Wonderfully exhausting. Painfully rewarding. Overwhelmingly mundane. Happily persevering. Heartbreakingly successful. Though these terms seem strange and contradictory, even illogical, those who are parents can relate to these paradoxes. Because of our own experience as parents of four wonderful, energetic, talented, needy children, these word pairs make perfect sense to us.
Yes, parenting is wonderfully exhausting and happily persevering, requiring the heart and stamina of a marathon runner. At times, it is overwhelmingly mundane, calling for creativity and the patience of Job. When a child leaves the nest for college, marriage, or another good venture, parents experience a painful sense of reward and a heartbreaking sense of success.
When our children were born, we were not prepared for the hard work, challenges, laughter, expenses, tears, pride, compassion, satisfaction, amazement, joy, and multiplied blessings that would be added to our lives.
Think About It
1. Parenting is not for cowards. Why not?
Parenting requires courage in the face of testing and in the heat of battle. One proof of courage is consistency. When parents lack consistency in practicing Biblical parenting principles, children are likely to grow up insecure and angry. Courageous parents consistently encourage, discipline, comfort, and confront.
2. You can’t change your ancestors, but you can do something about your descendants.
a. What can you do about them?
3. Cite two things about your children that you have learned just by watching and listening to them.
As a personal diagnostic test, take the following quiz for each of your children. How many of these questions can you answer right now?
- Who is your child’s best friend?
- What is your child’s favorite activity?
- Who is your child’s favorite teacher?
- What is your child’s most precious possession?
- What part of your child’s personality does he or she consider a strength?
- Who in your local church does your child admire?
- Which Bible character would your child like to imitate?
Children are a gift from God. But they are also a trust. Our children belong to God, but they are given to us to bring up to let go, or release (Genesis 2:24). On the average, parents have eighteen to twenty years to invest in their children’s lives that which will have immediate, short-term, and long-term benefits. Parents whose children are out of the nest know how quickly that time passes.
Use Your Bible
1. Read Psalm 127 and list the ways rearing and releasing children is either stated or illustrated.
So, how can parents make the most of the rearing years so their children are ready to be released?
Parents Must KNOW Their Children
To grow their children, parents must know them. Although there are basic training principles for rearing children, every child is unique.
2. Read Proverbs 20:11 and 12. According to verse 12, what are two things parents must do to know their children?
Parents need to be with their children, investing undistracted personal time and attention. It is important to notice what interests, skills, talents, and temperaments are developing in your children. This is character development, which proceeds from the heart, put there by God to be nurtured and cultivated.
In general, God wants parents to know three things about their children (Psalm 127:3–5). One, they are God’s gift; they are His heritage and inheritance (v. 3). What a treasure to be valued! Two, they are God’s reward, “the fruit of the womb” (v. 3). Like fruit, they bruise easily, they must be handled with care, and they contain the seeds of the next generation. Three, they are God’s blessing, “like arrows . . . happy is the man who has his quiver full of them” (vv. 4, 5). Like arrows, they need direction and motivation. A “full quiver” represents blessing and happiness. Aim carefully and accurately.
3. In what other ways are your children like fruit and arrows?
Parents Must GROW Their Children
Parents grow their children by not provoking them to wrath. We are not to irritate, frustrate, or agitate our children and thus cultivate an angry, critical spirit (Ephesians 6:4). Note: This does not mean our children should never be upset or displeased, but it does mean that we are not to raise angry, impulsive, bitter adults.
4. How do parents provoke their children wrongly?
Parents grow their children by bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We grow our children through nurture, or consistent instruction. Nurturing involves training, conditioning, and discipline. Parents need to be proactive as opposed to reactionary, training their children so as not to have to retrain. S. Truett Cathy, Founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A Restaurants wrote a book titled with the truth that It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men.
5. What are some areas or issues of life about which children need the personal, proactive training of their parents?
Parents grow their children through admonition or confrontational counseling. Admonition involves warning and correction, which is confrontational by nature but without being harsh or abusive (1 Thessalonians 2:10–12). Parents who fear the Lord will love their children, not fear them. Godly parents speak the truth in love and give wise counsel and consistent correction, following the example of their Heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:5, 7, 8).
Parents grow their children by allowing them to fail. In his book, Culture Shift, R. Albert Mohler Jr. includes a chapter titled, “Are We Raising a Nation of Wimps?” in which he calls many of today’s parents “hyperprotectors” who often see their children as little trophies to be polished. “Hyperattentive” parents shield their children from hurts, disappointments, and failures. Coddled children become immature adults who cannot cope with the tough realities of life. Mohler states, “As our children grow older, they should demonstrate an increasing maturity that allows them to deal with the problems of life—not run from them.”
6. Read Proverbs 24:16. How does this apply truth to what Mohler addresses in his book?
Parents Must SHOW Their Children the Future
Parents show their children a glimpse of the future by modeling the Christian life. Children need to see their parents personally applying truth to their everyday lives and then transferring it to the children (Deuteronomy 6:6–9).
7. What do you believe are some of the most important truths you can model for your children?
Parents show their children a glimpse of the future by being an example of devotion to God. Spiritual values such as the following are both taught and caught.
Obedience to God, especially in times of testing or trials. This builds and fortifies faith in our children who need to see a connection between obedience to God and the blessing of God.
Prayer and time in the Word of God when facing important decisions. Pray for and with your children. Ask them to pray for you. Share some of your struggles and let your children know when prayers are answered. Be careful to talk about what is most important.
Parents show their children a glimpse of the future by showing an interest in their children’s future, investing in it with their money, time, and experience. Your children are your inheritance and your greatest trust (Psalm 127:3). Give careful attention to “Voices from the Future” as an example of the effects of parenting on your children.
David and Carolyn Culver have served in three churches over the past 30 years. David (DMin, Baptist Bible Seminary) is the lead pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Clarks Summit, Penn. Carolyn (BA, Cedarville College) taught high school English and is now an administrative assistant at Baptist Bible College, Clarks Summit, Penn. The Culvers have four adult children.