Some time ago my wife and I were facing challenges with our three-year-old son and it became apparent that we would need to pull some friends together to pray for us as we figured out what was the best way forward. So I gathered some of my colleagues one afternoon for a few minutes to seek God’s heart for my family. After the prayer time everyone took turns sharing what they sensed the Lord was saying about the situation and one of my friends said, “Thom you are God to your son.” That was it.
Now, on the one hand, this was a little bit unusual…
…but on the other hand something struck true.
Honestly, this wasn’t an entirely new concept to me. Of course our children understand who God is, at least partially, based on who we are as parents. If we are angry parents, then our kids tend to think of their Heavenly Father as angry. If we are compassionate and fair, then God is compassionate and fair. Some people might suggest this is proof that we are simply conditioned for belief as children, and I would have to agree. Of course we were conditioned by the way we were parented and of course our children are conditioned by our parenting. It’s actually kind of obvious if you think about it. But obviously this conditioning has very little to do with religion. Atheist parents have a tendency to raise atheist children and positive parents tend to raise positive children.
So the question is not will our kids see the world (and God) differently because of our parenting? They will be influenced by our parenting! The better question is whether our parenting will represent the world (and God) accurately to them.
Will we fill with hope or fear? Will they learn to love or loathe Jesus? Will they be able to confidently speak about Truth, or shy away from the hard questions of life?
Do you ever look around and wonder if your kid is going to turn out like this or that unsavory character? Do you wonder what he will accomplish, who she will date and then marry? And do you fear how that will reflect on you as a parent?
My friend, do not fear. As much as we need to strive towards representing Jesus correctly so that our kids grow to have a proper view of God, where we fail, God has a habit of picking up the pieces. The key to conditioning your kids healthily is to love Jesus and love them. Loving Jesus means you demonstrate that Jesus is the most important person in your life. It means you do the things that a Christian does, not out of duty but out of devotion. And loving them? I suspect more than anything else it means you confess the areas where you have fallen short.
If I could offer just two practical pieces of advice this is what I would suggest. First find a parent mentor for yourself. This should be someone who is older than you and has already had success with raising their children. Incidentally, while it’s nice to have a mentor in the same room to pester with questions it isn’t entirely necessary – there are many wonderful parents who have written books that can really guide you through parenting challenges. (Hey some BLOGS even help!) Next I would take a good look at how balanced your life is. I think that balance is one of the most critical keys to raising godly kids! For example should our kids avoid all media at all costs? Of course not! It’s pure delight to destroy my kids at Mario Kart (I must do this while there is still time for me.) But do they need to get out and wrestle or befriend the creepy stray cats in the backyard? Um, yes. Do they need chores? Oh for sure! Do they need to have time to play? Yup. Do they need to have a healthy respect for God? Yes, this is what the Bible calls, “the fear of the Lord.” But should they live in terror of a wrathful God, whom they feel they can never please? That would be a tragedy.
Do you see how parenting is a dance? I can tell you that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know the intricate steps that you need to raise up moderately well-adjusted kids, but God does know. He knows precisely what you need too. So remember the best gift you can give your children is to spend time with your King! The more time you spend with Him the more you become like Him, which is a great thing, because you are God to your kids. Represent Him well. You can do it!