As parents, we often struggle to fit everything in. We have sports, lessons, homework, church, work, household chores, pets, and gatherings with family and friends, just to name a few. It’s a season of life that is extremely busy, which makes it easy to lose our way. Plus, our kids can be quite influential in our decision-making.
Those adorable eyes, combined with our extreme love for them, often cause us to make decisions that we may not otherwise make. As Christ-followers, we are called to live a life different from the world, which isn’t easy. The world values money, fame, self-fulfillment, individualism, and freedom to do what feels good. However, God calls us to live set apart, not enticed by the things of the world. But our children can’t understand this concept fully, so we need to model servanthood to Christ in day-to-day ways. Children tend to desire what their friends desire. They will want to fit in, and they will be influenced by media and society. How do we, as parents, combat this?
We are called to raise our children up in the ways of the Lord—not just the first few years of their lives and not just the last few years. We are called to maintain steadfastness in prioritizing God and His ways throughout our lives. How?
- Put God first in all things. Model how God is a priority and address why it is important. Often, parents say things like, “We are going to church because I said so. Church is important.” But that doesn’t really tell them anything. What if you explain it more by saying, “I know how much you would rather go to your soccer game, and I understand many other parents will allow their kids to miss church. However, we (our family) know that we are alive today because God put breath in our lungs. He is what is most important, and going to church allows us to learn more about Him, but it also allows us time to praise Him for all He has given us. We wouldn’t have all that we have if it weren’t for God. As a family, we put God first.” Sports can’t take priority over church. Sleepovers can’t take priority over church. Family in town can’t take priority over church. Make church a joyful family outing and maybe even combine it with a fun lunch at your favorite restaurant or a picnic at the park. Then, talk about the sermon and be intent on applying the principles learned throughout the week. Model for your kids, starting each day in prayer and ending the day in prayer.
- Model God’s ways in your marriage and in your parenting. Kids learn so many communication and conflict-resolution skills from their parents. Demonstrate how to disagree with love, honor, and respect. If you need help, find a Christian Counselor to give you guidance. Too often, we don’t address issues early on, and then resentments grow. If parents value their relationship as most important –other than God—then the kids can see healthy love demonstrated.
- Teach kids to apply Scripture. Use stories from Scripture to help them apply God’s principles to their lives. Help them to develop a strong character modeled after Christ. For instance, Daniel could have lived in fear. He could have succumbed to the pressures of the Babylonian king, but he didn’t. He prayed continually and lived for God regardless of the pressure he was facing. He even faced death but did not fear it.
- Watch your priorities. Keep an eye on yourself and what you are modeling regarding priorities in life. Kids are sensitive to inconsistencies and recognize hypocrisy quickly. Do you say you value family but often work several nights each week? Do you say you know your body is God’s temple, yet eat poorly? Are you falling into the materialism of the world, or are you demonstrating not being drawn in by that mentality?
- Limit time spent on electronics. Parents often justify their children’s obsession with their phones and social media by saying it’s just the new way of life. No, it isn’t. It’s just satan’s latest scheme. We are to be set apart, and you can model that with your kids by putting parental controls on their devices, not allowing horror shows, or having electronics put away at least one hour before bedtime.
- Quickly address bad attitudes or bad thinking. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard the heart above all else, for it is the wellspring of life.” Watch for what is flowing from your child’s heart and address it seriously. So often, parents will think their child is just going through a stage or write off bad behavior as the challenges of adolescence, but that gives satan time to develop a foothold in their heart. Address these issues quickly and sincerely. Be open to getting help from your Pastor or a Christian Counselor to gain support and get wise counsel.
- Tell them how God is working in your life. Show your children how vibrant God is in your walk. They are influenced by seeing how you live, face challenges, and relate to others. Admit when you fail and ask them for forgiveness.
- Teach them how to “surrender your life to God.” Again, children watch and learn many of these fundamental concepts from an early age. When we, as adults, share how we want to do what God wants us to do rather than just what we want to do, that helps them put it into practice in real life. When we need to apologize to a friend or co-worker, which requires humility, tell them about the situation and what it was like for you.
The only handbook for parenting that is of any value is the Bible. You hear Him so much clearer when you study the Bible and grow in your obedience to God. You learn as you grow in your walk with Him to watch for His movement around you and to learn what He is guiding you on in life. It takes intentionality to hear God because this world roars while God whispers. Set yourself up to hear Him by creating structure in your schedule to read, pray, and listen.
Have a blessed journey!