As parents, it’s such a privilege to be able to teach our children the things of life that matter most. What we model and prioritize will have a huge influence on the way develop and how their characters form. They will value no one else’s word above yours, nor will they desire anyone else’s love, attention and affection more than they’ll desire your own. While it’s a weighty thing to ponder, I believe that we can parent with peace knowing that our children learn far more from who we are than from what we say. It means we don’t have to know everything. We simply have to live out what we do know, and live it out well.
(1) Teach godly principles.
I was telling my husband today in church that while I don’t know everything there is to know about being a godly woman, what I do know I try my best to follow. I can’t know it all and I’ll die never having become perfect, but I will prioritize teaching my children things that the Bible says are important. Caring for others, showing love, forgiving, giving, loving and honoring family, etc. As my children grow up I want our home to be one that models the Christian life. We’ll mess up and we’ll need to ask forgiveness, but I hope we’ll be walking the narrow road as best we can. If I don’t teach my kids about godly principles then who will? Often, Scripture seems to go directly against what the world says so we can’t leave the world to teach our kids. If we do, we’ll surely be sorry we did.
(2) Practice what you preach.
One of the easiest ways to inspire bitterness in your children is to preach at them about one thing and then do the opposite. Pastors often have children who go “off the rails” and many attribute it to the ministry being given priority over the children, and therefore the children have a negative view of God. God doesn’t want us more concerned with everything but our family, we are to love our family and serve them as a priority. If I tell my children it’s wrong to lie but they catch me in fibs a lot then they will not trust my word. If they don’t trust my word or believe what I say then our family won’t get very far. When we say we value something and then show we value it by our actions, our children learn to trust us and our integrity will speak volumes. Children, though they may not have a name for it, can surely pick up on dissonance in their parents.
(3) Model without preaching.
Once I realised that my children will remember far more of what I did than what I said I felt so much better. I talk a lot mind you, a whole lot, but thinking that I must always have a good answer or the right word or a wise statement is daunting. Knowing that I can simply live the best I can (which I try to do anyway) takes the pressure off. I’ll mess up, obviously, but I am trying to please God – not just my children – so my focus is on Him and His will. I hope that, as a by-product, my children will see what I do and remember the good throughout their lives. By having my focus be on God rather than my children’s whims, I find strength and purpose in Him that carries over to my children. I love the country song where the dad finds the boy on his knees praying and his dad asks where he learned it. The boy says he saw his dad do it!
(4) Get to the heart of the matter.
I like to cut to the chase. What is it that really is bothering you? Why are you really angry? Why are you really sad? By doing this with our children we will show them that their feelings and emotions matter and are important both to us and to God. We must take time to get to know our children and what makes them tick. God knows us through and through. But, if we try to have a relationship with Him that only goes surface deep we’ll be unfulfilled and will never experience the true peace and acceptance that comes from knowing we are fully loved. Getting to the heart of our kids and loving them thoroughly and unconditionally will mirror how God loves us. The better loved they are, the easier they’ll be able to see God for who He is.
(5) Turn them back to God.
I think the Bible has answers for most questions. God often speaks to me through Scripture on various matters and I find myself going to my bible time and time again when I’m nervous, afraid and at a loss for what to do. Praying together as a family, asking God for wisdom, and making the priorities of God priorities for our family will turn our children towards God even from a young age. My daughter sometimes says “thanks Jesus mommy” and I like to think she is thanking Jesus for me. Of course, if she is only repeating words that she’s heard us say then that is still a good start! God is big and is not insecure to prove Himself. The sooner we bring God into our family dynamics and let our children see what a Mighty and Powerful God He is, the sooner they’ll be able to start going to Him on their own.
Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8) and ultimately our children will have to decide to follow Jesus on their own. But by living out our Christian lives transparently in front of them, being heartfelt and open to our children about our faith and preaching the Gospel – with words when necessary – we are giving God ample opportunity to reveal Himself to our children. And doesn’t He love them even more than we do?
PS – Go here to read my series on Raising Rescuers!