1 How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
Within your house,
Your children like olive plants
Around your table.
4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.
5 The Lord bless you from Zion,
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Indeed, may you see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel!
There is a strange occurrence in my life that used to happen just every so often but now occurs virtually every day. It is running into the what used to be children of the church who are now married with children of their own in tow. Formerly little bitty girls who now are matronly looking mid-thirties women and in their countenance I recognize that I am an official codger. Even my first 4 cars are now officially antiques.
I say all this because I have seen a lot of kids come and then go into adulthood. Some good. Some not so good. The Bible says, "A wise son makes a father glad but a foolish son is a grief to his mother." (Prov. 10:1) There is no amount of happiness in life that can completely dull the pain of a wayward child. No pain in life that can eliminate the joy of a good one. The problem is that the most important of skills - childrearing - you learn as you go and make your mistakes. Parenting is an amateur sport. James Dobson said every parent should officially apologize to their first child. They're the victims of all of our "raising the perfect kid" schemes.
Let me tell you what I've seen.
There are eight essential vitamins of a child. They are simple common sense.
Eight things a child does not produce himself. Eight things a parent must provide. Eight things absolutely vital to life. Things found nowhere else.
First and foremost ...
- ... a child must have a peaceful home: "Better is a plate of vegetables in a house of peace than a fattened ox in a house of strife." (Prov. 15:17) Meaning that the absence of peace in the home cannot be replaced by any amount of material goods. Any man who grew up in strife would trade all he has in exchange for memories of peace. As a matter of fact if parents love each other and have a home that is a sanctuary - a place of peace and order and safety and happiness - they can almost break all the rules of child rearing and still do all right because their child will have such warm memories. But if there is dysfunction, disrespect, unkindness and the like any moral admonitions will be discounted because of a lack of integrity. Teresa and I always made sure that any conflict we had would be quietly discussed in private. Nothing is allowed to disturb the sanctity of the home. This is our first responsibility - to create the habitat where a family can take root. "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands." (Prov. 14:1) A boy in an angry home is chomping at the bit to turn 16, get his license and flee. A young girl is aching for said boy to show up outside.
This is Psalm 128 ... it is order. God, Father, Mother, kids, city, nation.
When a home is righteous, happy, respectful, kind, clean and ordered a child is drawn to it. Its a haven. A refuge. A living memory where his heart will migrate to like a bird in winter. It was my greatest boon and blessing as a boy. Mom, Dad, brothers, a warm meal and a cookie jar. There was love and we all as youngsters felt like we had a head start on everyone else. We felt special.
If you did not grow up with peace this is probably painful for you to read. If you buried your head in the pillow as abusive words of mother and father were hurled back and forth you remember it like a soldier in Iraq. You wanted God to just make it quit! Like Jenny in Forest Gump you prayed, "God, make me a bird and let me fly away."
- The next thing a child needs is a model. A visual picture of what excellence is. Even before truth begins to be heralded a child must have a visual compass of what is right. Paul told Timothy "continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of knowing from whom you have learned them." Meaning "stay faithful to the Bible because the best people you know were the ones who taught you - you saw their lives." There must be a "whom" where there is a "what." And this a child must have. In a world gone astray there must be a plumb line; a life that will be a standard and then a memory; a parent who serves as a mold for a later substance. Has your child ever seen you pray? Study your Bible? Has your child seen affection between parents? Kindness to strangers? Wise handling of money? Honesty?
- The third thing which a child needs is truth. "This book of the law shall be on your hearts (i.e. the parents of Israel) and you shall teach it to your children..." (Deut. 6) Education is wonderful but the school, the university, cannot and does not seek to answer the great issues of origins, meaning, salvation, moral duty, and the progress of history and its future. That is the business of God and that is the knowledge He reveals. Unlike mere education it must be known.
A parent must make a confession to a child - "this is what we believe." Remember Paul's words "you shall be saved, you and your whole household." He assumed that children follow their parent's faith. I really took advantage of praying with my sons at night. I prayed truth and doctrine over them as I interceded. I let them hear theological vocabulary and explained it.
Children must be taught the faith. As a parent explains and answers their questions and exposes them to the church and its preaching, its Sunday Schools, youth groups and other sources truth begins to harden like a skeletal system. And, most important, a child's initial knowledge of the gospel needs to be voiced by parents.
And parents need to be able to biblically justify their actions. "This is why we do what we do." This is the most convincing part of our curriculum as it says our knowledge is inseparable from our conduct. Knowledge that is heard and seen slowly, continually exerts a pressure that forms a child as a post will a sapling.
And, remember, if you don't teach them, Satan will.
- Another essential a child needs is esteem. Esteem means that a parent thinks their son or daughter is special and has worth just because of who they are. Not how talented or bright or successful they are but just because of how God made them. It means they never have to earn and maintain a parent's love. A child without the assurance of a parent's delight becomes neurotic, laboring, fearful, uncertain.
My parents had 4 boys. We all had different talents but my father and mother made us all feel special. Bob was trombone, I was football, Bill was voice and Jimmy was baseball. When Bob performed they were there. When Jimmy and I played they were there. When Bill sang they were there. We were in the scrapbook. All of us.
I learned this and passed it on to my sons. One went military. One went professional sports. One learned so easily he could be lazy. The other it was so difficult he had tutors all the way through. But, both of them had their place on the wall. They both had the freedom to be who they were knowing that they always had two cheerleaders. Two who were always in their corner. If one had become a dancer I would've bought his tights. If the other had majored in the kazoo I would have gloried in his kazoodling.
