I am very blessed to have Christian parents who took the responsibility of parenting me and my siblings very seriously. Now that I am in the thick of parenting my own children, I try to look at them and other successful parents and follow their example.
To say that a parent is successful implies that they have perfect children. That is not what I mean by the term successful. My siblings and I had a wonderful childhood, are serving the Lord and have loving families of our own. That is my goal for my children.
Speaking about a successful parent also implies that those whose children are not Christians or that have family issues were not successful. I know that how the child turns out is dependent upon their own free will and that the results of Godly parenting may not be immediate.
With all those disclaimers, I have observed some common markers among parents whose children meet the goals we have laid out for our family. I’m sure there are many more. However, these are some of the important things I want to remember as I raise my children to adulthood.
1. Equip instead of Shelter.
As homeschooling parents, we get accused of sheltering our children too much. Just the other day, a new acquaintance asked me cautiously, “Do your children ever go outside and play with other children?” My parents got accused of the same thing. While sheltering might not necessarily be a bad thing, my parents did a bit more than that.
When a plant is within a greenhouse, one might consider it to be sheltered from the elements. It has a perfect environment in which to grow strong. But something more is happening. While the influences that would kill the fledgling plant are largely removed, the plant is able to be given everything it needs to successfully withstand those conditions when it is finally planted in a hostile environment.
Sheltering a child is keeping them from every bad influence. Equipping them is using that time away from evil to prepare them for the time they will inevitably encounter it. My parents didn’t send us off to the enemy camp unprotected at a young age, but we were prepared to fight them off of our own turf.
2. Nourish instead of Protect.
Just as a plant needs protection in it’s early stages, so a child needs protected. In a greenhouse, the gardener does not smother the plant. His job is not to hover over it and jealously guard it. He simply provides all the best nourishment to help it grow strong.
Good parents do not spend the early years of their children’s life hovering or watching for evil with furtive glances. They concentrate their efforts on nourishing their souls. Only by being intimately acquainted with the real thing will they easily spot counterfeits when they encounter them.
3. Stewards rather than Owners.
There seem to be extremes in modern parenting on how we view ourselves in relationship to our children. Some parents see those children as their children and guard them as precious possessions. There is value in that.
Others view themselves as inadequate and feel the government is best equipped to educate their children and the church is best equipped to give spiritual instruction to them. There is also value is delegating some of our parenting tasks.
However, God tells us in His Word that our children are His, and they are a temporary gift to us which we must steward. We are merely caring for these children as if we would housesit for a homeowner while he is away.
We pour our very best into caring for the precious possessions that they are, but we also realize that they ultimately belong to God to do with them what He pleases. Just as we turn the key back over to the homeowner when he returns, we turn our children over to God and release them to His will.
4. Relationship rather than Rules.
A list of rules on a classroom wall may maintain order, but it does not create a loving environment. Prisons are run with precision, but no one wants to be there.
Rules based on Scripture are essential for a Christian family, but they are meaningless if the parent does not first have a relationship with the child. We serve the Lord because we love Him. Our children will do the same for us. As author and speaker, Josh McDowell states, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.”
5. Prayer instead of Panic.
We worry about who schools our children. How we feed them. What we give them. Should we raise them as minimalists or materialists? To vaccinate or not to vaccinate.
Many of these are worthy decisions to make that will impact their lives for decades. However, panic is not God’s will for our parenting. He calls us to call upon Him.
My parents have tell me the story of their young parenting years when they were seeking the counsel of parenting veterans. They expressed concern to the older couple that they felt inadequate to parent properly. The older couple assured them that they were on the right track.
As long as we are depending on our own skills, education and strategies, we are destined to fail. However, as stewards of the Eternal Father’s children, we can go to our knees before Him and receive counsel and wisdom to navigate these tricky waters we call parenting.
And that is perhaps the biggest lesson of them all.