Monday, November 19, 2007

Reflections on Parenting


Several years ago I shared ten lessons I had learned about being a father with the church family that I was pastoring at the time:

1. Have clear biblical convictions. This doesn't mean you smother your children with rules and regulations. But don't be a passive parent. You can't shove your faith on your children, but you can instruct them and encourage them and point them to the truth that is in Christ.

2. Be consistent and firm in your discipline. I shudder when parents "threaten" punishment over and over again, yet don't do anything. The expression "or else..." should be banished from a parent's vocabulary. Make known the consequences for wrong behavior and then follow through with it gently and compassionately.

3. Love your wife. I heard it said early in my walk with God that loving my wife was the most important thing I could do for my children. So I've tried to practice it - first, because it's a great joy to love her, and second, because it's good for my children.

4. Have supper together as a family. Or breakfast. Or lunch. The actual mealtime is not as important as the time for everyone to be together. It's also a good opportunity to read the Bible together, or have family "devotions."

5. Be affectionate. Not all men are good at hugs and kisses and "I love you's." It's one thing I said I wanted to do with my kids even before they were born. It's also something that I could have practiced more.

6. Try to say "yes" as much as possible. There have been many times when my wife and I have had to say "no" to our children. But we also let them know that we were going to trust them with more and more responsibility as they grew older and gained our trust. So we had to learn to say "yes" to them, to give them the opportunity to learn responsibility.

7. Laugh together. Some of my fondest memories are of gut-busting, milk-out-your-nose, uncontrollable laughter at the dinner table. The times that happened were too few and far between, but were they ever fun.

8. Make it a priority to gather with the church. The Bible calls Sunday "the Lord's Day." We made it a point for our family to meet with God's family to praise him on his day.

9. Teach and model the ways of God from the very beginning. I suspect that much of the deep parental molding is done by the time a child gets to the early teen years, although it's better to start late than not at all. The first nine chapters of Proverbs have great wisdom to teach children.

10. Commit your child to God. "Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). This is not only a warning but also an encouragement. It is good to know that we are not alone in the task of parenting, but that God himself is the builder of our home. Ultimately my most important role as a father is to pray for my children, a role that goes on even after they "leave the nest."

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