By Rev. Maury G. Gill, Children’s Pastor Part 1 of 2
Nan and I are by no means experts in parenting! We have done many things the wrong way in parenting our three boys. However, we did some right things. The following are eight things we tried to do as parents when our boys were young and still actively do today now that they are adults. In fact, now we are practicing these 8 Tips with our grandchildren. 1. Set Realistic Expectations:
Avoid setting expectations without understanding your child’s natural gifts, talents, learning style and unique personality traits. Take the time to read and educate yourself on the development stages of your child.
Set expectations that reflect the age development of your child. Nan and I gave our boys three chores to do every Sunday afternoon. First, they had to cut and edge the yard. Second, they had to wash and detail the cars. Third, they had to sweep and blow the driveway, sidewalk and street curb. I am a perfectionist when it comes to the yard work and washing and detailing the cars. I had to learn to except their level of work would never meet my high standards. I just made sure that they understood how to do the chores right then except their best work as a child, preteen or teenager. I made them rotate the three chores each week. The funny thing is the boys got together and one cut the yard because they enjoyed it, one washed the cars because they enjoyed it and one liked sweeping and using the blower because they enjoyed it. Mission accomplished!
Galatians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (I will go into a more detailed explanation on how parents can exasperate a child in a future article.) By setting unrealistic expectations for your child it will frustrate them and lead to: low motivation, discipline issues, lack of fulfillment and other behavioral issues.
On the other hand we can be guilty of setting low expectations for our children. This is best illustrated with the idea of everybody is a winner in sports. I have never been a fan of not keeping score in a ball game of youth sports. At some point a child needs to understand a healthy concept of competing. When one of my children got upset over loosing a game I responded with the following statement, “Did you do your best?” I wanted them to understand if they did their best to win and did not they still won personally. The life lesson is that sometimes we just lose games.
As parents, Nan and I set expectations on our children with the mindset of, are you proud of how you played, cleaned your room, cut the grass, washed the car and are you proud of that grade you received. Colossians 3:23 in the Amplified version says, “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.”
Remember they are children, not an adult and don’t think like one.
2. See Family Discipleship As A Way Of Life, Not A Program
Look for ways everyday to teach your child about God. It is not just on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings when you bring them to church. This is an everyday discipleship process for life.
Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This verse reminds parents to teach children of God’s commandments in the daily rhythms of life. (I will give several ways parents can do this in a future article.)
One of the ways Nan and I did this was with our “back to school” shopping experience. Before we set out to the mall we showed the boys how much money we had to purchase the clothes they needed for school and prayed that God would stretch that money to meet our need. It was amazing to watch our boys look for BOGO items, sale items and etc. The fun really happened when we returned home and dumped all the clothes on our king size bed to see visibly in a pile of clothes how God stretched our money to meet our need. Then we prayed over those clothes and thanked God for meeting our need. The teachable moment was that God meets our needs, yes, even in school clothes.
Looking for teachable moments about God in everyday life can be the most fun you can have as a parent. The interesting thing about looking for teachable moments with your children is that it never ends. It is a lifetime discipleship process. Nan and I still today look for teachable moments about God with our adult children and grandchild.
3. Focus On Jesus
Psalm 127: 3 says, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” As parents we must realize that children are a gift from God and we are responsible on how we teach them about the one whom gave them to us.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Nan and I from the moment that we learned God was blessing us with a child we focused on three prayers for that child: First, for the salvation of that child. Second, for that child to discover their life purpose. Third, for their future mate. Now we have the joy of praying those same three prayers over our grandchildren.
The best illustration of this was when one of our boys was around the age of five. He used a word one day that really caught Nan and I off guard. It was a word that he did not hear in our home! The first time we heard him use the word we dismissed it as, “That’s not what we heard”. However, when he used the word several other times over the course of a week we realized he knew the word and knew how to use it. I took him to the bathroom and asked him the following question, “What do we do when our hands are dirty?” He answered the question exactly the way I hoped he would, “Daddy, we wash our hands to get them clean.” I proceeded to tell him the word that came out of his mouth was a dirty word and his mouth was dirty. I gave him a bar of soup and asked him to wash his mouth out. Now, I have to be honest in what followed was one of those times in parenting that I had to contain my laughter and focus on the mission! He took such a huge bite out of the bar of soup that it was sticking to his teeth. I gave him a glass of water so he could rinse his mouth out. He looked like he was foaming at the mouth with rabies. What happened next was one of the sweetest father and son moments in parenting. I was able to tell him that word really did not come from his mouth but from a dirty heart. It hurt the heart of his mother and father but most importantly it hurt the heart of God. This conversation about having a dirty heart became the catalyst in that child receiving Jesus Christ as his personal savior.
As parents our main goal is to guide our children to salvation in Jesus Christ. So, our focus is on Jesus Christ in everything that we do in raising the children that God has entrusted us with.
4. Be A Guide, Not A General
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he grows older he will not abandon it.” The first two words in this verse, “train up”, has been interpreted in other Bible translations as; “teach”, “direct”, “give instruction” and “start a child”.
“Train up” in Hebrew is the word “chanak” which means to dedicate. It is only used five times in the Old Testament. The word “chanak” was used four times with the idea of dedicating a newly built home to God. In fact, if a worrier was called to battle and he had new home that had not been dedicated to God he would be exempt from going to battle until his home was dedicated. In Proverbs 22:6, King Solomon is suggesting that in the same way that you would dedicate your home to the Lord we are to dedicate our children to Him also.
Nan and I had no problem with this idea of dedicating our boys to the Lord. However, I personally missed the next part of this verse and I became a general and not a guide.
The phrase, “in the way he should go” in Hebrew it is actually “according to his way”. Here the writer is making the point of learning the bent of your child and guiding him in that direction. Your child’s bent includes his/her personality, talents, interest, gifts, skills and etc.
Here is where I made a huge mistake with one of our sons. As a teenager he grew to be 6’2” and weighed 250lbs. What a football frame! However, he despised the sport and loved singing in the school choir and acting in the school plays. I forced him to do something that was not his bent because I wanted him to be a beast on the football field. I realized I was causing more damage in our relationship because I was forcing him to become something he was not. I let him quit football and he came to life when he was able to be who God designed him to be. He was selected to be the lead in numerous school and community plays. He became a beast on different stage.
As parents we can cause more damage to our children by being a general on what we think they should be instead of giving guidance in how God created them.
Nan and I pray that these first four tips have given you some guidance in your journey in raising your children. In the next article we will cover the next four tips: 5. Feed Your Own Growth 6.Teach By Your Example – Model Gospel Transformation To Your Child 7. Connect Them Deeply Into Your Church 8. Pray With Then And For Them Grace & Peace, Pastor Maury & Nan