“Helping Children Grow Up”Categories: Parenting
Helping Children Grow Up
by Don Truex
THE NICKELODEON Network has begun showing episodes of the ancient sitcom, Father Knows Best. If you remember the show or have seen it in its latest reincarnation, you know that it focused on a family unit and, in particular, the patriarch of the clan, Robert Young. The interesting thing about that program (and others of its ilk) is that regardless of the problem that arises, it is neatly, fully, satisfactorily solved within thirty minutes! Wouldn’t it be nice if real life was like that? If the challenges associated with rearing children from their cradle to their wedding were so easily conquered? But, much to our dismay, they are not.
It is often said that children arrive sans an owner’s manual. That, of course, is not entirely true. After all, a bewildering array of “child rearing” books can be found in any local bookstore. But more importantly, He who knit our children together in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) provides ample instruction so that they might eventually “increase in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). But much of that is left to the discretion and direction of Moms and Dads.
Perhaps that’s why the psalmist observed, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth” (127:4). Like the arrow, our children need purpose and direction. David lived that principle after realizing that he would be denied building the temple. From that day forward, his passion—the focus of his life—was to prepare his son, Solomon, to fulfill the will and work of God for his life (1 Chronicles 28:2ff). To that end he dreamed, planned and provided (1 Chronicles 29:1ff). Can the same be said of us regarding our relationship with our children? Are we as dedicated to our kids being godly as we are to them being academically successful, musically inclined, athletically talented and socially acceptable?
I am somewhere near the middle of the process of “raising my kids.” My daughter, Heather, is 12 and my son, Josh, is 8. Like most parents, I feel inadequate for the job God has entrusted to me (Psalm 127:3; Ephesians 6:4). I struggle with not letting my work make an absentee father of me. I wonder if my influence testifies to the importance of the kingdom. And I wonder if the concepts of their Heavenly Father that my children develop by living with their earthly father are what God desires. I wonder what I can give my kids that will help them the most as they grow up; as they navigate their way from earth to heaven. As I contemplate the last of these issues, my mind continually returns to four areas; four things we need to give our children to help them successfully mature.
1. Respect for the word of God. Yes, I want my children to be sensitive to what others think. Yes, I want them to have an awareness and appreciation of the cultural milieu. But the bottom line, in every issue is the will and word of God. Moses’ counsel is still timely. “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children …” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7a). You see, our kids are going to know whether we think more of what the brethren think, what the tradition says, what the family thinks rather than what God thinks. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to let them see that when decisions are made, when advice is given, when the rubber of faith meets the road of reality—above all else, at all cost, we respect the word of God.
2. Belief in the power of God. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tell our children that if they just follow the Lord, nothing will ever go wrong? But, of course, that would be contrary to the word of God (e.g., “In this world you shall have tribulation,” John 16:33). The question is: How will we face the troubles, the vicissitudes of life that inevitably arise? Do our children see us respond with drink, depression or despair? Or do they see us respond with faith and prayer? Do they hear us speak of confidence in the care and providence of God? Or do they see us live our faith that God is not tired or retired? We must illustrate in our lives—and in so doing, teach our children—that Jehovah is still able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
3. Awareness of the reality of spiritual warfare. To merely float downstream in the moral, ethical, spiritual pollution of this world is not an option. Our kids need to understand “in the days of [their] youth” that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). They must know that with sagacious subtlety our enemy seeks to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). He seeks to destroy our families, our churches, our lives. To bury our heads in the sand is to commit spiritual suicide. To recognize the reality of the warfare, to effectively wield the sword of the Spirit, and to put our trust in God is to win the victory.
4. Having done our best to teach and model the aforementioned, we must give our children freedom. Through the multiple passages in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, we struggle to balance between appropriately releasing our grip and holding on to protect, direct and love. Every ounce of discretion and wisdom, bathed in prayer, is required. To loosen the grip is, admittedly, a painful process. Our hearts rail against it. And yet, “as the eagle stirs up its nest” (Deuteronomy 32:11), how rewarding it must be to see our children spread their wings and fly. How rewarding to say with Paul, “For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:5). May God help us to make it so.
Christianity Magazine: September–October 1992, Volume 9, Number 8. 1992. Christianity Magazine: Jacksonville, FL