I’m curious. What do you think of the copious news stories about our schools? Should a boy who identifies as a girl be able to use the girl’s bathroom? Is our country systemically racist? Should those ideas be taught to our children in school?
While these stories have political angles, I’m not going there. This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is clearly part of a much larger spiritual battle over generations of children.
These stories may get your heart rate up and they do seem (intended or not) to have the effect of marginalizing parents.
But it dawned on me that they also actually provide parents with an absolutely encouraging message: parents have more power than they realize.
Do Parents Really Matter?
The fact that there are forces so bent on reshaping curricula and morality and silencing any dissent is a clear indicator of at least two things. First, that children were designed to be taught. Second, that those who teach the children are in a very powerful position. The Scriptures alone are sufficiently clear on this matter. I think of Deuteronomy 6:4-10 and Ephesians 6:1-4. I think of the whole book of Proverbs.
Obviously, parents matter or else their opinions on these issues would be of no concern. I doubt we would see many of these stories because there would be no point. But apparently, it does matter—a lot. And this is why we see such an onslaught against our children and their parents.
What we teach our children through what we say and do does matter—and neither need to be perfect to be effective.
First, Some Encouragement
As a rule, 18 years of struggling but earnest training is more effective than any other influence in the life of your child.
What is Training?
Training is actual teaching God’s truth and/or modeling God’s truth in how we live. The two go together but in terms of training it does not nor should it look like a Sunday school class. It can be a spiritual question, comment. It can be simple confession of a sin. It can be a simple prayer. It can be the choice to have a calm response to the “person” who cuts your off in traffic.
Seize the Many Opportunities
There are many, many opportunities to train our children when we slow down long enough to see them. Frankly, each moment we are with our children is a time where training can take place.
Talk About Spiritual Things On The Way
When taking your daughter to ballet or your son to soccer, or just a quick run to buy $5 sushi at Kroger on Wednesday, these are opportunities. Why does this seem so difficult to do? I get in the car with a child and its quiet, I then try to start a conversation and the answers I get are such that you’d think words were scarce as hen’s teeth. Sometimes, you remain quiet. Sometimes you ask spiritual questions like, “Did you think of Jesus today?” “What are you reading in your devotions this week?” “How can I pray for you?” Perhaps the answers are less than ideal. But this is why we have 18 years. The imperfections and failures are minimized against the backdrop of basic faithfulness. Here is an example of a recent conversation I had with my daughter.
Pray With Your Children When You Drop Them off at an Activity or Work
Over the years, four of my children have worked at the same retail store near our house. When I have dropped each one off, my practice has been to pray for their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety as well as for God to use them as lights for the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ to their customers and co-workers.
But doing so has involved a bit of an internal struggle from time to time. Often, as I drove up to the main entrance of the store, I think, “I don’t want to be cringe, so should I pray for them?” Why do this?” “It feels weird.” “Does he/she really care?” “What difference does it make?” “They might think I’m being too spiritual.” I typically ask if I can pray and the response always seems genuine: “Yes!”. And so, I pray.
I did not think this mattered a whole lot until one day when I asked one of my children about something I don’t even remember specifically. But the response was, “Well, Dad, you pray about everything.” I was secretly doing spiritual summersaults when I heard that because I had not been completely consistent in praying and my prayers at times were rather brief and general. But clearly, they mattered.
- Ask what they covered in Sunday school, youth or children’s ministry.
- Discuss one point from the sermon in the car ride home from church.
- Pray with your children before bedtime.
- Take them to a botanical garden (or a simple walk around the neighborhood will do) and point out things that remind us of God’s wonder and care for us.
- Send them texts with scripture verses.
- Read and discuss books, such as Corrie ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, together that teach biblical values.
- Pray and read the Word together at meals.
- Memorize Scripture together.
- Send notes to them congratulating them on spiritual growth you’ve noticed.
- Ask what they are reading in their devotions.
- Ask them how you can pray for them.
Each of these requires each one of us to put down our phones which seems harder to do these days. Each one of these seems too insignificant too matter but each one does matter when part of a larger effort to be faithful. Patterns produce moments. Moments, rarely produce patters.
Be encouraged not to give up. Little opportunities taken over time can lead to very satisfying results.
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Thank you for the encouragement and it is so true that we have 18 years to guide our children towards God’s path. Now that my son is in college, I see that there are so many distractions, temptations, and worldly norms that he has to figure out how to handle them. I am proud that Joseph is following God’s path and not turn to worldly things for peace and comfort. Please pray for my son Joseph Yap who is still learning God’s Word and struggling with his old self.
Elaine, Thank you for sharing! We will be praying.