We have road maps, hiking maps–even my favorite bookstore has a map! Why, then, do we sometimes fail to set a course in parenting? Why do we worry about the minor issues, and forget about the big ones? How do we become so wrapped up in the insignificant issues and forget about the foundational ones?
Parenting intentionally can be tough. Here’s a list of some important things to remember. A map, if you will…..
Setting the Course In Intentional Parenting
1. Intentionally Love and Value Your Children
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4, ESV
Nothing exasperates a child faster than feeling unloved. Criticism, disdain and neglect leave scars not easily healed. More importantly, our children filter and interpret God’s love through the lens of their experience with their parents. If we can not convey our love and respect for our children while they are young, we lose the right to speak into their lives as they grow.
Does this mean we pamper our children? Does it mean that we fail to discipline them or praise their every move? No.
We know from Scripture that we discipline our children because we love them, just as our Father disciplines us (Hebrews 12:4-11). We spend time with our children, hug them, speak blessings over them, serve them and give them good gifts. We look for opportunities to encourage and praise them when they do well, and we hold our tongues when the situation calls for grace and mercy.
2. Intentionally Point Children to Scripture
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV
The best parenting advice I have received is to use Scripture when praising, when correcting, when teaching, when rebuking. We use Scripture in every instance of parenting. Sometimes, this consists of Bible stories related to the present situation. Often, individual verses or passages speak to the issue at hand. Parenting through Scripture can be difficult– it requires effort. First, we must know the written Word of God. Second, we must pray for guidance before speaking. Sometimes, this means we must table the discussion we are having to do research. However, if we are not using God-breathed instruction to parent, what are we using?
3. Intentionally Teach Children the Lord’s Character
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Psalm 34:11, ESV
We must raise our children to fear the Lord. They must understand His character. After all, if we do not understand our Creator, life becomes muddy and unclear–we suddenly do not understand our own pain, our purpose, our emotions or our world. It is only through knowledge of our Sovereign Lord that we see anything close to truth. There is only one true God. He is holy, just, wrathful, loving, jealous and sovereign. It is vital that we give our children a clear picture of the One we serve.
4. Intentionally Protect Children’s Innocence
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12, ESV
It’s easy, in this culture of idolatry, to believe that the status quo is perfectly acceptable. We frequently hear parents state, “I was raised with that (whatever influence is in question), and I turned out fine.” Ok… What if we don’t have the right to steal our children’s innocence? What if we are responsible for sheltering their purity until they are old enough to choose for themselves? What if the movies, music, and books we expose them to are shaping their spirits and impacting their souls? How much is that worth? I don’t have the perfect answer for these questions, and we’re all in this parenting thing together, figuring out how to raise adults in the culture we live in while working to shield their hearts until they grow in relationship with the Lord.
5. Character Training Comes First
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30, ESV
The character of our children will lay the foundation for every single act in their lives. Building and developing character can be an exhausting endeavor–it requires saying the same thing over and over and over again. It requires diligence–lots and lots of diligence. Even so, we have a responsibility to help develop character in our children; to train them to be compassionate, honest, respectful, humble, loving, kind, hard-working and trustworthy. We want our children to have integrity–to do the same thing in public that they do in private.
All that said, man is sinful by nature (Psalm 51:5). We are humans are prone to the worst traits imaginable. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that our hearts are changed and the fruit of the Spirit is manifested. In our household, we train repeatedly, and pray constantly, asking the Lord to call our children to Himself and to give them regenerate hearts.
6. Intentionally Teach to Children’s Calling
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, ESV
Put simply, God created each of our children to have unique talents, gifts, and abilities–He has a purpose for each child. It is our job, as parents, to prayerfully raise our children toward their individual bent. We must strive to help our children find their unique purpose.
For me, this means I don’t want to close any door for my children that the Lord has not Himself closed. If my child appears to be a linguist, and I am teaching my child, this means I must learn the languages God guides us to teach our little one. We teach to our child’s calling, regardless of the difficulty this may cause us personally. (This whole idea of teaching to strengths sometimes takes experimentation.)
7. Maintain Perspective In Intentional Parenting
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Matthew 23:23, ESV
It is so easy, as parents, to dwell on the unimportant. We worry that our children’s socks don’t match. They broke our favorite serving dish–or our window (by the way, that sounds like a bomb going off). They backed the car into the mailbox–again. They didn’t get the Christmas gift we had hoped to provide. It can be so easy to forget that we are raising adults, not creating the perfect childhood. It is so easy to set aside the truth that we are only stewards of these precious children who ultimately belong to their Heavenly Father.
Years from now, our kids will not remember all the little things we fretted and frowned over. They will only remember the way we reacted to them. They will become the adults we raise them to be–self-centered, self-serving and neurotic; or focused on the things that truly matter–here and in eternity.
8. Practice What You Preach
He did in all things as Joash his father had done. 2 Kings 14:3b, ESV
In the end, children grow to be adults. They choose their own path. Still, the truth remains that children tend to be perfect mirrors of their parents. We love to tell our kids that we have eyes in the back of our heads. The truth is, we don’t–our kids do. They see everything we do.
Our best bet? Live in accordance to Scripture, live in the fear of the Lord, live with integrity. When we make mistakes (and we will), we must humble ourselves and ask forgiveness from the little (or not-so-little-anymore) people observing and learning from us.
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.