I am writing this one for those who are parents or grandparents. It may also be useful for children who want to understand the reasons behind some of the things that their parents may do.
As Christian parents, we all want our children to grow up as fervent followers of Christ who are educated, loved, well adjusted and who will be successful in all that they do. We want them to received the best of everything and overcome each obstacle in their path with ease. As parents, we want our children to be better than we are in every way possible. We strive to provide opportunity for our children so that they have the greatest chance at a successful life.
I want to briefly share with you about setting your children up for success. There have been thousands of books written on the subject of parenting by people who are more intelligent and far wiser than I am. I can only write from my education, experience and heart. I have been a father since 1993 (it seems like a really long time when I write the year down like that). This year (2011) my oldest daughter turns 18; which means that she will be an adult. The first major stage of her life is coming to a close. She will go to college and will begin to truly define the type of woman she will be. As a parent it is exciting and rewarding yet also stress inducing and a little nerve-racking.
The environment of freedom and virtual anonymity for a college freshman allows for many possibilities. The potential for great success lies at the opposite end of the same spectrum as great failure with the deciding factor being the choices that she will make. I have been trying to inventory the things that we have shared with her concerning life, people, relationships, the Bible, problems, etc; trying to figure out what we need to squeeze in before she leaves for college in the fall and I keep coming back to Proverbs 22:6.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)
Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown they will still do right. (Proverbs 22:6 CEV)
Here are some of the questions that run through my head:
- Has a foundation of truth been laid?
- Do our children know right from wrong and do they know why things are right and wrong?
- Do our children understand the impact of having relationships with the right type of people or the wrong type of people?
- Do our children understand the law of sowing and reaping?
- Do our children understand that some actions, choices and decisions cannot be reversed?
- Do our children have their own relationship with God?
- Do our children truly have a biblical worldview?
I have seen their test scores and watched them excel academically. I have no doubts concerning their ability to achieve and learn inside of a class room. Classrooms are excellent for the receiving of diplomas and degrees but we all know that it is how we live outside of the classroom that truly determines the course of our lives.
- Will our children make the right choices and decisions?
- Will our children establish healthy relationships and avoid toxic relationships?
- Will they pray when no one reminds them?
- Will they read the bible every day?
- Will they share their faith with those with whom they work and call friends?
- Will they maintain the morality of their mother and father or will they be taken in by the culture of the present age?
These are questions that I am sure go through many of your minds. I feel like a NASA administrator who has been preparing a rocket for launch for the last eighteen years. I feel like we are in the final countdown for launch and I am checking and rechecking all of the instruments to make sure that everything is a success. The truth is that I have been asking myself these types of questions since my children were born.
We pray, work, volunteer and give so that our children will become the best adults possible. We have to give them Jesus. We have to give them truth. We have to give them love and when the time comes we have to let them leave. We never stop being their parents but we slowly hand the reigns of their life over to them. We start as guardians, instructors and care givers and slowly transform into advisors. They say a parent’s job is never complete. I know my parents still get a lot of work from me.
Setting our children up for success is greatly impacted on what we teach children about choices, decisions and relationships. Those of us who are old enough to realize the impact that some of our decisions have made on the landscape of our lives understand the importance of choices, decisions and relationships. As a parent it is our responsibility to instruct our children on how to decide and how to relate.
As children grow from infant to toddler we must instruct on what goes in the mouth and what does not go in the mouth (it seems like children naturally believe that everything belongs in their mouth). We must teach about things that are hot and why they should not be touched. We must teach about things that are sharp and why they should not be touched. We even have to teach about using the restroom.
The instruction given to younger children normally doesn’t involve a lot of reasoning. “No” should mean “no” and “yes” should mean “yes”. We need our children to know what their boundaries are and operate within them. Most of the boundaries for toddlers seem to revolve around safety and silence. Infants and toddlers don’t get to make decisions (that is our responsibility as parents); they are instructed to follow and obey the decisions we make for them.
As children grow (and mature) we begin to allow them to make simple decisions. We give them the opportunity to obey and disobey as we grant more freedom. We desire them to understand the impact of their decisions and also understand their boundaries more clearly. I wanted my children to know why they were not allowed to do something. I wanted my children to know why certain things were right and other things were wrong. I rewarded them for good behavior and disciplined them for bad behavior. Every event of discipline began with asking my children why they were in trouble or why what they had done was wrong.
The older they get the more often you are asked this question? Sometimes it is asked by your child because they are unhappy with a decision you have made but most of the time they truly want to understand.
- Why can’t I have a computer in my room?
