By: Dan Seale
What does it say that after 27 years of parenting, I attended a parenting seminar a couple of weeks ago? It says, “I am still learning as a parent and I am not an expert nor will I ever be.” Each parent, each child, and each family system are unique, and there is no one size fits all formula or method. Above all else, I want my children to know and follow Jesus. I have prayed that Psalm. 73:26 would be the cry of my children’s hearts. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I offer my parenting tips with the hope that they help water and fertilize the soil of our children’s hearts so that God’s Spirit will make this prayer become a reality.
1) Parent out of hope not fear.
Yes, the world can be a scary, dangerous place. When we parent out of fear, we tend to try to control circumstances and our children. This rarely works out well in the long run. As they get older, you realize you have less and less control over them and their environment. So usually, instead of trusting God, you only grip tighter and tighter.
Accept you are not in control, but God is; so quit trying to control your child and his/her/their world.
Our confidence in parenting must be in the promises and presence of God. God is at work accomplishing His purposes. (Romans 8:28-29). He is our Creator, King and Savior (Colossians 1). He alone can change the hearts of people, including our children. Therefore, we should not fear. Too often our minds are consumed by what could happen and worst-case scenarios. In those moments, we must cling to the promises of God – that He is with his people, for his people (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 13:5). In the midst of some of our hardest challenges as parents, Debbi and I would constantly remind one another, The story isn’t over. This isn’t the last chapter. God is at work. We can trust him with our lives and with our children’s lives.
2) Parent out of weakness not strength.
The best thing I can do for my children is show them my sin and weakness and my need to be rescued and strengthened by Jesus. That means I should ask their forgiveness when I sin against them or in front of them. I need to admit that what I did was wrong and not excuse my sin. Also, parenting out of weakness means that I recognize I can’t parent my children to Jesus or to success in this life. Therefore, I need to pray to the living God to work in the lives of my children. It is easy to only pray when circumstances are bad, and we clearly see what is always true – we are not in control.
3) Parent in community not in isolation.
We are not meant to live the Christian life alone, and we are not meant to parent alone. We need to take advantage of God’s gift, the church, to help us in parenting. Surround your children with other adults who love Jesus and who will love them. I am thankful for the many adults who have befriended my daughters. They have served and some continue to serve as confidants. My daughters felt free to ask them questions they may have struggled to ask us and share struggles. Yes, I know many of you want the type of relationship that your child will tell you everything and ask you anything. That may happen for a few. However, even if that does happen, you want other adults speaking the same truth into their lives. This will ultimately strengthen their faith because it’s not just mom and dad talking about Jesus. They will see that others believe these same life-changing truths and love Jesus. These relationships won’t form themselves. We intentionally invited people into our home to share meals and play games with us and our children so they had time to build connections. Additional connections were built with their Sunday School teachers and youth group small group leaders. Let your children be influenced by other godly followers of Jesus. Invite someone over to dinner this week.
4) Parent by example not merely by words.
If you want your child to pursue Jesus, then you must pursue Jesus.
If you want your child to love and value the people of God, the church, then you must model that love and commitment.
If you want your child to love and respect their mom or dad, then you should model loving your spouse.
If you want your child to be a helper and servant, then model sacrifice and servanthood.
What are you modeling to your children that you love and live for?
Your actions teach your children far more than your words. One of my great sorrows in life is when I see my sin reflected in my children. I never intentionally said to follow my sin, but they caught what I modeled, positive and negative.
Bottom line – the best things you can do for your children as a parent are …
Love Jesus and pursue spiritual growth among the people of God, the church.
Love your spouse and model forgiveness and sacrifice in daily life.
This is assuming you are not a single parent. If you are divorced, then how you treat your ex can model the Gospel in powerful ways.
I will pray for you and I hope you will pray for me that we will increasingly parent not by fear but by faith in the power and presence of God as we actively pursue Him.
There are countless good books out there and some bad ones. Here are two books and some audios that if you synthesize them, will give you a solid biblical foundation for parenting.