. You can’t train your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord if it’s not first true in your life. Where this is weak in your life, your parenting will be weak as well. So, focus much on this today, even before children come alone.
Second, enjoy your children. Genuinely enjoy them. Play with them. Laugh with them. Love them. Encourage them. Create a happy home, where your children love to be. Have more joy in your house than your neighbors have in their house. We have enjoyed our children when they were small. We enjoy them even more as they get older (as they grow, there is more about them to love). Spend MUCH time with them, especially as they get older.
Third, have a Biblical vision for your own happiness. 3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” Be convinced that your greatest happiness will be derived when your children are fellow believers, loving and following Christ. Be convinced that it’s not your children’s accomplishments or income levels or prestige or power or education that’s ultimately going to give you (and them) the most joy. Rather, it’s loving Christ that will lead to all of these things. So, pray to this end.
Fourth, love the Bible and fill your children’s minds with the Bible, every chance you get. Engage your children in Scripture memory songs. Get some CD’s to play for your children as they go to bed each night that teach them the Bible. Read children’s Bibles with them, such as “The Big Picture Bible” by David Help or “The Jesus Story Book Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Schedule a “Quiet time” in their lives from the very start (playpen time with a Bible DVD playing in the background). As they get older, have them read good Christian books. Read good books out loud to your family whenever possible (breakfast, dinner, bed-time). Read to them as you travel in the car. Such life-long training will stir your hearts as well.
Fifth, make sure that God is in your home. Just going to church isn’t enough. Sending your kids to youth group isn’t enough. God needs to be a reality in your home. I’m not talking about the mere external forms of religion. I’m talking about the living reality of Christ in your home. So, have a time of family worship in your home as often as permissible by your schedule (see here) — start today, even before children come around. “Thoughts on Family Worship” by J. W. Alexander is the best book about this. It’s an older book, but it’s a treasure. It has probably affected my life more than any other non-Biblical book. Pray with your children. Sing songs of worship with your children. Talk with your children about God, Christ, the gospel, and all things Biblical.
Sixth, shepherd the hearts of your children. Tedd Tripp’s book, “Shepherd a Child’s Heart” nails it. Too often people are concerned with the behavior of their children. But, the behavior comes from the heart. You ought to be concerned with their hearts and souls far more than you are with their behavior. As you discipline them, tell them of the source of their problem (the sinfulness of their hearts) and the solution to that problem (repentance and faith in Christ). Parenting isn’t about getting your children to obey (even dogs can obey). Parenting is about developing character in your children, so that they will behave respectfully and appropriately.
Seventh, treasure the gospel and let it affect how your deal with your children. Too often parents treat their children with the law. They thunder from Sinai with rules upon rules (usually rules to make the parents look better). When they don’t live up to expectations, they receive wrath. I have seen this lead to rebellion in many cases. It’s no wonder, because this is what they were taught in the home. This isn’t what children need. When they fail, they need mom and dad to respond with them like God responds to us, … with grace. So, realize that your children are fellow sinners and in need of grace. This doesn’t eliminate discipline (Heb. 12), but it puts a flavor on your relationship with your children. Really helpful books here are William Farley’s book, “Gospel Powered Parenting” and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book, “Give them Grace.”
Eighth, as your children get older, lavish them with love, so that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are for them, not against them. Be a lifelong encouragement to them, so that when they have trouble, they will go to you, because they know that you care for them more than anyone else in the world. Sam Crabtree’s book, “Practicing Affirmation” is very good for talking about this. Too often parents are antagonistic toward their children. This leads to pain and rebellion (for them and for you).
Finally, be humble with your children. Confess your sins to them. Show them how you need Christ, yourself. The only way to combat hypocrisy in your home is to confess your sins. This will be the case especially when they get older. They can see hypocrisy when you are blind to it yourself.
Whew. That’s probably more than you were looking for. But, I hope that it helps.