Parenting is inconvenient.
Yes, I just said that.
Once you have a child, your life will be forever changed.
You will be humbled. Humiliated. Screamed at. Loved with abandon. Squeezed with unimaginable strength by those little arms. Amazed. Shocked. heartbroken. Overwhelmed with love. Filled with a newfound awe for your own parents.
Unfortunately, once the baby phase is over, we parents hit burn-out:
Ugh! Would they just stop interrupting me!
Can’t I go to the bathroom alone without someone banging on the door?!
I never did _________________ to my parents! (Do you need to be evaluated for early on-set dementia?)
We allow our kids to spend upwards of 7+ hours a day being taught by someone we may not know in a manner we may not like. Then, we run our kids ragged through extra-curricular everything, obsessing over their future worldly “success.” As if that isn’t enough, we shove them in front of TV or iPad screens so we can enjoy at least one cup of coffee in silence.
Spiritual training is relegated to the 45 minutes of bible class on Sunday morning…
….if we make it.
Consider the following numbers:
Hours in a week: 168
Hours Sleeping: approximately 63 (assuming 9 hours of sleep)
School hours: 35
Extra-curricular hours: 2.25 – 10 hours (depending on the activity)
Screen time: 7-21 hours
Bible class: 45 minutes or 1.5 hours (if you go twice a week)
Worship: 1 hour
Assuming 105 waking hours, our kids spend 33% of their week in school, around 2-9% on extracurricular activities and upwards of 20% on screen time. The other hours are spent getting ready for activities, playtime, chores, transportation to and from everything, and (of course) eating.
Spiritual instruction (assuming zero time at home): a measly 2.4%.
Over the past 2 decades, I’ve listened to church leaders wonder aloud as to why their numbers keep shrinking and our young people exit en masse.
Look at the stats!
If the above estimates are accurate, our children spend roughly 98% of their time on worldly affairs and a mere 2% on spiritual training.
Two measly percent!
Those aren’t great odds for raising spiritually strong adults.
If you’re just “wingin’ it” with regards to training your children, it’s time to pull the e-brake.
Parenting is inconvenient, my friends… and it’s time to embrace our responsibility with joy and gravity.
Training children takes a concerted, prayed-over, intentional effort. To do it right demands time, sacrifice, and determination. You cannot go on cruise control, cross your fingers, and hope the interstate keeps going straight.
I try to avoid writing much about parenting because I still consider myself a novice. My oldest is 9, I only have 3, and I have no way of knowing if my parenting methods have long-term success. However, there are certain principles I know to be true:
#1: Cruise-Control Parenting Doesn’t Work
Consider the command given by God to the Israelites:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6.5-9, ESV
That doesn’t sound like two percent, does it?
Pay special attention to this phrase, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.”
It does not say, “the priests shall teach them,” nor “Moses” nor anyone else. Nor does it say, “teach them when you feel like it.”
It says “YOU…teach them diligently…”
It brings to mind those old Uncle Sam Army posters: God wants YOU to raise your children.
This command was given to the Israelites, but the principle is sound for us even today. The Old Testament shows us what happens when parents fail to train: In Judges, we see the Israelites go way off-base, indulging in sexual immorality, homosexuality, idol worship, and more. The parents didn’t obey the Lord’s directive, and as a result: “…a generation arose that did not know the Lord….”
Parents: The responsibility of training your children lays at your feet.
You are the one who needs to teach your children how to pray, how to give, the habit of of daily study, and the importance of putting God first. You choose which church to attend, you monitor what they are learning in Bible class, you ask them what they are studying in school, you get to know their teachers, you determine whether their environment is a healthy one.
Yes, it demands time.
Yes, it’s inconvenient.
And yes, it’s absolutely vital.
Parents, we need to carve out regular time to read the Bible with our children and pray with them. Say a prayer before breakfast. Take a moment to read and discuss a few Bible verses while you’re eating. As you send them off to school, say, “I love you. Remember who you are and whose you are.” Pray as a family in the evening. Endeavor to make your home a safe, welcoming place.
#2: Pray for your children.
And pray some more.
Pray for the Lord to protect them, to send good friends and mentors into their lives, to guide them to truth, to grant you wisdom, and to raise up for them a godly spouse. Pray for the parents of your child’s future spouse.
I’m convinced that we cannot pray enough.
Stop competing with other parents and pray for them too!
#3: Be Involved
My generation, the Gen-Xers, and now the milennials are all accused of helicopter parenting. Well, to the media, CPS, and the government, I say, “back off!”
My generation of latchkey kids has paid the price for far too much auto-pilot parenting…
High rates of divorce in the 70s, 80s, and 90s created a sense of abandonment in those children. Parents were distracted, fighting with each other over custody, and leaving children to figure out life for themselves. Now, instead of “risking” marriage, there is uncommitted cohabitation. This leads to more distraction, uncertainty, and inevitable separation.
As I said above, know your kids friends, their friends’ parents, their teachers, their activities. Learn to ask good questions. Be “quick to hear and slow to speak.” Take an interest in their interests. Be involved.
#4: Know When to take a step back.
This may seem contradictory to the above, but it isn’t. There is a time and a season for everything. Be involved enough to know when to step back and test their character. Allow them the opportunity to fail. Allow them to suffer for their mistakes when appropriate. Give them room to make the wrong decisions and be available to guide them to better choices. And, of course, pray for them to have wisdom. Pray for the Lord to watch over them. Pray while you wait.
Our children need us to be in the driver’s seat, which, oddly enough, also means knowing when to sit in the passenger’s seat and give them a turn at the wheel of their life. At some point, we’ll be out of the car completely.
Know when to step in, and know when to step back.
#5: Regularly Evaluate Your Methods… and Yourself.
My spouse and I talked often about how we would raise kids before we were engaged, before we were married, and before we had kids. Even now, we have frequent pow-wows about what’s working and what isn’t. Discussion and evaluation are critical to the parenting process.
As your children grow and new challenges emerge, it’s necessary to step outside yourself for a moment and look at the big picture.
- What is working?
- What needs changing?
- Where are we slacking?
- How’s school?
- Should we keep on homeschooling/public schooling/private schooling?
- Are we praying regularly?
- Is our devotional time effective?
- How’s our example?
- Are we modeling the behavior we want our children to have?
Be on the same page as your spouse. Communicate about your goals for your kids, pray for wisdom, and work together to drive the direction of your family.
If you have children, I implore you: recognize the gift and gravity of your position.
Do our diligent efforts ensure that our children will become godly adults?
There are no guarantees.
But, if we diligently teach them through both word and example, the odds of success are significantly higher. Even if they turn their back on God and everything we’ve taught them, we have the assurance of knowing we gave it our very best effort.
Let’s permanently disable the cruise-control God has entrusted us with these souls for a brief time; let’s use that time wisely!