In the past year I have read several books on parenting. Each was written from a sound Biblical perspective with helpful suggestions on how to parent more effectively. I love each one of my children and want to be the best mother I can be, but at times the task seems overwhelming and I am not sure where to start. Do you have any suggestions?
We’re not surprised that there are times when you find the job of parenting to be overwhelming. At times it is overwhelming. And yes, at times it is hard to know where to start. One of the biggest mistakes many parents make is that they don’t take the ministry of parenting serious enough. By recognizing the importance and difficulty of parenting you have already taken the first step.
In Deut. 6:4-9, Moses reminds the people that they are to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul and might and focus on the things of God. He instructs the parents to “teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning. Tie them on your finger, wear them on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house!”
In this passage Moses tells the people that there are two basic ways to teach their children. Instruction can be either formal or informal. In formal instruction we tell children the truth. With informal instruction we live or model the truth before them. Both are important, but in this passage Moses emphasizes the informal or lifestyle instruction.
We’ve met many sincere parents who interpreted Proverbs 22:6 to mean that the most important task of parenting was to expose the children to as much sound Biblical teaching as possible. The primary philosophy was that if you could just cram enough truth into their cranium as children, when they grew up they would turn out to be good kids with a heart for the Lord. It is sad to say that in many cases that didn’t happen. Chuck Swindoll has noted that Biblical teaching is not like nuclear fallout. Exposure to it does not necessarily lead to absorption of it. Not all of those who are hearers become doers.
The essential starting point in quality parenting is to realize that the greatest gift you can give your child is not only what you do, but also who you are.
Don’t get us wrong, what you do with and for your children is important. However, it is easy to focus on our performance to the exclusion of our person. It is easy to forget that some truths are better caught than taught. The lifestyle your children see you model day in and day out is much more powerful than what they are told. Both are important. But there must be congruity between the talk and the walk.
What do your children see when they look at you? What do you model? Do they see a Mom and Dad or single parent who has a visible love for God and for His Word and His people? Do they see I Corinthians 13 in action? Do they know that your love for them is not based on their performance? Do they have healthy examples of problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills? Are they getting a clear idea of what it means to be a male or female who is made in God’s image? Do you appreciate and promote their uniqueness? Do you model and encourage a healthy experience and expression of emotions?
Let’s get even more specific. What are some of the values and characteristics you would like to see in your children when they become adults? Now for the hard part. At the present time, to what degree are you a model of those characteristics and values? In what specific ways does your lifestyle reflect what you say is most important in life? Keep in mind the fact that I’m not talking about big things. I’m talking about little, simple, easy, practical things.
It doesn’t take very much time or cost very much money to say I love you, to listen intently to what they are saying, to look them in the eyes when you talk to them, to apologize, to ask forgiveness, to touch, to call on the phone, to pray for or share a prayer request with, to send a card, to compliment, encourage, nourish and build.
Yes, parenting is a difficult and complex task. At times it can seem overwhelming. But the starting place is who you are as a parent and the vitality of your love-relationship with Jesus Christ.
Lifestyle parenting doesn’t take much time or money. But it doesn’t just happen. It involves prayerful planning and purpose. It involves a clear commitment to being a doer of the word and not merely a hearer.