When it comes to raising children, we’ve been told, “Affluence is a handicap you must work to overcome.” Kids who have everything are hard to motivate, so as parents we’ve chosen to consciously withhold some things we could easily provide.
Our children buy their own toys and, once they hit the teen years, most of their clothes, as well. We send them to serve the poor via mission trips and community service projects. We expect them to do chores.
If necessity is the mother of invention, then wealth can sometimes have the opposite effect: It can stifle creativity and resourcefulness.
The same is true of talent. It is easy to rely too heavily on our own abilities, to become overconfident, to say, “I got this.”
But talent only goes so far. Heads will nod in agreement at sermons, feet will tap along to songs, but heart change requires a supernatural act that God alone can accomplish.
My pastor sent me a link this afternoon to the following article by J.D. Greear. It was so good that I wanted to share it:
“There aren’t many societies that praise weakness. Ours is no different. Whether you’re a pastor or a police officer, an on-the-go salesman or a stay-at-home mother, weakness is seen as a liability. Nobody wants to be weak. Strong is the name of the game.
“Sadly, our obsession with strength blinds us to a key biblical truth: God uses the weak. It’s so pervasive that you’d be hard-pressed to find a book of the Bible that can’t be summarized this way. And yet despite being hard-wired into the very DNA of Scripture, we don’t really believe it. We still clamor after strength. But God doesn’t need our strength to deliver us. In fact, our strength is actually more of a liability than an asset…” [continue reading at jdgreear.com]
Children may not be born with an instruction manual, but there’s still lots of good guidance available, beginning with the Bible.
Here are seven simple but scriptural principles my wife and I have found useful in raising our twelve children, five of whom are now adults.
Never underestimate the power of prayer in the life of your children. Pray for and with them. Prayer is a great way to let your kids know Who is in charge. (Colossians 4:2)
We actually begin praying for our children before they are even conceived. Our foremost prayer is that each one comes to know Christ. It would be better never to be conceived than to spend eternity separated from God.
Children spell quality time: Q-U-A-N-T-I-T-Y. Be intentional about establishing everyday routines with your kids, as well as creating special memories with them. If we’ll tend to the hours and days, the years will take care of themselves. (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 90:12)
We are always surprised by what our children consider the most significant moments in their lives. Often our best talks are ones on the way to the grocery store to grab some milk, and our best “vacations” are the unplanned ones arranged for us courtesy of the US Army Reserves.
Many of life’s oldest lessons are brand new to your children. Treat them the way you’d treat a technologically illiterate employer how to use the latest computer software update — treat them with humility, respect, and genuine gratitude for the opportunity to invest in their life. (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Proverbs 14:29)
Patience has two varieties: The first is in dealing with the day-to-day stuff that can really get on your nerves. The second type is more in the category of perseverance and involves hanging in there for years at a time while your child slowly finds their place in the world.
All children long for their parents’ approval. They want to please you — so be sure to let them know when they do! While it’s important that we deal swiftly and consistently with our children’s wrongful behavior, it’s equally important to acknowledge and encourage their good behavior with sincere and appropriate praise. (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 31:30-31; Romans 14:18-19; Philippians 4:8)
My wife and I were both blessed with parents who always told us we could do anything we set our minds to. Because we believed them, neither of us have ever been afraid to try anything new or challenging. We’ve been determined to pass that same blessing on to our own children.
Life is full of dangers — both physical and spiritual. Ask the LORD to help you recognize and stand guard against anything that would pose a threat to your children’s wellbeing. Develop a culture of safety and common sense with your kids, and pray that God would grant wisdom and discernment, both to you and to them. (John 17:15; Psalm 127:1; James 1:5)
The Internet didn’t even exist when my wife and I started our family. Now we have a four-year-old who knows how to access learning videos on her mother’s smartphone. Likewise, a hundred years ago, you were more likely to be thrown from a horse than run over by a car. New dangers are constantly appearing on the horizon, and your child’s best tool for dealing with them will be the one resting between her two ears, assuming you train her to use it well.
Providing for your children’s material needs is important, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “More money” does not automatically mean “more happiness.” Provide for your children in all aspects of life, through your example and encouragement, as well as their education. Use areas of personal strength to compensate for areas of financial need. (1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 20:7; Psalm 37:25)
Money is of limited usefulness when it comes to having a happy and fulfilling life. Too little, and life is a struggle. Too much, and life quickly becomes materialistic and vain. The optimal window is actually quite small. Learning to be content with what we have, so we can focus on weightier things, is a challenge for us all.
