If you were to sit down with my wife and me and interview us on the current state of our marriage, you would find that the greatest area of stress for both of us – more than money or sex – is parenting. For us, parenting brings to the forefront our different philosophies, role models, personalities, and goals . . . and sometimes it isn’t pretty. Adding to the complication, we’re both listening to a variety of outside opinions . . . from podcasts and books to our parents and our friends. We’re left sprinkling a little of this and a little of that in with our own parenting styles, often leading us to use different approaches. And too often that results in our kids pitting Mom and Dad against each other in our attempt to reach the same destination.
As author Andy Andrews says, “Remember, the goal is not to raise great kids; it’s to raise kids who become great adults.”
But how do we get there? There are four ways available to help us reach our destination. The first three are the most common . . .
My Way: This is where I struggle the most . . . where my short temper and overcontrolling personality can get me in trouble. When I try to parent my way, it looks a little (or a lot depending on the day) like the cute kid in the mall wearing the monkey backpack with the leash attached to it . . . when the kid heads toward the candy store, the parent yanks the leash in the opposite direction. Why? Because I know candy is bad . . . I have had cavities to prove it . . . and I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did. The formula looks something like this . . . My Agenda + My Life Experiences = My Way
My friend Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders advises that as parents we 1) we risk too little, 2) we rescue too quickly and 3) we rave too easily because we already know what is best for our children.
Your Way: This would be the opposite extreme. Hands-off parenting. Our kids learn the burner is hot by touching it once. As Richard and Linda Eyre explain in The Entitlement Trap, kids are being raised “in a reality show world thinking that they are the central character on the stage.”
You’re probably familiar with Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I always assumed it was speaking to parents about the right way to raise children. But recently, while reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, author Kristen Welch introduced me to the original meaning of this Scripture. This verse is actually intended “as a solemn warning rather than a promise.” Meaning that as parents, if we quit the hard work of loving discipline and just give in, letting our children have their own way, we will reinforce their sinful proclivities to such a degree that, “even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Their Way (The World’s Way): In case you didn’t realize it, our kids are being bombarded with messages. A 2008 Princeton study, estimates that our children are being exposed to upwards of 40,000 advertisements a year. Why? Because experts concluded that children ages 2-14 sway over $500 billion of annual household purchases.
The world is telling them they are not skinny enough, athletic enough, or smart enough and they are bringing that perception of themselves to their parents and we are (literally) buying into the lie. Doctors are now diagnosing kids with Facebook depression . . . a result of comparing the number of friends they have and the number of likes they may or may not be getting.
All of us use at least parts of these when it comes to our kids, but there’s a fourth way that we should be continually striving for . . . His Way.
I know what you’re thinking. Kevin, of course, you’re going to write this. We should raise our kids God’s way. Sounds easy, right? Homeschool them, remove them from the dangers of the real world, bring them (or drag them) to church, wrap them in bubble wrap, send them to a Christian college, move them back into the basement . . . need I continue?
Let’s return to Proverbs 22:6 for a moment. In, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen Welch points out how this verse assures us as parents that “our responsibility is to faithfully do our part to explain the truth and the rest is up to our child.” Our children have to make the choice to follow Jesus and then we have to trust God will continue to pursue them. We want them to listen to us and avoid the pain we can see coming, but Welch reminds us to remember “God often uses mistakes, wayward choices, and brokenness to bring redemption” just like He did in our own lives.
My wife and I experienced this when we left our 11-year-old at his first sleepaway camp a couple of weeks ago. While we both recognize that this is the first of many steps in letting go of him, it didn’t make it any easier. We spent our nights that week refreshing the camp website hoping to see his smiling face in the pictures the camp posts daily. And with the house a little more quiet than usual, we had to remind ourselves that our kids are not our own, they are a gift from Him entrusted to us for a season.
His Way is really a combination of My Way, Your Way, and Their Way. It’s about good and bad choices . . . winning and losing . . . freedom and punishment. It’s about remembering that just like us, our kids have been exercising free will since birth, and at some point, we have to let them go so God can grab a hold of them.
If Andy Andrews is correct and we are trying to raise children that become great adults, it involves our best instruction, their best judgment, and complete faith that they are in the careful hands of their Heavenly Father.
Scripture: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Mentor Tip: Every man wants to be a great dad. Most likely, our dads had that same desire. And yet, how many Christian men can give unconditional praise to their dads for “a job well done?” Not many, but mentors can help their mentees do better than their dads did . . . listen better, plan better, discipline better, teach better, model better, love better. The next generation depends on it.
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