There were many things I wondered about as a young man. But one thing that never crossed my mind was whether I was loved by my parents. They had just 2 rules. If you started something you had to finish. Quitting was not allowed. You didn't have to commit, but once you did, you finished. And secondly, you did your best. Slop was not allowed. These two ideas were the tracks I moved on the entirety of my life. It did not matter what we did as long as we honored our name with our best effort. This was all they expected...our best in whatever.
Be careful, in making your child "measure up." Measure up to what? Wealth? Education? Fame? Beauty? Popularity? The Bible says, "Raise up a child in his way and he will not depart from it even when he is old." It means "play the hand that you were dealt." Raise your kid relative to the kid. Don't make him or her measure to your opinion as to what you think they should be. Rather let them be what God made them. Love them unconditionally whatever they are.
- Fifthly a child needs acceptance. Esteem means loving your child whatever they are. Acceptance mean loving them whatever they do. It means they don't compete for our love or favor. It means our affections don't fluctuate, don't rise and fall in response to their conduct. We may not always be pleased but we will always love them. It means they can wish we were dead, require now their inheritance, leave the people of God, blow it in immorality, gambling, and debauchery until they find themselves broke and destitute. And then upon repentance they return home and as soon as we see them we run to meet them, kiss them, forgive and restore them, and celebrate! Sound familiar? It's the parable of the Prodigal Son. It's the story of God's love for the fallen.
I remember doing a coaches conference back in the 80's and there was a football coach there with his daughter. She didn't go to any of the youth activities because she just did not fit in. She was Gothic/punk/biker with maybe a touch of necrophilia. Pale, pierced, tattooed, punked out, lace up boots, black lipstick, 16. And yet her father was John Wayne. Trust me. I couldn't take my eyes off the two of them for the whole week. Wherever they were - and she followed him everywhere - he had his arm around her. In the sessions she sat close and always his arm was around her. He sent a message. "She may be a mixed-up, silly looking girl, but she's my mixed-up, silly looking girl." I'm reasonably certain he did not approve, but absolutely certain he did not reject. A kid must have an anchor of their soul. Remove this from home and watch Satan provide them an alternative.
- A child needs discipline. This doesn't mean simply chastening but the whole wide process of being shaped into what's right as well as chastened for disobedience. Discipline is the task of shaping into a desirable standard. The conforming of what is into what ought to be. God disciplines all His children through His word, through trial and through difficulties arising through disobedience.
A child must be taught and shaped to respect parental authority. To be kind to others. To be responsible in his share of chores. To obey all authority over him. To govern his language. To work hard and do a good job. To be hygienic. In short, to shape the maxims that will be foundational to all of life.
Scripture says of the wicked Adonijah, "his father had never crossed him at any time" (I Kings 1). What happened to him? He was executed. He made an illicit play for the throne. He wanted what was not allowed. He wanted what was forbidden but he would have his way. I never knew a man who boasted of parents who never "whupped 'em." Of parents who let him have his way. But I've known a bunch of folks who boasted of parents who loved them enough to say, "No!" I said to my sons, "If I let you continue you're going to weep long and hard or I can put a lick on you now and you can cry for a few seconds." That's the love that brings chastening.
- A child needs affection. My parents weren't and I vowed that I would change that. I continually hugged my boys even when they became teen-agers and greasy and hairy and nasty. Teresa and I both kept our hands on them. Even when they were too cool to be hugged. If I had a daughter I would "fer durn shore" keep hugging her. "Better is open rebuke than love concealed." (Prov. 27:5) Leave no doubt in your child's mind of your love. Affection is the DMSO of love. It by-passes reason, emotion and even truth and goes straight to the soul and you can taste it in seconds. God has rigged us to touch, to feel, and to sense emotion. Don't keep a child guessing on what can be fatal to misunderstand. Plus, a boy without affection can get a warped sense of what true masculinity is - cold and unfeeling - and pass that on to your grandsons.Lastly,
- A child needs protection. There are decisions a child is not yet ready to make. Emotions and temptations, certain people, scenes and language, sensations and experiences they are not able to process. Life will force feed them so don't rush them. This is why Christ said the kingdom belongs to those like children because a child trusts what is told them. It is why the millstone is promised to those that harm God's people because they have misled the children, those who trust. Children must have protection from what they don't understand and are not ready to deal with. A child with no protective grid, no protective parents, will lose their innocence far too soon.
Doing all these things is no guarantee of great kids. Violating them is not necessarily the formula for disaster. God's providence may intervene mysteriously in either case. But it's all we can do. All we are responsible for. And, incidentally, bother God incessantly in prayer. Let no day go past when God has a Jacob before Him who says, "I will not turn you loose until you bless me."
Do you have children?
Is their home one of peace and love? Of quiet and order? A sanctuary? Are they able to watch day after day the visible picture of faithfulness?
Will they see a thousand sermons before they must make big decisions? Have they heard truth audibly and reasonably set forth? What will their echoes be? Their silent remembrances of conscience?
Do they feel they are special as God's unique creatures?
Do they know they are loved just because of who they are?
Are there standards in their lives? Lines of conduct and of safe passage? Boundaries of excellence always maintained and punished if violated?
Have all of the above been reinforced and underscored by simple touch and affection?
And are they safe within those sacred walls of "home"? There is the enemy at bay.
Short term diligence. Distant echoes.Parenting.
Copyright 2013 Tommy Nelson