Five Critical Issues for Parenting Effectively
Model what you expect.
My father once said to me, “You do what I say not what I do!” My father was at least open and honest about the fact that his behavior was not always a worthy model. Unfortunately, many parents are not so aware that what they are modeling the children are likely to imitate. A woman sat in my office and confessed that she did not want her girls to follow her example. But then she justified her behavior by pointing out that her husband was such a miserable failure that he always made her angry; therefore, she could not help her behavior. The Apostle Paul recognized the power of modeling when he wrote “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” We should follow his inunction and follow his example.
Teach all the time.
I did not say lecture all the time. Deuteronomy 6 sets out a clear and concise pathway for parents. In verses six and seven Moses gives this instruction. First, cultivate your own appreciation for the Word of God. Moses says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Second, he instructs his readers in the methodology of transferring values from one generation to another. He teaches us to “teach (these words) diligently to your children.” The emphasis here is upon intentional formal instruction. But he continues, “Talk of them when you…” and to put it in contemporary language, when you put them to bed, when you take them fishing, when you go hunting, when you clean the house when you work on the car, etc. In other words, weave the concepts of the Word of God into the fabric of daily living.
It does not take children long (who are born with a PhD in manipulation) to know how to play parents. So, be sure that you are both on the same page. Even if you disagree with the way your mate handled something, support him/her (unless it is physically abusive or way over the top verbally). Then, behind closed doors, work out a correction, and the parent who is over-disciplined or under-disciplined makes the correction with the child by asking forgiveness where necessary (to do so does not show weakness, but model character).
Focus on praise.
Secular research bears out what the Bible teaches. We are to focus on the positive. Little wonder there are sixteen positive one-another commands in the New Testament (love one another, comfort one another, encourage one another, etc.) and only five negative one-anothers (do not backbite one another, etc.). I recently had a dad in counseling. His wife was frustrated about several issues, but one of the big ones was his intense criticism of his son’s performance on the ball field. One of my assignments for him was to refrain from negative comments and find at least three things at every practice or game he attends about which he can praise his son in a specific manner (that was a great block you executed on that last third downplay). He looked at me with a face that said, “You are kidding, right?” I responded, “I am serious. So serious that I want you to keep a journal and record every positive comment to him and what it was.”
Love and respect your mate.
Children can be very resilient if they live in a family where Dad loves Mom and Mom respects Dad even if there are many other struggles, such as poverty or illness. All too often, husbands will cite I Peter 3:1 and use it unkindly to bring their wives into submission. However, they often miss the fact that this is one of those bookend passages. Verse seven exhorts the husband to live with his understanding, i.e., love her. Generally, when a husband lives out this verse, his wife will likely follow his leadership (respect/submit to him, see I Peter 3). Parents provide the best atmosphere for raising successful children in this type of home.
Parenting is one of the most important and most difficult tasks that an adult will engage in. It might not be so difficult if it did not need to be achieved amid the fall out of the fall. Remember these words from Genesis three:
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.
Our contemporary life with jobs requiring much travel and wives who must work to keep the family afloat while at the same time competing with social media, peer pressure, and the ever-present titillation of Fifth Avenue advertising vying for our dollars.
Yet, this is our world. This is our challenge. And God’s instructions do not change or adapt to the contemporary. To put it existentially—we live in this moment.
Give yourself an honest appraisal of each of the five above from A to F. Then give yourself an overall average. Finally, write a plan to bring each category up to at least a B level. Within your plan, give a biblical basis for your correction and promises of God’s enablement, and lay out a step-by-step course of action, including periodic mandatory checkups. If you really are committed to improvement, share your plan with a close, trusted friend and ask them to check on you weekly.