In my experience, if there is one thing that parents do not want, it is advice. We all tend to think that we are doing things right and don’t need someone else’s opinion. We reason that all kids are different, and that no one’s advice is going to be especially pertinent to our situation. Be that as it may, all parents of children, especially young children, could use some counsel on how to be better at what we do. This is true of everything in life, but especially in parenting.
Parenting is a tough job. In the next several posts, we will look at what the Bible says about parenting, and what counsel God can give us regarding our job as a parent. Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This tells us that as parents we have a unique opportunity to develop and train our children. We must not shrink from this responsibility or shirk our duty. God wants us to rely on His grace to do this, and so let us look at what He says.
The phrase: “in the way he should go,” tells us parents should have goals for their children. There is an “ought”ness to parenting. We should be herding our children toward a certain objective. What is that objective? The world has an opinion about that. Dr. Phil and others say that the ultimate goal of parenting is “independence.” Others will urge a healthy self-esteem. Still others will maintain that success is what we should pursue our children for, never realizing that success in itself is not a terminus, but must have its end in something else. Some parents act like the ultimate goal of parenting is just to keep their children alive, but God has better things for us.
Take some time to think about this as a parent: What is the ultimate goal you have for your children? What do you want them to be when they are older? Consider answers you might offer. Perhaps you want your child to be hardworking, talented, content, thankful, financially savvy, honest, happy, intelligent, trustworthy, political, well-liked, patient, healthy, beautiful, wise, athletic, handy, or kind. Perhaps you want your child to have a certain occupation, be a missionary/pastor, or be a leader of some kind. Maybe your goals for your child include events like getting married to the right person or going to college. Your goals might be to have your children attend your church or to live near you. Possibly your goals for them include making regular habits like reading their Bible every day or praying before meals. Most of these goals are good, but identify at least ten goals that are the most important to you.
The promise of Proverbs 22:6 is that if you will set an objective for your child and train him properly in that, then “when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The foundation you lay now will last your child’s life, so it is good to know what you are building. Psalm 127:4 says: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.” You are going to unleash your children on the world. Do you know what you are aiming at? Do you know what the target is? The first step in good parenting is establishing your goals. Take that list of ten goals and mark out the three that you want the most. What is it that you most want your children to be, do, or know? Those are the things that you will emphasize in your home.
Ultimately, the goal of your children is the goal that God has for every person: to glorify and honor God. To glorify God is to reflect Him in such a way that pleases Him and magnifies who He is. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” God’s goal for everyone is to glorify Him, and to live lives that would please Him. Everything that you want for your children must fit into that category. You may want them to be a successful businessman, but emphasize that that is merely one way to honor God. You may want them to be hardworking, but tell them that the reason we are hardworking is to glorify God. Don’t settle for just a temporal goal without making the life-goal of God part of your objective.
Next, we will talk about how much say we actually get in shaping the lives and futures of our children.