By Ashley Thaba
For the next few weeks, my friend, Christa Skipper, will share some parenting tips. Below are her words.
My husband and I have four children and live in America. We don’t “have it all together” and we are still learning as we raise our children. Over the next three weeks, I will share with you some of the things we have learned as we seek to raise children who love God, love others and share the good news about Jesus.
First, to raise children who love God and live according to His principles, our children must know God. We can teach lessons and principles from the Bible and they may know a lot about God, but knowing him personally is a choice they each have to make. For example, I may know facts about the president, but do I actually know him personally? No, I don’t. The same is true when we are raising children to know God. We teach them about him, but they must choose to love and trust him for themselves.
We teach our children about knowing God by teaching these four things: First, you are not an accident. You were created by God and for God. He wants you to choose a relationship with him.
Secondly, we have all abandoned God. When we choose to sin (and everyone does), we are choosing to turn away from God. God is perfect and without sin, so he cannot have a relationship with us as long as we have sin in our lives. Next, we teach that God has approached us through Jesus. The only way for us to have a relationship with God is through Jesus. When he died on the cross, he was punished for all of our sin. He died in our place so that we could have eternal life instead of eternal punishment for sin. He became the way or the bridge, for us to have a relationship with God.
Lastly, we must admit and accept Jesus by faith. We have to admit that we are sinners and accept the reality that Jesus died in our place and was resurrected. When we do that, God gives us abundant life on earth and eternal life after we are gone.
As parents, we have to have a relationship with God through Jesus and lead our children to do the same. We cannot lead our children somewhere that we haven’t been ourselves. For us, a relationship with Jesus is the foundation for all that we do and teach in our home.
After establishing that our children know God, we focus on parenting with the end in mind. Even as they are young children we are always asking, “what is the end result we hope to see in our children and how can we get there?”
For example, if the end result is for our children to grow up, be independent, and make good choices, we must teach them tasks to be independent and give them opportunities to make small choices when they are young. We ask them questions like, “what do you think will happen if you choose this?” Or say: “think about what will happen if you do this. What are the possible results?”
As we parents, we try to focus on transformation and not just behaviour modification. We want our children to obey, but in the process we want their hearts to be transformed to be more like Jesus. We want to see pride transformed into humility, a strong will transformed into surrender, selfishness transformed into selflessness, greed transformed into generosity, and disrespect transformed into respect.
I can teach a child to change their behaviour, but their heart never be changed. The end result for us is that their hearts look more like Jesus. This kind of parenting takes more time and more intention, but is worth it! Asking myself, what will this behaviour look like as a teen or adult motivates me to parent them intentionally.
One example of this happened when my daughter was very young. I had four small children and had taken them to the grocery store to get food for the week. When we had finally finished getting what we needed, I got all of the out and we were headed home when my young daughter opened her hand to show something she had been hiding. She had taken a small toy from the store without paying for it.
The toy was small and not costly at all and the thought of taking all four children “back” to the store to return it seemed like the hard thing to do. I thought, “we will just explain next time we go and will pay for it then.” But, remember we are parenting with the end in mind. I had to ask, “what will this behaviour look like when she is a teenager or adult if we don’t take care of it now?” I made the decision go back to the store. My daughter had to go explain to the store manager what she had done, return the toy, and apologize to them.
If I was not parenting with the end in mind, I could have easily put it off to another day and reinforced a behaviour in her that could grow into something bigger. Negative behaviours grow into negative attitudes and actions as our children get older. Work on behaviour modification, but also heart transformation in your children.