- Why can’t I go to see that movie?
- Why can’t I spend the night at my friend’s house?
- Why don’t you want me hanging around (him/her)?
- Why do we have to go to church?
- Why do we have to read the bible?
- Why do I have to eat my vegetables?
- Why won’t you let me listen to that (artist, comedian)?
- Why can’t I have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
Our first reaction as parents (or at least mine) is the ever profound, “because I said so” response. There is a point when discussion is over. There is also a great need for children to understand why you are making decisions.
Parenting must go beyond final exam style cramming. We have to do more than provide our children with the right answers. We have to provide them with the ability make and understand choices. We have to empower them to be adults. We must establish in them the ability to educate themselves so that they may continually grow and develop throughout their lives.
Education is first and foremost the responsibility of parents. Our education has a great impact on who we are, what we do as well as what opportunities we may be granted later in life. Our children’s education should be a top priority in our lives.
Education begins at home. Reading, writing, math, history, current events, morals, ethics, faith, science etc. should all begin at home. As our children reach school age we must decide what type of education they will receive. The three most common choices are public, private or home schooling. This choice for our children will have significant impact in their lives. As Christian parents we must make decisions based on our faith, our community, our ability and our budget.
The simple truth is that much of the curriculum taught in our public schools is identical to that which is taught in a Christian school or in home school curriculum. There are, however, some significant differences on key areas of education. Evolution, pluralism and historical revisionism play are major role in the philosophy and lessons within the public education system. Public education is largely humanistic and by nature does not provide a biblical worldview to children.
As a Christian parent I encourage you to honestly pray this decision through. If the opportunity presents itself I highly recommend a quality, Christian education for your children.
Education doesn’t end with homework and school house curriculum. Education must extend to faith, theology and Christian living within the home and through the local church. Education must also extend to business and practical skills that empower your children.
Many times we remember what we have been taught because of repetition but what truly makes the greatest impact on our lives is that which we see and experience. Right and wrong can be drummed into our heads over and over again but when we see our parents make right decisions it makes an impact beyond words.
Teaching the 10 Commandments to our children is vital, but living the 10 Commandments before the eyes of our children is even more important. Teaching our children that we should feed the hungry and care for the fatherless and the widow is biblical but doing it with them is even more important. Telling your children that they are supposed to pray and read the bible is important but doing it with them is even more important. Teaching your children about the Great Commission is important but doing it with them is even more important.
Working hard and doing your best are values that are best taught to our children through demonstration. The greatest truths we will teach our children are the ones they see in operation in our lives.
Being a parent means that what you want goes to the back of the bus. We go through little league and ballet and all of the other events that help children develop. Get your children involved in the things that matter in life as early as possible. Open the doors of opportunity in their lives by allowing them to experience. Athletics and the arts are very common areas of participation for our children. Only a handful will grow up to be the next Chris Tomlin or the next NBA All-star but all of them will grow up remembering the hard work and fun from being involved. Little musicians and athletes learn dedication, sacrifice and team work while having fun.
Participation allows your children to put into action your Instruction and Examples; giving you the opportunity for coaching in their lives. Participation also allows them to discover the gifts and talents that God has given to them. There is no greater place to get involved than with your children in your church.
Moving to the next level
Accomplishment and achievement come from passing tests. Education is standardized and finalized through testing. In life we consistently face challenges that require us to use what we have been taught. We are stretched and sometimes pushed to our limits. As parents we need to prepare our children for the tests of both school and life. We also need to do some of the testing ourselves.
Responsibility comes with trust. Responsibilities are given to us because people believe that we can be trusted to handle what is being asked of us. Put your children to the test. Challenge them by trusting them to do what they are supposed to. Reward them when they come through and discipline them when they miss the mark.
It is easy to give things to children for our own convenience but there are certain possessions and events in their lives that should be privileges that have been earned through trust, maturity and achievement. Don’t miss the opportunity to give your children the ability to grow up in your eyes and in their own by testing them.
In one moment you will be reading “What to expect when you are expecting” and in the figurative blink of an eye you will be ordering graduation announcements. It is the time in between that you have to perform Proverbs 22:6.
- Love them unconditionally but not blindly
- Pray for them unceasingly
- Give them the understanding and wisdom for the decisions life brings them
- Live like Christ in front of them
- Encourage them, instruct them, discipline them and correct them
- Remember you are raising the next generation (not babysitting)
You won’t do everything right – there is grace for parents too. Setting your children up for success is not about perfection it’s about love, choices and relationships. May your children be blessed and may they come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.