Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8
Parenting is one of the most tedious, even scary, things that a person ever does in his lifetime. Walk a tight wire over Niagara Falls, free-fall out of an airplane, climb Mt. Everest, or hang glide over Tokyo and you are apt to walk away from it. But this business of parenting can do you in for sure. It comes with no guarantees, and there are no return lines where you can trade in a kid and start over.
Even Christian leaders--godly men and women--can be failures when it comes to raising children. And when that happens, we tend to think, "If they can't get the job done, what makes me think I can?"
There are the Jonathan Edwards, whose godly descendants number among the hundreds, including Christian doctors, lawyers, judges, and educators. Then there are those such as Hannah Whitall Smith, a godly woman and author, whose children all grew up turning their backs on God and Christian values. "If someone like that was a failure as a parent," we think, "then how can I succeed as a parent today in a world of drugs, promiscuity, and tremendous peer pressure?" I'm glad you asked, because today's guidelines answer that very issue.
What can parents do to win at parenting?
Guideline #1: Keep your relationships right with God and your mate. Nothing is more important than standing together spiritually as a husband and wife. Values are caught, not taught. When two parents love each other, support each other, pray together, and go to church together, they have a hedge against future failure that can come no other way. Does this mean that a single parent can't raise godly children? Not for a minute; but when one parent teaches one set of values and the other teaches the opposite, the challenge of successful parenting is far greater.
Guideline #2: Protect your child's environment. A farmer was talking about raising chickens when he said, "You don't put live chicks under a dead hen." Neither do you expose your child to influences which are spiritually devastating and expect them to come through unscathed. Christian parents need to take seriously the teaching of Scripture that contends we are in the world but not of the world.
The battle lines are drawn today, and to ignore that fact exposes your child to a host of things that will leave their mark on his life and soul. At some point you've got to be willing to draw the line and say, "This far, and not an inch farther."
Environment includes what comes into your home through media, what your children are exposed to in a classroom, the people who are your children's friends. A whole gamut of important issues are raised: Should I put my children in private school, home school, or take my chances in public school? There is no easy answer, but the issue of environment must be faced.
Guideline #3: Teach your child to think for himself and to evaluate what he hears and sees. In recent days I have become absolutely convinced that teaching a child to think through cause and effect relationships gives him or her the strength to say, "No! I choose to be my own person."
Guideline #4: Model the message yourself. You are your child's most effective teacher. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked," says Paul. "A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8). It's still true of parenting today.
Resource reading: Ephesians 6:1-4