This past Sunday at Ephesus we hit Ephesians 6:1-4. This passage includes children obeying your parents (as opposed to wives voluntarily submitting in Ephesians 5; it’s a different relationship) and parents bringing up children in the training and admonition of the Lord. I didn’t have time to make it into a workshop on parenting, so I only laid out 4 foundational principles that I believe are a key place to begin:
1. Have a growing relationship with Jesus
2. Consistent discipline
3. Man as the head of the house
You can get the podcast to hear more on those. I recommended a great book, Revolutionary Parenting, by George Barna. His approach is methodical and scriptural. He examines families with children who have grown up to “spiritual champions” and discerns what the families did to raise these children. Instead of a formulaic approach to parenting, what was discovered is that the parents focused first on living out and growing in their relationship with Jesus which then naturally flowed to their children. Also, parents were intentional in instilling biblical values (not just biblical stories) in their children so it inculcated their character. This is challenging as there isn’t a step by step process to raising children, it flows out of a personal, dynamic relationship with Jesus. What a concept! So again, I highly recommend this book.
What I didn’t address on Sunday, that I wanted to hit on, were some of the negatives that we can fall into in parenting. The things that help lead “your children to wrath” as Paul states it in Eph. 6:4. John MacArthur helped me compile this list (am I allowed to reference John Macarthur at a Foursquare church??).
1. Overprotection- in some ways, the current state of our society has helped promulgate this tendency to overprotect our children. Things I did (and my mom let me do) as child I would never even consider for my own kids. We roamed the town where I grew up on our bikes all summer long, I couldn’t imagine my children doing the same thing today. Now, while that’s wisdom on my part, too often we can take this protectionism too far. We end up smothering our children so that they never learn, or live in fear, or don’t understand the values learned in making mistakes. A few years ago, I helped a friend coach his son’s 4 year old soccer team. At the first game, I learned they didn’t keep score! Didn’t want anyone to have hurt feelings because they lost??!! What happens to that boy in 20 years when he gets fired from his first job? Or doesn’t quite come through on the big project at work? Or a dating relationship doesn’t work out? A few weeks ago, we took our boys to a local park to play in the large water sprinklers they had set up for kids. Little kids were running everywhere! Laughing, splashing, having fun, probably 100 children running around. Well, as we watched from the sidelines my son and another boy knocked noggins while both were running and not looking. It was nobody’s fault. I saw the whole thing. My son got up rubbed his head, kind of looked at the other boy and walked over to us. “I hit my head” he said. “Are you alright?” I asked (I knew he was, they hadn’t hit that hard). “Yeah, I’m okay.” And back out to play he went. Over his shoulder I watched this other boy’s mom come swooping in from the sidelines, scoop him up and begin looking to see where the other boy who had done this to her son had gone (back to playing!)! She carried him to a chair where he sat and sniffled and was coddled for a little while. And I thought, “there’s a boy who’s going to have a hard time being a man, when he needs to be and is going to be either bitter at mom, or dysfunctionally attached.” That’s where overprotection breaks down the family
2. Favoritism-We see in the bible the result of this, Esau and Jacob. The fathers’ of 2 peoples that continue to war today (The Jews and Palestinians). Our children will always be different. My 2 boys are completely separate people. I’m sure as my daughter grows up her uniqueness will be readily apparent. My older son is very lively and animated while my younger son is a little more thoughtful. Sometimes when the older one is bouncing around I catch myself thinking, “Why can’t he be calmer sometimes like his brother?” And very quickly I have to stop myself. He does not need to be like his brother! He is who God made him to be. We can’t compare our children to their siblings, they’ll become bitter and angry and have their spirit destroyed.
3. Pushing achievement-The dads duking it out on the Little League field exemplify this negative parenting trait. Dads so often want their sons to accomplish what they never did and moms want to be able to brag on their child as being the best at something. What this leads to is resentment on the part of the child and a feeling of never measuring up. Allow your children to find their groove, push enough to build character and a strong work ethic, but be wary of pushing them to the breaking point.
4 Discouragement-It’s easy to always focus on the negative. Think about your view of yourself for a moment…did something negative pop up? Be wary you don’t transfer that to your children. Our children put so much of who they are on how we treat them. If all we do is point out the negative and never the positive, we’re buildng children of wrath
5. Failure to make sacrifices-Our culture today values the individual and the individual’s needs. That leads to selfishness and defiance against sacrifice. Children know this and see this if you treat them as though they are in the way or a nuisance, or holding you back from your selfish desires. The other night I was watching “Cinderella Man” with Russell Crowe. As the family struggled through the Great Depression, they were low on food. His daughter innocently complained of being hungry. Russell Crowe’s character gave his one piece of bologna to his daughter and went off to work with no food in his stomach. What did that say to his children! They’ll certainly be far from wrath
6. Failure to allow childishness-they’re children! They’re going to act like children! Let them goof around and play and be silly (try being silly with them, it’s a blast!). Don’t expect perfection or maturity if they’re children. Let them express ideas that may be silly, even though they don’t intend them to be and don’t laugh at their silly ideas if you know it will hurt them. They’ll grow out of it (unless they’re like me) and love you and remember a fun childhood.
7. Neglect-our society today is one that is busy and we can pack our schedule out with all of the “good” things we need to be doing. As a pastor, I have to constantly examine my time management (with Casey’s help!) and not let the “important” things of ministry lead to my neglecting our 3 children. David, a man “after God’s own heart” allowed himself to neglect his son Absalom which led to his entire family’s ruin. They know when they’re second-tier in your schedule and eventually wrath will begin to build
8. Withdrawing love-this should never be a form of punishment or a threat. “I won’t like you if you do that…” Quickly they will become insecure. Praise God, he never stops loving us! We should never stop loving our children.
9. Bitter words and cruel physical punishment- (I’ll let John MacArthur handle this one, I’ve got no patience for verbal and physical abuse) Never take your anger out on your children. I don’t know what causes anyone to batter children, but we all need to be careful; children are fragile. Fathers, don’t shove your weight around and use your superior strength. That will provoke your children to wrath. Not only can children be battered physically, but they can also be devastated verbally. Parents are more erudite and sarcastic than children, and they can destroy and discourage a child through their verbal barrage. I’m always amazed to hear the things we say to our children that we would never say to an adult for fear of our reputation.
These are great reminders of what to avoid as we seek to live lives of example and love for our children. Good stuff!