“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
Making Impossible Decisions
I’ve often felt like making choices as a parent is difficult. There are rarely clear-cut options to help you make the “best decision possible” for your children. Instead, the best you may feel you can do is to weigh the options, make the choice, and hope for the best.
Before you think I’m claiming to have all the answers to parenting, let me stop you to say NO, I definitely don’t. In fact, as the difficulties of parenting have become magnified over the last several months, I’ve been really considering what makes a person a good parent. Because lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m not doing such a great job at raising my kids.
This has never been more of a struggle than now. As we face the season known as back-to-school time, parents are being asked to make really tough decisions for their children: in-person or virtual school, mask or face shield, sports or no sports, whether the runny nose is a cold or COVID. We long for the experiences of previous years where we could simply decide how much to spend on school supplies and whether or not our kids needed school clothes. And it’s not just the decisions that weigh on us; it’s the reactions of those around us to the decisions we make.
I know I’ve felt my face go into “judgy mode” more than once over the last several months. When I observe the actions, choices, and behaviors that go against what I believe to be right, I feel my brow furrow, my lips purse, and my brain repeat, What are they thinking? I try to hold myself in check when I realize where my mind’s gone in these moments; I force myself to pause and remind myself to extend grace rather than judgement, as Jesus extends grace to me and all of us. Because I’m sure people have had this response to what they’ve experienced me saying and doing.
We fear this face from others, don’t we? When we make the decision to send our kids to daycare, we worry what those parents who kept their kids home will say. As we lament about whether or not to have our kids do virtual learning to start the school year, we feel scolded by the parents who don’t have the luxury to be able to make this decision. When we choose to visit a sick grandparent rather than keeping our distance, we brace for the lecture from a well-meaning friend. It’s human nature to judge others. But that doesn’t make it right.
So what does it look like to be a “good parent”? How do we know if we’re making the right decisions for our children and leading them in the right direction? When I felt the pressures of parenting mount as the Safer-at-Home order went into place and started contemplating this question a few months ago, I dove into the only place I could think of that would have the answers I was looking for: The Bible.
Parents don’t get a manual when they have or adopt children, but they do have a book from their Heavenly Father that serves as a guide: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). Through reading and studying God’s Word, we can find out what’s really important in parenting and how we can do well for our children.
In addition to telling us the story of God’s love for us, the Bible has a ton of advice about guiding our children and fellow Christians to lead Godly lives, so much so that it can be overwhelming. So in an effort to simplify it, I’ve categorized my findings into three principles of parenting, according to God. I pray that looking into Scripture like this is as helpful for you as it’s been for me.
Principle 1: Teach your children about God and grow your faith with them.
God is our guide through all parts of our lives, the good and the bad. When we teach our children this and show them what this looks like in our own lives, we guide them to a path of faithfulness. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses shares the 10 Commandments with the Israelites. And then he summarizes what it looks like to follow them:
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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
In his sermon about parenting, preacher Steve Abramowski likens this passage to the medical terminology “Activities of Daily Living.” He explains that medical professionals determine whether or not patients are ready to be released from the hospital based on whether they can perform day-to-day tasks such as bathing, feeding, and moving around. Steve says that Moses shares this list as the essential Activities of Daily Living for the Christian Home. Why is this important? “No matter how much out there is vying for the attention of your children’s hearts, parents are still the most influential people in their lives.” 1
So, as you set up your schedules for this fall, make worship and faith-building consistent aspects of your days. What does this look like in a practical sense?
It means setting aside time to worship. Even if you can’t make church on Sundays, look into Saturday worship or access sermon archives as a family to view a message. Spend time afterwards discussing the message and the songs. Share with your children what you learned about Jesus through engaging in worship. Or, if this isn’t necessarily age-appropriate for your kids, worship in a way that is. Sing a simple song about Jesus, pray together, and talk about God’s creation around you.
It means spending time daily building up your faith with one another and independently. Engaging in daily devotions for bed is one way we do this in my family. Praying together before meals is another way. Admittedly, we don’t pray together often enough, and I would definitely like to increase my personal prayer and devotion life.
