My years of parenting youngsters are long gone. The four children who started out calling me mommy are now adults. I’m no longer “in charge” of their lives; we are friends and fellow believers in Jesus. As I look back, the following seven strategies come into focus…lessons our Heavenly Father impressed upon Frank and me; for which we only claim partial obedience and imperfect success.
1. We looked for signs of the end at the beginning.
No, children don’t come with instruction manuals. But, when we look carefully, we can see, almost from the beginning, character traits and disposition clues they will carry with them into adulthood. While we encourage the positive, we learn to deal with the negative. According to Turansky and Miller, “…parenting is heart work.” We respond to what our children do and say, constantly looking for ways to direct our intervention and affirmation to the inner core of character that develops as they grow.
2. We were intentional.
We can develop a strategy, a deliberate plan, for our part in raising the next generation, the sooner, the better! We begin with an outline and share it with someone who will hold us accountable. We study Scripture passages related to generational faithfulness and accept our God given mandate. We seek out partnerships with those in our larger Christian community to assist us.
3. We established spiritual routines.
We can give attention to what is good for our children’s physical wellbeing. Fastening seat belts and brushing teeth are just two of many habits we carefully develop. We also decide on spiritual routines we want to instill in our children: memorize scripture, learn hymns, set prayer habits, acts of mercy, stewardship of toys and other possessions, to name a few. Incorporating these matters into life helps guide our kids into spiritual maturity, certainly as important as physical and emotional growth and health.
4. We made prayer a priority
The greatest gift we can give our family is the regular practice of prayer in all of its dimensions. We listen to God and intercede on behalf of each of our children. We draw them into corporate worship and broaden our concerns until our praying encompasses the whole world.
5. We did our best to walk the talk.
As God enables us, we can model the things we hope to see developing in our children’s lives. When we sin, we admit it and seek forgiveness. Children are keen observers of how we live out our faith. We let them see by our actions, as well as our words, how it is possible to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus. We demonstrate by our lives that faith without works is dead. We do not choose between faith and works; we develop a faith that works.
- We recognized we were stewards of their lives, not owners.
Continually, we can yield the ultimate authority in our kids’ lives to God. They are temporarily “on loan” to us. For eternal purposes, they belong to our Heavenly Father – to trust Him and obey His commands wherever that may lead them.
7. We found a local church to enfold our family.
We can pray for and join a Christian fellowship that is healthy in worship, nurture, and outreach to their neighborhood and beyond…a church that values and protects families.