We’ve had a bunch of new babies born into our church family in the last several months. I’m talking one a month since September (and two in October!). And that’s just at our church, if you factor in school life there have been even more. It’s been a tremendous and beautiful blessing.
There is nothing quite like the joy a new baby brings. That precious bundle of life and hope and mercy and grace. But if we aren’t careful we can end up despising that gift. This sort of despising is crafty and masquerades itself as true affection but in the end only leads to destruction. Since the beginning of time the cunning one has sought to distort a God-centered love, be it between husband and wife or parent and child.
As all of these little ones have come into our community I’ve had time to consider what it is to not despise the gift of life that God gives to us in our children. It’s advice that I’ve gleaned over the years by raising my own children but also from watching and heeding the wisdom of those who have gone this path ahead of me. I think it’s perfectly applicable for first time parents of newborns and also completely adaptable for parents of toddlers and older children.
Don’t be afraid to let your baby cry. They need to know that they are a big part of your world but not the center of your world, Christ is.
Expect obedience from the very beginning and teach it to them. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us but if they learn to obey in simple age appropriate matters they will continue to grow in their obedience to you and others and it will be easy for them to obey in the times when it is really important and possibly really difficult to do so.
Don’t be afraid to let them fall down and get the occasional boo boo. Kids need to be tough. If you teach your child from the very beginning that they are strong then they will grow up and be strong.
Don’t be afraid to let them get dirty. Often times hard work is dirty work and you want to raise good workers who aren’t put off by the hard work.
Resist the urge to always make life perfect for them. Real life is seldom perfect and they need to 1) be able to cope with that and 2) know how to think and figure out a different way when things aren’t going perfectly.
Give them chores and responsibilities at a young age. There is so much they can and will learn from these simple tasks. If nothing else it will teach them to appreciate and care for what they have.
From as early an age as possible teach them that they have nothing in their possession that is more important than the people in their life. “Special” toys and things are fine and not everything has to be communal property, but they should be encouraged to know and understand that more joy comes from sharing those special things then keeping it only for themselves.
Keep your word count low as you seek to teach or train your child. It’s very difficult to teach them to have a quiet heart and mind so they can listen if you are bombarding them with an avalanche of words. What you expect from them should be clear and precise. So should your correction. Think about the book of Proverbs. God’s words to us are few and simple and to the point. Don’t over explain.
Know the difference between a teaching time and a correcting time. Sometimes they will just need to cease and desist whatever they are doing no questions asked or explanations given. Other times there will be an opportunity to teach them through why they need to stop what they are doing. It’s important that you know the difference.
There is a difference between teaching and training. You want to teach your child to sit quietly with you in church (that’s the concept) but you train them by practicing quiet time at home. Be deliberate in what you want to teach your children so that you can be very clear in how you train them.
Don’t hide your mistakes and failures from them. They need to know what it looks like to mess up and try again.
Don’t try to hide your sin either. They need to see what it looks like to be genuinely repentant. And let them be sinners. What I mean by this is you need to recognize that they are precious little adorable sinners. It’s not always the other kids fault and your child is not always “just tired.” Help him to own his sin so that he can honestly deal with his sin as an adult.
As much as possible remind them that everything they have is in some way given to them by their father. Whenever my kids thank me for some thing, be it a new pair of shoes or a trip through the drive thru, I always find a way to remind them to thank their Dad for it. Not just because in our case he has made the money that provided whatever it is but because in a small but very real and profound way it prepares their heart to recognize that all they have comes from the hand of their Heavenly Father.
You are not just raising hard working good adults. Want more for your child than his own happiness.
Raise them to protect the weak and care for the poor. Raise them to go out under the banner of Yahweh and wreak havoc on the enemy for, and in the name of, Christ.
Raise them to die to self and sin so that they can truly live.