It means finding ways you can serve others as a family. Talk about how you give offerings to church, even if it’s online giving and your children don’t see you give. Find ways you can serve as a family with a community organization or at church. No matter what you do, help your children to see the benefits of serving others, rather than seeing their community and their church as organizations that are there to serve them.
Principle 2: Act as a guide for your children by setting boundaries and disciplining them.
Probably one of the most popular scripture references we like to use as parents to guilt our kids into obeying is the first part of Ephesians 6:1:Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. But we fail to share the rest of the verses that go with this: “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)
We often don’t explain the promise that goes along with the commandment. God intends for children to obey their parents because parents are to guide their children along the paths that keep them safe and close to the Lord. And he intends for parents to avoid upsetting their children or provoking them, opting instead for their parenting to lead children to Christ.
The book of Proverbs has some great one-liners on parenting too:
- My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:11-12).
- Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24).
- Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6).
So what can parents learn from the wisdom of Solomon and Paul in the Scriptures? We can learn that we use discipline and boundaries to set our children up with a firm foundation. Godly parents set boundaries and their “no” means “no” when they feel it’s best for their children. God wants all of his children to grow up and follow Him, and it’s the sacred role of parents and guardians to teach children the way of the Lord.
Pastor Bill explains the purpose of discipline, as opposed to punishment: “Discipline is teaching and the focus is on the future. And the motivation is love. The result is security because the child knows there are parameters and boundaries in life. We must be willing to focus our children on the future in love so that they may have security.”2 Providing discipline and boundaries is more loving than giving into our kids’ desires.
Our children can have lots of friends in their lifetimes, but only a few people will be considered parents. It’s a parent’s goal to help them learn to make positive, God-pleasing decisions at an early age and to navigate the difficulties they’ll face as adults. We won’t be perfect at this, and Christ-centered parenting is not a fail-safe for having kids who grow up to be model citizens. But with God’s help, we do our best to share Jesus with our children and help them learn about His model for healthy living.
Principle 3: Model faithfulness, kindness, and dependence on God.
Kids do what they see others do. So we must be careful with what they see from us in word and deed. Paul gives us guidance on what Christ-like characteristics will look like: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14). Those first few verses seem like a tall order! I can think of times today already where I haven’t been compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient or forgiving. God encourages us to strive to demonstrate these traits but also to admit when we’ve fallen short and receive His forgiveness.
Your children will have a lot of role models in their lives. Teachers, celebrities, athletes, and other parents may seem to dominate their list of adults to emulate. But you, parents, are the ones they will see the most. So strive to show them behaviors and attitudes you want them to learn. Children will learn more from what they see you doing than what you tell them or try to teach them.
Most importantly, we’re called to love our children. In the day-to-day stress of parenting, it’s really easy to focus on how to handle parenting situations and miss out on the opportunity to recognize children as blessings to be loved. You can love your children by teaching them about Jesus, setting boundaries for them, praying for them, and asking God to help you make decisions and lead them down a path to Him.
Spoiler Alert: There’s Only One Perfect Parent
We should try to be the best parents we can be. But God our Heavenly Father is the only perfect parent out there. While God doesn’t give us specific guidelines on those day-to-day parenting decisions that weigh us down, we can use the principles from His Word to help guide us to parent our children in the best way possible.
I pray that this blog gives you comfort and guidance as you navigate the difficulties of parenting during a pandemic. The best comfort I can give you, however, is the encouragement that Paul gives to the Colossians:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:12-17).
Stay close to God through studying His Word and worshiping Him. Pray for the well-being of your children, and pray for wisdom for yourself. Give yourself a little grace and recognize when you have those solid parenting moments. And know it’s going to be all good in the end.
1 Abramowski, S. (30 September 2018). Parents, don’t obey your children. Family Matters sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/parents-dont-obey-children/.
2 Limmer, B. (19 January 2019). Teaching moments. Living Forward sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/teaching-moments/.