If "business as usual" is not working in your home, it is time to adopt a new strategy! God lays out his family plan in Ephesians 6:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV
Embedded in that passage are four things parents must do to get better at their most important job. Wise parents take these words to heart.
1. Give up! You can't change your child.
How many times do we try to change our kids. We push, badger, guilt, and cajole until we realize that at the deepest level--the heart level--we can't change our children. Only God can do that. This is the message of the Bible:
Once we understand that changing the heart is God's job, we can stop fussing, fretting, manipulating, or demanding. Instead, as Elyse Fitzpatrick notes, "Christian dads or moms can rest in God’s grace, enjoy their children, and give up trying to do what only the Spirit can do."
We parents need to give our kids what God has given us: Grace!
2. Step up! Be the parent not the friend.
When we hear, "Children obey your parents" we automatically think of kids learning to be obedient. But that verse is also God's call for moms and dads to be the loving parental authority in the home. We can't ignore this responsibility even when it is hard.
In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in order to wed the American divorcee Mary Simpson. Speaking to the people of Great Britain on December 11, 1936, he said,
Parenting is a joyful, but heavy burden. Sometimes we want to "lay down that burden." We can't!
Being a parent means enduring dirty diapers, little sleep, temper tantrums, 10,000 questions, defiant wills, and broken hearts. It means saying "No" and sticking to it. Parenting is enduring the inevitable rolling of the eyes, hard conversations, and prodigal children. Parenting is bills, bills, and more bills. It is a GREAT job and it is HARD! And no, you can't resign.
Parents step up and lead.
3. Team up! Partner with the family of God.
Paul's words about parents and children in Ephesians 6 were not written as a self-help book for your family! They were written to all the families in the family of God. It doesn't take a village to raise a child. It takes the entire church!
One way we support each other in parenting is through prayer. Remember, "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble," so go ahead and share your challenges with a trustworthy friend. Ask that person or a small group from your church to pray with you.
Prayer unleashes the power of God.
4. Train up! Take the time to nurture your child.
God tells fathers to be careful with their words (Ephesians 6:4). In essence he says, "Don't take the wind out of their sails, but nurture them in the word and ways of God."
So how do we do this? We remind our children that
- God is for them (Psalm 56:9; Matthew 6:25-34)
- Jesus died for them (John 3:16)
- God will help them (Psalm 62:1-2)
- God invites them to pour out their hearts to him (Psalm 62:8; 1 Peter 5:6-7).
We teach them to find their identity and dependence in Christ. We pray with them and for them. We can do this for children of any age at any time! I close with the words of Reggie Joiner:
I can't change my child (at any age), but I can grow in my relationship with God. I can model an honest walk with Jesus.
Who are you becoming?
- "Christian dads or moms can rest in God’s grace . . ." from Elyse Fitzpatrick, "Christian Parenting," accessed on May 19, 2012 at www.ligonier.org
- "I now quit altogether my public affairs . . " from The New York Times, "The Duke of Windsor Dies at 77." www.nytimes.com. Accessed May 23, 2012.
- "It has to be in me before it can be in them . . ." from Reggie Joiner, Think Orange: Imagine The Impact When Church And Family Collide. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishing, 2009.