Last Saturday, Rhonda and I had the privilege of sharing the morning with some of the young families in our church. Our church has had a real baby boom and it’s so encouraging to see so much life and activity. We aren’t experts in parenting, but we did share some thoughts on our twenty-one years with four children. Here’s a quick outline of what we shared.
Keep the goal in mind: We aren’t raising children – we are raising adults. Our goal as parents is to raise emotionally healthy adults who love Jesus and want to serve his Kingdom. By keeping our eyes on the goal, it helps to shape our day-to-day activities and events. It helps us to evaluate what is truly important.
Build on a solid foundation: Modeling a strong and happy marriage is one of the best things you can give your children. Children flourish in a safe and secure environment. Take time for your spouse and invest in your relationship.
Nurture a spiritual environment: Church and faith can’t just be Sunday things – they need to be incorporated into life at home. I think we have always endeavored to do that (recently, however, our kids pointed out that we didn’t do so well with holding family devotions or modeling our quiet times). But they do know that Jesus is important to us and the foundation for our life. We pray with our children and encourage them to live out their faith.
Consistent discipline: There are hundreds of books on discipline and most approaches are healthy and can work. The key thing is to find what works for you as parents and then follow through. If you are an inconsistent disciplinarian, your kids will get mixed messages. Your job is to train your children to be obedient and how to respect authority. Otherwise, the police will do it for you.
Routines around mealtime and bedtime: Family time is so important. We encourage you to arrange for mealtimes together as often as you can. No television, no devices – just the family sitting down to talk. If one parent works late, then maybe everyone has dessert together, or let Sunday lunches become the focal point. The truth is that you all need time together. Bedtimes are a great way to connect with kids. Having a regular bed time for children allows mom and dad to have some adult conversation before the evening is over.
Each child is unique: While we all have our own parenting style, we must parent each child individually. What works for one doesn’t work for another – so don’t try to make it. Find out what makes your child unique and gear yourself to that. We learned a lot from reading the book The Five Love Languages.
Make memories: Nothing helps to create a sense of family identity more than special activities, events or celebrations. Taking a family trip may be stressful, but it creates a lot of memories that become more important than the places you went or the landmarks you saw. Never pass up the chance to do fun things and give them a legacy of life together.
Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from God.” Any home (and likewise, any church) is blessed when there are children present. Whether or not we have children of our own, we can all help ensure the next generation succeeds in life.