Three of the most important decisions our children will make are choosing Christ, choosing a career, and choosing their companions. Prepare them to make wise choices in all three areas by setting the example, setting standards, and then setting them free. (Proverbs 3:1-6; Romans 10:9; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 13:20; John 13:15; John 8:36)
God has no grandchildren, only children. Your children’s life and relationship to God is ultimately their own. We are privileged to participate in what God is doing in their lives. To think that we own them is like thinking that we own the earth or the sky or the sea. To quote Kahlil Gibran, “[Your children’s] souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
Want a free printable summary of this post? You’ll find it here: 7 Peas of Parenting
Protecting our children is one of the primary jobs of parenthood, and the list of dangers seems to be growing exponentially.
- There is BPA in your bottled water and hormones in your meat.
- There are predators on the Internet and cyber-bullies on social media.
- There are addictive drugs and addictive video games.
- There are terrorists hijacking our planes and the TSA hijacking our dignity.
It makes you long for the days when seesaws and merry-go-rounds were still allowed on playgrounds.
The fact is that new dangers are popping up every day, and it is impossible for even the most vigilant parents to keep up with them all.
That doesn’t mean you can’t protect your children. It just means that doing so will become increasingly complex and require some added intentionality.
There are three general principles that can help guide the process:
- SET THE EXAMPLE.
A culture of safety — whether at work or at home — starts at the top. If you want your kids to wear helmets when they ride bicycles, then you probably should, too. Same rule goes for seatbelts, overeating, cigarettes, alcohol, or anything else. Most values are “caught” not “taught.”
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,and sound speech that cannot be condemned…”
– Titus 2:7-8 (ESV)
- SET THE STANDARD.
Talk with your kids. Point out the dangers as you become aware of them. Let them know what your expectations are. Set a curfew. Curfews aren’t tyranny; they are parents showing that they care! Then enforce the standards you have established. A rule that isn’t enforced is no rule at all.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)
- SET THEM FREE.
The ultimate goal of parenting isn’t to have large children, but to have fully functioning adults. The only way to achieve that goal is to gradually shift responsibility from your shoulders to theirs. This is probably the hardest, but most important, part of the whole process. You will never be able to make enough rules to protect your children. They must internalize safety consciousness themselves. They must make it their own. Making it their own often means making mistakes. It can be hard to watch as our children attend the school of hard-knocks, but sometimes “experience is the best teacher.”
“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)
The temptation is to simply be “helicopter parents” — ones that are always hovering, always micro-managing, always trying to smooth the way and make the decisions and manipulate the circumstances — but that is a fool’s game. No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.
Amy Chua’s little memoire on parenting, BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER, is both fascinating and controversial. I read the Time magazine article and immediately downloaded the book to the Kindle app on my iPhone. I then read the entire book in two evenings with rapt enthusiasm.
The fact that it is so well written, interesting, and easy to digest means it will be widely read. Most parenting books have a limited appeal, which stunts their impact. This book, however, will undoubtedly have a much bigger audience and a correspondingly larger influence.
The fact that it is so provocatively written ensures it will incite debate. The sides of the debate as defined by Ms. Chua are “Western” vs. “Chinese” ways of raising children. As in every dialectic of thesis vs. antithesis, the truth or synthesis is somewhere in the middle, as Ms. Chua partially and reluctantly concedes by the end of the book.
What may be overlooked amidst all the hype are the many important concepts about raising successful children in a modern context that Ms. Chua highlights, sometimes inadvertently.
First, is that affluence can be a handicap when it comes to raising kids. This might seem counterintuitive while reading about all luxuries that Ms. Chua and her family enjoy. However, Ms. Chua knows how intoxicating and ambition-dulling the effects of wealth can be on the children of the very successful. This book is as much an antidote to second and third generation complacency as anything else. It’s an important concept even for those without an Ivy League pedigree.
Second, is that hard work and discipline are essential to success. This is true regardless of the venue. With books like OUTLIERS and GAME ON touting the magic of ten thousand hours as the key to success, who can doubt the age-old adage that “practice makes perfect.”
Finally, is that children eventually have to take command of their own success. The goal of parenting is not to raise large children, but independent adults. This requires the gradual granting of autonomy. If autonomy isn’t carefully measured out, it will eventually be wrested away, or — even worse — never gained at all.
The biggest mistake anyone could make after reading this book is to get too fixated on the details of Ms. Chua’s child-rearing techniques. Every parent makes mistakes. It was brave of her to document her own for the world to read. In most cases, the opposite of parental love is not hate, but apathy. No one can accuse Ms. Chua of being apathetic.