A four column series for today's parents.
Dispelling the myth.
Raising children in a modern and “enlightened” society is a task of great responsibility. Parents now deal with issues that were not even part of the public consciousness twenty years ago. The burden is great. But so are the rewards.
First things first: The first issue we must address is the myth that parenting is a series of right and wrong decisions: the perfect parent makes all the right choices; the incompetent parent makes the wrong choices. The truth is that there are no perfect parents. We are not created to be perfect. We are created to love and to serve. We are created with flaws, and quirks, and idiosyncrasies; but in our uniqueness and in our weakness, we can draw strength from God’s Word, from His presence, and from His promises.
The world tells us that perfection is a noble and attainable goal. Hollywood parades perfect faces on perfect bodies with perfect lives across our living rooms each evening, leading us to believe that perfection is attainable. But that is an illusion. True perfection can only be found in God’s Word and in the person of Jesus Christ. So we must recognize from the start that we are all flawed, made of clay, striving to reach higher and look deeper, forced by our humanness to stay humble, to seek, and to grow. Perfection is not our goal. Our goal is to escort through a changing world the children God has entrusted to us, with love and wisdom.
How to teach children to stay on course?
Set the standard: Knowing that our children are facing a fluid and ever-changing array of choices in a world that keeps revising the standards of a civilized society, we must seek the one constant upon which to build parenting skills – God’s Word. For although man seems to re-shape acceptable behavior at will, God's precepts are the only truth, constant and eternal. And it is vital that our children learn that man does not have the omnipotent insight to change God's commands.
In addition, if we want our children to be decent, righteous adults, guided by an inner compass of moral integrity, we must be vigilant to monitor the character of our own souls. In an article on this website, we share a tender illustration about how parental example enables us to transfer values to young children.
How to construct the ultimate foundation for a blessed life.
In Part 1 we discussed the myth of the perfect parent. In Part 2 we talked about the importance of setting a standard - of ensuring that we transfer integrity and uprightness to our children.
To continue, the next principle upon which every parent must stand is the principle of unconditional love. Without it, fear takes dominion. With it, confidence and strength of spirit arise. To accomplish this task, to cultivate in our children the knowing that they are loved unconditionally, we must first remember that we are not alone. In addition to heavenly support, we are also given assistance from people in our midst. The following true story illustrates this simple truth:
He was 15 and all smiles as he tucked his learner's permit into the visor and slid behind the wheel of the Classic Oldsmobile Cutlass. He looked over at his 76 year-old grandmother, her frail body strapped into the passenger seat. Her seasoned face glowed with excitement as she encouraged her grandson to start the engine and put her car in reverse. "Let's go mud riding," she said with a twinkle in her eye. And they did, again, again, and again.
The next fall, I watched her support her grandson when he wanted to be an astronaut. Six months later when he wanted to be a nurse, she thought that was equally wonderful.
How to develop a life in which the world has no hold.
Earlier in this series, we discussed the myth of the perfect parent, the need to set the standard, and the importance of unconditional love. This last principle upon which every parent must stand is the principle of unconditional service.
In a culture where the approval of man is the ultimate goal, life is futile. It is a life focused on pleasing others which, long term, is impossible to do. For by nature, man is fickle, self-absorbed, and vain. In contrast, for the life in which the ultimate goal is to love and to serve God, heaven on earth is within reach.
Teaching our children how to flow along God’s path of service, preparing them for a life of favor and blessing, takes some thought. For this path requires a strong spirit and unyielding resolve. It means that we must equip our children with the tools necessary to resist the pressures of the world, not surrendering to the will of peers. In short, we must ensure that our children become not followers - but leaders.
On the playground, critical comments and harsh words run rampant. The wrong brand of clothing, an out-of-style haircut, a unique name, or an unfamiliar accent, can exclude a child from play for an entire school year. What better place for young children to exercise a strong spirit of grace than in an environment rich with opportunities and need.
So how do we teach our children to become champions? How do we build scaffolding upon which they can hold steady in the midst of pressure and coercion? By daily encouragement, by validating their efforts as they follow their hearts, by teaching them to yield to compassion, by building their confidence and knowledge about who they are in God, by involving them in family efforts of service, and by expecting them to rise above the ways of the world. The following true story is a simple illustration to this end:
The newscaster said more snow was on the way. At the end of the broadcast he reminded all the children to help uncover the fire hydrants in their neighborhoods since most were under ten feet of piled snow.
My brother and I raced to the porch, sifted through an array of assorted mittens, grabbed two snow shovels and headed out the door. What better way to begin a snow day than a brisk walk past the school bus stop without books and lunches? About half way up the street we began to dig away at the heap of snow, knowing that somewhere in the vicinity a fire hydrant stood.
As the winter's chill invaded my toes, I abandoned my brother and headed home. On my way, a local policeman drove slowly past me, making his rounds. As he approached the half exposed fire hydrant now behind me, I saw him fumble with something. He did not stop but continued up the street. About an hour later, as my brother walked back home, he found a dollar bill that the officer had dropped on the road. Fifty years ago, a dollar was a considerable sum of money.
I never forgot the incident: the kind policeman rewarding the young citizen; the young citizen doing his civic duty even though no one would know; and the younger sister, preferring comfort over others. Where were the other neighborhood children? Where was their unyielding resolve to serve?