Children are a precious gift from God. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” While this speaks of sons in the context, it holds true for daughters as well. All children are a heritage and a blessing to their parents. How do we handle and nurture this blessing and gift? In this article, we’ll look at practical tips for raising children God’s way.
Raising Children Who are Well-rounded
When God came into the world, he came as a baby and was born into Mary and Joseph’s family. What joy! What a huge responsibility too. While we don’t know much about Jesus’ upbringing, there is an interesting verse that talks about the different ways in which he grew up. Luke’s gospel tells us that, ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men’ Luke 2:52.
Jesus matured mentally and grew in his ability to apply information to life situations; he grew physically from being a boy into a man; he grew in his relationships with God and other people around him. His growth in relationship to God means he was growing spiritually. In these various areas, his parents had a hand in nurturing him, exposing him to God’s story with Israel.
As goals go, being a well-rounded person like Jesus is attractive. While parents will never get this perfectly right when raising children (the parents are fallible, as are the children), it is an ideal worth striving for, knowing that God is aware of our weaknesses and meets us in our places of need as parents.
What is helpful about this verse from Luke is the awareness that growth in a child and parenting is not merely about giving children food and exposure to activities so they grow up physically healthy, but it is about the entirety of their being receiving nurture. How do we nurture children?
One of the parent’s key tasks is to teach their child. Almost everything that we do as human beings has to be learned and the people who shoulder the bulk of this task are the parents and the community that stands with them. Parents teach their children everything, from simple life skills such as how to ride a bike, how to use a knife and fork, how to use money, how to relate well to others, how to climb trees and hold scissors safely and so on.
In as much as children are to learn (and they are sponges for new information!), it is for parents to teach. Proverbs 1:8-9 says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”
Ideally, it is for mom and dad to teach their child and both parents should be engaged in the process. Physically present and emotionally engaged parents are a huge boon for a child and their mental and emotional growth.
What are parents to teach? We’ve already mentioned a few things already, but note also that just as Jesus grew spiritually, children need to be nurtured in this area too.
Deuteronomy speaks several times about the importance of remembering, and of nurturing children to know the Lord: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (4:9).
“The commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Talking about God in your home shouldn’t be a rare occurrence, but the norm. This is something Joseph and Mary would have done with Jesus, teaching him about the goodness and faithfulness of God. As Psalm 89:1 puts it, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth, I will make your faithfulness known through all generations”. Why not have a karaoke night at home and sing worship songs together as a family?
Ultimately, the Lord is sovereign over the path of your child. It is he who gives them the right to become children of God (John 1:12). The part of parents is to remember the Lord and his goodness and to do their best to tell their children of this gracious God, leaving the rest in the Lord’s hands.
Parents have a key role to play in protecting their children, particularly before they can protect themselves and are even fully aware of what they need protection from. It’s a scary world out there. Part of why we teach our kids and desire for them to grow in wisdom is to protect them from harm and teach them to make good decisions.
Harm can come in many forms. One key skill is to teach kids is how to be tech-savvy so they can use technology in a way that develops character, and to wisely navigate around some of the more unsavory uses to which technology is put by others. Be aware of what’s going on in your child’s life and know that it’s wise to put boundaries around the technology they use.
It may be wise for them to be offline at night, or to use their devices in the family room where everyone else is, or to limit device use in general in favor of more in-person interactions. Perhaps they should not have certain apps until they’re older.
No two children are alike, and so their levels of maturity will differ. Parents need to be discerning of what their child can handle, and protect them from what they, as children, can’t foresee. A resource such as The tech-wise family: Everyday steps for putting technology in its proper place by Andy Crouch may be a worthwhile investment for your family.
The word “discipline” carries many shades of meaning for different people. The conversation around discipline should go beyond the simple binary of “to spank or not to spank.” We often lose sight of the reason for discipline when we focus on the how; the how is important, but the “why” should come first.
Discipline, or correction, is not merely about changing behavior but challenging and addressing the root of behaviors, the heart. “Above all else,” says Proverbs, “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Both negative, but especially positive reinforcement is needed to model the right feeling, thinking, and behavior for children. If we’re trying to correct a toddler that’s having a tantrum, it probably doesn’t help, and it may send the wrong message, if we are also out of control and try to discipline them in anger.
Take a step back, breathe in and out slowly a few times to calm your mind and heart, then reengage. After all, we’re trying to teach kids how to do life well, and a lot of that will come from watching us. Our calm engagement with them provides a safe space to help them to process their emotions, think through what they’ve done, and the consequences for their behavior.
Exercising wisdom in raising kids means knowing them and knowing what is most effective for that child to get them to understand what they did wrong, how to make amends and reconcile if that is needed, and how they can make a better choice next time. For some kids, having a conversation about what happened is enough; having a privilege taken away is a more effective deterrent and encouragement for good behavior in other children.
Within the boundaries of the law, and as wisdom dictates, parents should exercise nurturing discipline to guide their child toward being a godly, mature, loving and well-balanced human being.
Looking for Guidance in Family Therapy
Raising children is a joy, but it can also be tough. Parenting can feel like an isolated venture, but there are resources within churches and family counseling centers to help you on your journey. You may feel the need to work with a family counseling center to get to the root of certain behaviors affecting the others in the home.
When a certain behavior disrupts daily life for the family as well as the family member, then you may need outside help. Prayerfully consider visiting a Christian family counseling center which will combine biblical wisdom with an understanding of relationship dynamics to help you in nurturing a healthy family.
“Burn Bright”, Courtesy of Jordan Wozniak, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Read and Pray”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking on the Beach”, Courtesy of Derek Thompson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Family at Sunset”, Courtesy of Jude Beck, Unsplash.com, CC0 License