“Mom, I need to get a zipper binder and headphones.”
“Dad, my teacher said my pencil box isn’t big enough. I need another one”
“Mom, I have to have a zipper binder too.”
My head was spinning. It was only the first week of school, and on top of the lengthy list of supplies we’d already purchased, they needed more. My mental bank balance approached the red line as I ran to and fro gathering additional supplies. I drew the line at school shirts—they were just going to have to do without!
While I recognize there are many barely surviving in America, we remain a highly prosperous society. More than half of American families carry a mortgage, have two cars, own multiple cell phones, a TV, and standard household appliances. Many of us have more clothes than we can wear in a week, shoes for every occasion, and freezers and pantries stocked with food.
We are also a worn-out, stressed-out, tired-out society.
We don’t have time for devotionals or down-time. Even our vacations are often itineraried to death. Children attending public or private school rush from dawn to dusk. Parents of homeschoolers develop ulcers ensuring their kids “make the grade.”
The pressure to turn our kids into “successful” adults is high, but I’m not entirely sure our society on the whole has the right method.
What do our kids really need?
- More toys?
- Brand-name clothes?
- A phone?
- Music Lessons?
- A Classical Education?
- Private School?
None of these things are inherently bad. However, we fall into the trap of making worldly success of higher priority than spiritual character.
What our children need most cannot be bought.
Yes, they need food and clothing and a roof over their head, but ultimately, what is of lasting value?
They need to know the Lord.
In the Old Testament, Moses entreats the Israelites to teach their children:
“And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’”
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
The Israelites suffered from Dory-like short-term memory loss when it came to God’s mighty works. By the book of Judges, it’s fairly evident the Israelites didn’t heed Moses’ advice: “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”
Their parents forgot to pass on what was truly important to their children.
In teaching our children—both in word and example–we accomplish two things:
- Our children learn about the great and steadfast love of the Lord, which can aid them as they navigate the rough seas of life
- We remind ourselves why we are who we are and what should drive our decisions.
I know it’s hard to squeeze in Bible reading and prayer. I know there are times we get tongue-tied during teachable moments. However, our single-most important endeavor is to intentionally show our children who God is and how greatly He loves us.
If you’re not sure where to begin, ask our Heavenly Father for wisdom. Then, be on the look out for opportunities and make plans to put them into action.
Pray and teach. Teach and pray.
They need to know they are loved.
Gary Chapman wrote a book several years ago entitled, The Five Love Languages. The Five Languages consisted of Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Gifts, and Words of Affirmation. I submit to you that all too often we fall into the trap of thinking our kids’ love language consists of gifts alone. Frankly, our children need to experience all five from us on a regular basis.
Quality time can be hard to come by in our hectic lives. Be intentional. Take your kids out on individual “dates” from time to time just to spend time together. It doesn’t have to cost money. My dad and I used to go on walks around the golf course and spend a good hour talking about all sorts of things.
Physical touch can be as simple as a hug. I always tell my kids that hugs are good for my heart, but I know it’s good for theirs too! Physical touch can also include sitting side-by-side on the couch while reading a good book or something as small as a gentle hand on the head or a loving squeeze on the arm.
Words of affirmation can be a bit of an ouch for some of us. I sometimes fall into the trap of doling out too much criticism and not enough meaningful praise. “Good job!” may not go as far as, “I know how hard it is for you to focus and I am impressed with how long you spent on that project. Well-done!”
Acts of Service may not impress your kids today, but they will recognize it, even if it takes twenty years. I still remember my parents making me lunch every single day before school and cooking dinner every night. I remember them sacrificing their precious weekends (without complaint!) to chaperone crazy high school kids for band tournaments. I still remember my dad helping me learn the art of crafting sentences and my mom drilling me on Spanish verbs.
Continue to love sacrificially, as Christ also loved you.
They need to learn how to live.
Sometimes we parents (well, maybe just me) fall into the trap of wanting to do everything for the kids because it just saves time.
Once you settle into school or holiday routines, entrust your child with some important task to help the family. Start simple with having them empty the dishwasher (or fill it), doing the dishes, picking up after the pets, putting away their laundry, packing their own lunches, or even cooking breakfast. This will, of course, go more smoothly with certain kids (and less smoothly with others). Begin with tasks you know they can handle and work your way towards the more challenging.
For example, I always started my two year-olds on putting away the silverware because it’s a good sorting exercise. I’d pay them a dime that they could save for something they wanted to buy. Eventually I “promoted” them to doing the entire dishwasher.
What life-skill goals do you want your children to achieve?
Here is my short-list:
- Basic Household maintenance: Laundry, vacuuming, dusting, mopping, bathroom-cleaning, tidying, etcetera.
- Manage money wisely: make (and stick to) a budget, learn to save, avoid debt, and balance a bank account
- Manage time wisely: prioritize what is important, learn to hustle, make time to rest.
What life skills do you want your children to master before they leave the house? Life is more than academics. What information and skill sets are important to you?
As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”
They need prayer.
Here is the best parenting advice I ever received: “Raise children on your knees.”
- Pray for them to have mentors and friends who will draw them closer to God.
- Pray for their future spouse (and their future spouse’s parents).
- Pray for wisdom to raise them well.
- Pray for their spiritual protection.
Our children don’t need more stuff or the best stuff. They need our love and wise training. Above all else, they need to know God. It’s so easy to get carried away in the tide of this crazy world, but let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and lead our families the way He intended.
This post originally appeared on Elihu’s Corner and was republished with permission.