“What is your highest priority in parenting?”
That is a question Dr. Richard Ross asked yesterday at Trinity Baptist Church as he taught on how a parent’s relationship with Christ and a parent’s relationship with their child impacts the child’s relationship with Christ in adulthood.
A parent’s focus is usually on one of 3 things:
1. Ensuring your kid is successful?
Are you focused on ensuring they play on the best sports teams or are involved in all the right activities and study groups and extracurricular activities to get them into a good college? Maybe you spend a lot of time helping them with homework and shuttling them to ballgames and sports practices.
2. Ensuring your kid is happy?
Are you focused on your child’s mental health and ensuring they don’t end up suicidal? Maybe you ensure they go to counseling for tough issues or have all the things they want all the time. Maybe you’re focused on playing with them and planning playdates to ensure they’re never bored.
3. Ensuring your kid is morally upright?
Are you focused on making sure your child grows up understanding how to be a good person who follows the rules, has good ethics, and is morally sound?
Most atheists will tell you they’re focused on one of these three things.
As Christians, because we have a relationship with the living God, our focus should be different for our children.
We should be focused on ensuring our children live a life that gives glory and brings honor to God. We should be reading the Bible together as a family. We should ensure our children are in church on Sundays. We should let our children see us turn to God during the challenges of life. We should teach our kids to turn to God for their own challenges. We should model God first, marriage second, everything else after that.
But do we? Or do we model what the world models to our children? Do we model that the first three things are the most important things?
Faith has to pass through something to move from generation to generation.
Dr. Ross used the analogy of a pipe. As a parent, you have to build relationships with your children. The pipe represents the relationship between your heart and your child’s heart. That relationship has to be strong, warm, and caring in order for your faith to pass on to your children.
Too often, as parents, we don’t show our children the love and encouragement they need. Instead, we focus solely on discipline, or worse yet, we are so consumed by the busyness of life, that we drop the pipe.
The problem is, God designed our hearts to need connection. When we drop the pipe, it starts looking for somewhere else to connect. For older kids and teens, that new connection is usually made within a small group of friends. It doesn’t matter who those friends are or what they believe, once connected, those new influences control the pipe.
Dr. Ross shared how one of the most damaging things we do as parents is not disciplining the way God disciplines. Read Deuteronomy 11, a chapter devoted to “Love and Obey the Lord”.
God’s model for discipline is simply stated as, “Follow my commands, and I will reward you. Don’t follow my commands, and there will be consequences.” His model is not, “Follow my commands, and I will ignore you. Don’t follow my commands, and I will yell at you, belittle you, and make you feel stupid.”
How often do we respond out of anger when our children don’t obey instead of out of love with predefined consequences? Dr. Ross encouraged parents to identify areas where they continually struggle with obedience with their child. Then sit down with your child and say:
“Listen, we are going to do things a little different. Here’s the deal. If you obey us on ______, there’s going to be a reward in it for you. And that reward is ______. But the moment you disobey us, your punishment will be ______.”
The key is being consistent. You must give the reward when it is earned. You must give the punishment when it is warranted.
Two key things to make this work:
1. When you give the punishment, you do not have any anger or drama on your end. You simply give the punishment. Your child cannot be mad at you when you take away your negative response. They can only be made at their choice and the consequence from that.
2. When you give the reward, you have to also give praise. In fact, you need to be giving praise much more frequently. To keep the pipe superglued between your heart and your child’s heart, you need to continually be giving genuine, believable words of encouragement and affirmation to your child.
Think back over the last seven days. When did you last give those positive affirmations? If you’re not giving your child the love and encouragement they need, they will find that love and encouragement somewhere else.
1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing
Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Stop being too busy to model your relationship with Christ to your children, and stop being too busy to tell your child, “There’s something I love about you so much, and that something is _____.”