|“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” —Ephesians 6:4 |
We are so blessed at both Redeemer churches to be overrun with children. Kids everywhere! What a blessing from the Lord, but also a tremendous responsibility. I felt led this week to remind you of some Christian parenting fundamentals. Parenting is a daunting task, for which none of us are adequate. Every Christian parent sees their own sinfulness while trying to raise kids to love and follow Jesus. Parenting is an act of faith, believing that God will honor your very imperfect efforts in the life of your child. However, God is able to take a crooked stick and strike a straight blow. God will honor the truth of His word and give you wisdom to raise children that love Jesus in the midst of this dark world. Below are 10 basic fundamentals:
1. Authentic Godly Love: Every Christian parent must begin with the master virtue of love. You must ask God to help you love your children in the same unconditional, selfless, and life-giving way that God loves us. Parenting without love only leads to temporary change in behavior, not permanent change of the heart. Our children must know that regardless of their behavior or performance, we love them. This is the ground upon which effective discipline is applied. Love in the Christian parent is an ordered love. Our love must first be toward Christ our Savior, which will flow into a healthy love for one’s husband or wife. When two parents love the Lord and each other, only then are they prepared to rightly love their children. If love has dried up toward God and one’s spouse, the children will know and be seriously affected by this family dysfunction. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). When you love your child for Jesus’s sake, you will see the best in them, hope in them, and more readily forgive their sins.
2. Discipline and Authority: It is absolutely imperative that a Christian parent strive to bring their child under their God-given parental authority as early as possible in the child’s life. A child is not a blank slate of wonderful self-expression waiting to be enjoyed by those in the family. Children are born in sin and grow into rebellious adults if they do not learn to come under authority. Long before a child can learn about the grace of God in Jesus, a child must learn about the authority of their father and mother. A Christian household must be a parent-directed household, not a child-directed household. The parent is directing, guiding, educating, and disciplining the child to shape their mind, body, character, and soul. The Christian parent does not allow the child to do whatever they want. There are many forms of effective Christian discipline, but I firmly believe appropriate spanking should be the baseline for small children in normal Christian homes. Proverbs is a book of divinely inspired wisdom – Scripture that we should not ignore. Proverbs speaks of the wisdom of a measured amount of pain in “the rod” effectively shaping the character of a small child when correctly applied in love and self-control (Prov 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15). I understand the need to depart from this baseline when disciplining abused and traumatized children, but don’t make the mistake of turning the exception into the rule. Lastly, strive to discern with wisdom the difference between childishness and rebellion. A child should only be disciplined for intentional willful rebellion.
3. Evangelism: From the earliest days of our children’s lives we should be seeking the salvation of their soul. It must be the abiding number one goal for the life of your child. You must pray and drive toward the salvation of the soul of your child before all things. This is an act of prayer and faith. You cannot make your child believe, but you can train them up in the ways of the Lord and actively seek for them to confess their sins and believe in Jesus. Most parents have other primary goals for their children, but the Christian parent must understand that if their child gains the whole world but loses their own soul, all has been lost. Evangelizing the souls of our children must come first.
4. Spiritual Training and Discipleship: Children will come to salvation by “means of grace.” This means they will come to understand who Jesus is, His love for them, how their sins can be forgiven, and what heaven is by the means of learning from the Bible and worshiping the Lord with other Christians in church. Children love stories. Read them good Bible story books; there is no better age for your children to become familiar with Bible characters. Make church a priority. Have them in “big church” church worship services every week and in children’s teaching where it may be available. Pray as a family, read the Bible together as a family, have everyday conversations about the character and moral commands of God. Lastly, genuinely model by living what you preach in front of your kids.
5. Time: Both parents must spend time with their children. However, the time a mother spends with her young children is designed by God. The primary (not only, but primary) role of a wife and mother is the nurturing of children and the making of a home. If God has given you children, then He has given you the duty to care for that child. If it is financially impossible for mom to be the primary caregiver to the children and to oversee a safe, nurturing, and loving home, then this should become a goal both parents strive toward. No paid worker can love, discipline, and nurture your child like mom can. No extra money or career goal is worth giving up the precious early years of shaping the hearts and minds of your small kids. We live in a crazy busy world, a world where we must make time to be with our kids. We must say no to other less important things, so we can say yes to investing directly in their lives. This involves the investment of time and money. Yes, we invest in our kids, and it will pay a wonderful dividend. One important thing to not overlook is investing in good memories together as a family.
6. Words of Blessing and Affirmation: We must constantly speak words of blessing to our children. Each child must know you are their biggest fan, not their biggest critic. For every word of correction, let there be ten words of affirmation and praise. It takes intentionality to speak this way. It means you are actively looking each day for how to fill up your child’s heart with words and actions of love. Part of these words are words of prayer. You should pray for and with your child. This should not just be cute formulaic prayers of repetition, but your children hearing you speak to God in prayer. By hearing you, they will also learn how to pray.
7. Food and Nutrition: Food is fuel for the body. Diets made up of high sugar, starch, fat, and processed food are not healthy for anyone. It’s not fair to fill a child with sugar and caffeine and expect good behavior. Please set your child up for success by feeding them healthy low sugar and low/no caffeine diets. It’s common knowledge that homemade meals are cheaper and better for you than standard restaurant fare. Healthy home-cooked meals take a significant investment of time but produce powerful results of physical health in children. Home-cooked meals also play a role in creating healthy rhythms of daily family conversation and prayer around the dinner table. Consider investing more heavily in this area.
8. Drugs: In our day, drugs are often given to small and elementary aged kids as a substitute for discipline and parenting. Many modern non-Christian worldviews don’t have a place for discipline but also will not allow unruly behavior. This often results in children being drugged. Drugs can never shape the character or soul of a young child, they only dull the senses and keep them “calm.” However, the high-energy, stubbornness, endless pretending, and flighty creativity of young children is the foundation of greatness in later adults. These God-given qualities, which may not show well in crowded standardized classes, must be molded, channeled, nurtured, and shaped through appropriate discipline – not stamped out and dulled.
9. Asking for forgiveness and receiving forgiveness: It is vital that as a parent when you wrong your child that you ask for their forgiveness. You and your children know you are a sinner. If you model asking for and receiving forgiveness you will be modeling the Gospel for them. If you wrong them, but never ask forgiveness, you will model pride to them.
10. Perseverance: Never, ever, ever give up on your children. When things get rough, go back to these fundamentals and keep applying them. Aim first at the heart, love them deeply, pray for them and over them, tell them the truth, and hold them accountable for their sins. The older they get, spend more time asking questions and engaging them in meaningful conversation. Give them to God in faith.
May the Lord save all our children. May not one be lost to this world!