The Eight P’s of Parenting (Part 8)

The Eight P’s of Parenting (Part 8)

Last week we discussed the importance of protecting our children from some of the most dangerous influences. But it is impossible to isolate them from every negative thing. The adolescent landscape is littered with dangerous pitfalls, secret ones in friends’ homes and official ones in classrooms, and we must prepare them to face them faithfully.

Prepare Them for the Rest

Our children must learn to suit up in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17), to master temptation when they cannot avoid it (Genesis 4:7). If they are to become lights in the world, they will have to live in it (Matthew 5:14-16, Philippians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

We don’t raise children; we raise adults! We must help our children develop a faith of their own, so that when they are no longer under our watchful care, but are now with their peers at school, when they have their own car keys, when they are living on their own in a college dorm or apartment, they will have their own deep well of faith and maturity from which to draw to make the right decisions. Not just because it’s what you expect. Because it’s what they expect of themselves. Think of young Daniel, who had to make courageous decisions of faith and negotiate an evil world after being separated by 1,000 miles from the direct supervision of his parents and the Jewish priesthood.

Here are four ways to work toward this:

Be Direct. Let us prepare children to face with maturity a world full of temptation and distraction. “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). There’s no sense pretending Satan isn’t out there; he controls the schools, the streets, the media, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, Wall Street, and the White House. The congregation and family should teach on evolution, immorality, materialism, transgenderism, dating, etc. Don’t let a professor at State U be the first one to challenge their faith in God and His word. Don’t let a creepy guy be the first to talk to them about sexuality. Don’t let NPR be the first one to discuss politics with them.

Train via Experience. If a child simply inherits his religion, he won’t care for it any more than a dusty heirloom that soon gets boxed up. Proverbs 22:6 says, “train up a child in the way he should go.” This often means intentionally putting them in situations to learn lessons while still in the safe shelter of the family. Young children trained consistently not to touch an object will allow mom to take a nap without waking to a destroyed house, and later can be trusted with the TV remote and car keys when mom and dad go out on a date.

You probably remember some of your most valuable lessons in the faith came from times when you were pushed out of your comfort zone, or when you suffered the consequences of your own mistakes. It would be nice if we could download those lessons into our teens’ brains, so they didn’t have to feel the blows and heartaches. We will be there to guide, but there are a lot of lessons that you can’t learn any other way but to fight the fight yourself. 

They must face spiritual tests—to feel the agony of defeat when they fail, and to experience the thrill of victory when they succeed. “The testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-4).

It is tempting to shield our children from responsibility of working as a member of the church. Encourage them to take part, to learn the duty of teaching and worship, to discover the joy of serving others. God left enemies for His people to face that they might be “taught war” (Judges 3:1-2).

Let them Grow. Stop holding their hands and bailing them out. Part of the faith is being a capable, productive adult (Don’t believe me? See Ephesians 4:28, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Timothy 5:8, and various and sundry Proverbs) --adults who know how to work, clean, groom, maintain, earn, save, give, spend, bargain, play, travel, plan, communicate, relax, and countless other things, as members of a heavenly kingdom still making a sensible and righteous way through this physical world.

Make young children clean their own rooms. Give them chores. Let teens learn to wake themselves up—unless you want to be one of those parents still placing wake-up calls to your adult kids! Let teens fill out their own scholarship applications and attend their own college interviews. Help them be mindful of car and home maintenance. Let them learn to manage money. After your guidance and admonition has been ignored, do not spare them the consequences of cleaning up the resulting mess.

Love Unconditionally. Show how to recover from a mistake when you make a mistake. And help them do so. In the wake of failure, you want them to turn to you, not away from you.

As we conclude this series, here are the eight P’s: Let us provide for our children and pray for them, let us pass along the faith to them and prove to be a good example to them, let us praise them and punish them, and let us protect them from the worst influences while we prepare them to face everything else!

--John Guzzetta