When we watch the news, we realize, undeniably, that the world is changing. The moral compass of society is off—people have drifted so far from God’s way. This situation often prompts parents to consider and re-evaluate their parenting styles. In particular, parents wonder, “How do I raise my children so that they are prepared for the new uncertainties of daily life?”
The answer, of course, can be found in the eternal, unchangeable certainties of God’s word—a resource we are prone to overlook in daily life, when we relegate His word exclusively to weekly times of corporate worship or study. While other resources are beneficial to parents, we must not overlook the practical, day-to-day wisdom that God imparts through the Holy Bible.
God has given us clear instructions about how to raise children. He even includes specific examples that illustrate the integration of His wisdom with our daily talking and walking, sleeping and waking, doing and thinking, entering and leaving:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
These explicit instructions teach fathers and mothers how to train their children in the ways of the Lord—by seizing every moment for His good and grace. As parents, our lives tend to be busy; our commitments spread us so thin. This, in turn, causes us to practice Godly training through the simple defaults of praying before meals and attending church on Sunday. While these practices are important, we are called to do more. That “more” is the intentional integration of God’s word with all we do and say.
But, first things first. For parents to teach their children well, they must have right hearts themselves. We cannot teach our children to love, respect, and seek God if we are not doing the same. We must lead by example so that our children see what it truly means to be a Christian and enjoy a personal relationship with Christ. We must equip our own selves with God’s truth so that we can model true faith and pass it along to our children.
We cannot teach our children to love, respect, and seek God if we are not doing the same.
Teaching our children to know and love God at a young age is imperative, for these are formative years in which we can help them cultivate a relationship with Christ. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities available to do so.
Reading age-appropriate Bible stories is a particularly engaging way to help our children to learn to love and obey God. Children are often captivated by colorful illustrations, which parents love because this creates an appealing avenue for them to teach their children about God and His love for us. It is also an excellent opportunity to have one of your older children read to his or her younger sibling. He or she will learn without even realizing it. In fact, it can positively impact the whole family.
Another way to build faith in children and shape their hearts is to teach them scripture. Scripture memorization helps children better understand God’s word and teaches them that Christianity is not just a “Sunday thing.” Christianity is about a relationship with Christ lived out every day of the week. Memorizing scripture equips children for life by enabling them to carry God’s word with them wherever they go. We know our kids will face obstacles and hardships in life—that is inevitable. But the difficulties and dark times can be enlightened by God’s word, a lamp for their feet and luminance for their paths (Psalm 119:105).
Parents have the primary responsibility for passing along Christian faith to their children, beginning in the home. We must intentionally look for ways to show them God’s love there.
When specific issues arise with children, we should seek to understand the roots of the problems. Often, we are tempted to say, “don’t do that,” or, “be nice,” when our children act contrary to God’s word. But this “easy way out” correction is ineffective if we don’t slow down and attempt to understand the motivations for our children’s behaviors. Understanding coupled with correction is crucial.
Understanding coupled with correction is crucial. It may not always be convenient, and it will likely take more time, but the reward is teachable moments that highlight how God’s word applies to everyday situations. And when we feel frustrated, it is a very good time to reflect on God’s grace. The graciousness He has shown us in our own lives asks us to show our children grace in their mistakes.
Of course, you must remember that no matter how much you want to do things right, you are not perfect, and, thus, your actions will not be either. You will fall short of your parenting goals from time to time. But there is good news—these are teachable moments, too! In the valley of our own sinful behavior, we can demonstrate to our children the nature of, and need for, repentance and forgiveness.
While we cannot fully keep our children from seeing, hearing, and experiencing the uncertainties and immoralities of this world, we can teach them to see, hear, and experience this world through the light of God’s word. The role of parents, the primacy of home, and the practical truth of the Bible—lived and taught—have never been more important. The world changes, but God’s word does not.