As parents we have a role to play in the lives of our children. It is not only to feed, clothe, and put a roof over their heads. We are to prepare them for the future. We give them today the tools that they will use in the world for themselves. In building up our children, we must understand that we are equipping them for life on their own. That life may be at school, the playground, the local grocery store, or it may be college and life beyond.
The first part of this equipping process is education. No, I am not saying that you have to home school your children. However, parents are teachers in a different sort of school program. And, quite often, if these lessons are not learned at home, society will teach the lessons from a distorted viewpoint. Many of us are blessed to have grown up in a Christian home. Those of us that didn’t are at least working to give our kids the benefit of doing so. As believing parents, we have been directed to teach our children the things of God.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is giving his farewell message to the people of Israel. He recaps the Law given them by God, His rules, regulations, and instructions for holy living. He asks the people to remember when they stood before the Lord on Mount Sinai…
“Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai. He said to me, ‘Bring the people together so I can tell them what I have to say. Then they will respect me as long as they live in the land, and they will teach these things to their children.’” (Deuteronomy 4:10, NCV)
From the beginning of Israel’s history as a nation, it was the responsibility of the parents to teach the children in spiritual matters. And the main lesson is this: Right and wrong exist, and you must choose to do what is right.
Right versus wrong; this is the age-old question that has motivated discussion on everything from gambling, to television and movies, to music.
Ethics is a “hot topic” in the news these days. From marital fidelity to government spending to simply practicing what you preach, the discussion of right and wrong left the college classroom long ago. It seems the only true forum is real life, not hypothetical situations.
As parents, as Christian parents, it is our duty before God to raise our children with knowledge of right and wrong as God teaches them. That, of course, involves work on the part of the parent. But how hard is that? Go to the websites that have information on how to talk to your kids about smoking, or drugs, or sex. Find books by authors you trust on the topic. Is ten or fifteen dollars too much to spend for the sake of your child? Is feeling uncomfortable worth allowing the world, the secular school system, and friends shape your child’s viewpoint on what is right or wrong?
Protection is part of educating our children about right and wrong. So we must find ways to communicate this message to our children: I love you so much that I will establish boundaries for your protection.
Sometimes our children do not understand why we keep them from parties and drugs and certain people or places. They do not have to understand why. Their part is to have faith and trust in us as the parent (which we will talk about shortly). Our part is to build the fence, to plant and prune the hedge of protection. Our part is to educate, and while doing so, to point them in the direction of doing what is right.
Correction & Encouragement
So once we have educated our families regarding right and wrong, we have to be willing to “put our money where our mouths are.” We must consciously correct and encourage based on how our children walk in right and wrong.
Correction and encouragement can be defined as follows:
Correction = When you do wrong you will be disciplined
Encouragement = When you do right you will be rewarded
In today’s world, the pendulum effect seems to have taken over an overwhelming amount of our lives. This pendulum effect swings us completely to the left, or completely to the right. As a result, few of us find ourselves at a healthy balance. Some of us favor correction over encouragement. It is easier to point out what is wrong and try to fix that, than it is to see the good things and rejoice in them. For others the opposite is true. It is easier to reward the good things our children do than to fight the battles of what needs to be adjusted, corrected.
However, correction and encouragement educate our children in an eternal principle: You will reap what you sow. This principle is based on the justice of God. We must learn to balance correction and encouragement in order to communicate to them a proper picture of God.
You may have heard it said that if someone has been abused by their father, they have a difficulty loving and trusting in God. By the same token, those who have parents that are too disciplinarian or too merciful, will project those same tendencies towards God. This is why we have the “hellfire and brimstone” preachers who speak of God’s wrath but forget his mercy; and we have “grace” preachers who fail to encourage change in the lives of believers. Our task is to help give balance. By being balanced, we help complete the third part of this education.
Faith & Trust
We first teach that in every situation, in every decision we make, there is a right and wrong. We teach that we must choose to do what is right. We establish boundaries to help in making those decisions. We reward choosing to do right, and we correct after wrongs are done. In all of these acts, the teaching, the correcting and rewarding, we set up a standard. The question remains, though, Will my son/daughter choose to live to that standard?
The answer to this question depends on the levels of faith and trust between us and our children. Faith is a component that we build in our children so they can respond properly to us and our actions. Trust is built when faith is proven.
Our goal is to plant certain thought patterns in our children. Our actions determine if these patterns thrive or die. These thought patterns are:
– I believe you love me
– Because you love me…
…the boundaries you create are for my protection. Therefore, I will live within them.
…you reward me for doing what is right. Therefore, I will choose what is right.
…you correct me for doing wrong. Therefore, I will not choose what is wrong.
– Your love for me is a picture of God’s love for me.
That is the “clincher” right there. That is the truth that must hit home for parents in the building up of their children. The expression of your love for your children is directly related to how they picture God’s love for them. That is why these are your tasks. You cannot ask the school or the church to teach the lessons to these children. The front lines of the battle are in the home.