by Matthew J. Elliott
Parenting is a very powerful experience and it can teach us many wonderful life lessons that help mold us into the people we were meant to be. As parents of three children 4 and under, our lives can get pretty crazy. Each and every day there is something new we are learning about our children. Whether it be how to listen to them when they struggle through their words or how to go to the potty like the big kids do. It’s a life full of excitement, love, stress, and overall, happiness. While we do not claim to be experts by any means, we have learned a few things along the way.
Parenting is not an easy thing, it’s a life long journey for everyone involved in the family. As Christians, we receive guidance from the Bible and try to focus our parenting endeavors on teaching our children love, kindness, patience, understanding, and compassion. There are days when we don’t succeed, but we strive all the more the next day to instill these things within our children. As we grow into the parents our children can be proud of, we will cherish each new day that comes.
Children Need to Know You Care
From the Christian point of view, it is important to us to remind our children daily that we care about something bigger than all of us. We believe that our children need to know that there is more to life than simply living. In everything we do from the time they get up in the morning until the time they finally get to sleep at night, we remind them that we love them and that our savior loves them too. This view carries over into how we teach them to care for each other and for those around them. It becomes a part of the foundation we intend to build our family upon.
In the Bible there is a passage in the book of Galatians that teaches about something called ‘the fruits of the spirit.’ Basically what this passage does is sum up nine attributes of what a Christian’s life should be about, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” While we do not talk to our children about these nine attributes every day, we do try to be an example of them in every way we can. While they may not understand it all right now, our hope is that if we make it a part of their lives today, it will be a part of their lives when they are older as well.
Children Need to Know You’re There for Them
As our children continue to grow, they will begin to experience new things and some of those things are going to scare the living daylights out of them, as my mother used to say. One of the things I learned while working as a children’s pastor was that as children start to grow into their pre-teenage years, they begin to develop their view of the world around them. I worked with children from all sorts of backgrounds and heritages. Some of them were broken and some of them were full of life. When I saw the parents, I could see the difference in how the parent stood by their child.
When we had to report a discipline problem, there were those that were firm and loving and there were those that were harsh. It all comes down to how we treat them; if we we treat them with a firm love and responsibility, the outcome is usually better for everyone. There are times when our children need to know they’ve done wrong, but they also need to know that you do this because you care for them.
Children Need Positive Reinforcement
The common attribute in all the children that I cared for was that they were on their own path of discovery. Everything we do with our children leaves a little seed within their hearts and minds. As they grow, so does the little seed, and eventually each child will use those growing seeds to help them formulate their view of the world around them. When a parent forces a negative response upon a child, the child will respond in the same manner. Now, it’s not always easy to respond in a positive manner, especially when your children tear the house apart seconds after you’ve spent a good portion of the day cleaning it, but it’s what we continually try to achieve.
As parents, it is our responsibility to plant seeds that will blossom into positive examples for our children, just as Jesus gave his children (followers) positive examples. That’s basically what parenting as a Christian is all about: loving them crazy, just like Jesus. We aren’t perfect, but we do need to strive to be the best example we can be for our children.
Family is Important and it Needs Purpose
Compassion is a very important part of our family and our children need to know that family is a place to find compassion. While the world can be a very unforgiving place, we hope that they will always know that they will find love at home no matter what. This is what family is all about. We build on the foundation of love through teaching such things as kindness, patience, goodness, understanding, and self control. All of these together are based in our Christian faith and in the example Jesus sets for us. Our purpose as Christian parents is to teach our children to love others crazy, just like Jesus.