The scriptures read, in Psalm 127:3-4, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” In the flurry of life it is easy to go autopilot in our parenting (I’M GUILTY!), and forget that children are a good gift, even when they are behaving like a terrible storm. Moreover, it easy to forget that amidst the other means and circumstances we endure and experience in our journey toward becoming great leaders, great leadership is also forged in the home.
A healthy home life is a necessary qualification for faithful leaders. (1 Timothy 3:4-5; 1 Timothy 3:12)
With this is mind I’d like to offer what I believe are 9 indispensable principles of good parenting. Note I said indispensable, not exhaustive. (lest one of you comment that I’m saying this is the final law on parenting) Hopefully you can step back and take an introspective look at how you parent, if you are a parent. Hopefully, for those of you who aren’t yet parents this will give you the start that my wife and I didn’t have.
1. Parenting is stewardship – This. This I so often forget. These are NOT my children. Yes, all three (two girls, one baby boy) have been gifted to me by the Father, but ultimately they are His. Keeping this at the fore of my mind really does effect how I speak to them, nurture them, disciple them, discipline them. I am stewarding God’s good gifts, therefore I should take care to steward well. It’s the “Parable of the Talents,” parenting edition.
2. Consistency is key – We must be consistent with our children. Consistent with our word. Consistent with our promises. Consistent with our discipline. Consistent with our shaping their spiritual, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This means that even when you are tired, talk to your kids. Even at the end of a long day, keep the promise you made to go out and play. Even when you don’t feel like it, open the scriptures with them before bed and pray. And even when you’re feeling exasperated, follow through on their discipline. Consistency builds trust, and their view of you as faithful. It will shape, for better or worse, their early (and potentially adult) view of God.
3. Law + Gospel is necessary – This of course is distinctly Christian phrasing, so bear with me if that’s not where you’re at. I know we are in the “age of grace,” in church world, and in some circles a misunderstanding and misapplication of the definition of grace, it’s implications and out workings, have led to the false idea that children don’t need stricture or boundaries, but freedom to discover themselves. Wrong. Children need freedom to discover who God’s made them within the boundaries established by their parents, whom God has entrusted to steward their lives. This means that they need both law (you can/cannot do) and gospel (this is the why/motivation of my rules) in order to develop a healthy sense of self and how the world works. It is good and right to set expectations for our children and discipline them when those expectations are not met. It is good and right to set boundaries for our children, and discipline them when those boundaries are crossed, but never without them at least in part (in line with their age and development) understanding the why behind it, and extending to them the grace of understanding and not being overbearing or overwrought in our discipline.
4. Correction + Affirmation, everyday– I was struck one day with the idea to count how many times I’d corrected my eldest daughter in that day, it was nine. I then thought to myself, “how many times have you affirmed the godly, good natured, love initiated, obedient things she’s done today?” zero. I was grieved. Our days with our children must be filled with both affirmation and correction. Only correcting the immature, sinful, or misguided behaviour of our children, but not giving equal effort to affirming the good works you see God working out in them will build a warped sense of self. Take the time to celebrate the good. By God’s grace, what is celebrated is what’s repeated.
5. Intimidation has no place – Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” In very general sense, I believe we can toss intimidate under the banner of provoking, and then producing discouragement. If we use our size, authority, or physicality to frighten our children into obedience, we are teaching them that fear based compliance is good. It’s not. Does this mean we don’t spank them? Absolutely not. (of course people diverge on this…see next post for my thoughts) It does mean that we don’t lord over them (using our size differential), raise our hands toward them in a threatening manner, or unnecessarily raise our voices, particularly in anger. Raising our voices should be reserved for situations in which they might be endangered if they do not respond to the sound of your voice (i.e. running away into the street or a parking lot). If you are always raising your voice, it will mean nothing in a moment when raising it might mean everything, including saving their little lives.