As a youth minister, it was easy to identify where the parents of the teenagers were going wrong. If they did what my twenty-two-year-old experience thought, they would have it together and successfully engage with their kids. That was then. Now, fifteen years later, and two kids in, I realize that my judgmental posture was more me playing the armchair quarterback than the sage, brilliant youth minister with wisdom dripping from his lips. Now that I have children of my own I now understand that parenting is hard work. At times, no simple solutions exist to the dynamic and complex problems of raising up souls that share our DNA, but are also different than us. At times, I find myself fluctuating between strong convictions and a fake it until you make it mentality.
As a follower of Jesus who believes the Bible to be true, I believe the command of Deuteronomy 6:4-7,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
In verse 7, God commands Christian parents to disciple their own children. This charge shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Four areas for parents should focus on to do this successfully. If they would, it could enhance their relationship with their children and the trajectory of their development.
Here are the four S's that can help your family grow and thrive:
1. Spend Focused Time
Life is busy. It is easy to be in the frenzied hustle with our kids while missing out on connecting with our kids relationally. While there are many examples of homes where the kids rule the roost, I'm not advocating for that. In fact, I think that kind of home leads to destruction.
Parents must focus on having time where they aren't just interacting with their children on a transactional level, but on a relational level. Connecting transactionally is driven by performance, accountability, and getting things done. Connecting relationally involves understanding motives, thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fears. Parents often don't realize that while we are trying to maintain authority, we are not leveraging opportunities to gain influence. Influence is the key to having a strong relationship with your children long-term.
2. Shepherd Your Children
You are the most responsible person for your children on this planet (see Proverbs 22:6). God places a covenantal responsibility on parents to love, protect, provide, and lead their children towards Jesus. Start by taking them to a church that talks about Jesus, but that is not enough. Your faith must be authentic at home. Your faith must be growing, and you must invite them along with you.
There have been times where I have had to change the way I think about how I love and lead my family. The good news is, in Christ, it's never too late for new beginnings!
3. Say You're Sorry
Parents, we are humans who are sinners in need of grace from Jesus. I once heard a pastor friend say, "Mom & Dad's, your kids need you to own your fallibility." Modeling repentance, saying you're sorry, and being the one who leads for reconciliation will not only illustrate the gospel of Jesus to your children, but it will also help you build trust.
Recently, I told my three-year-old daughter that I would have time to play with her in the morning, but life happens. I had to hurry up and get ready to go deal with an issue, and I stopped, got onto my knees and told her, "I'm so sorry for not being able to play with you. I told you that I would, but I am not able to now. Will you please forgive me?" She was sweet and said, "Of course!" and we hugged.
4. Seek Counsel
If we can get to the point where we no longer need to pretend like we have it together, then we can ask for help before things get to a code red crisis. No one I know has this parenting thing all figured out. But, I do know that one of the benefits of connecting with a community of faith is that there are others who understand what you are going through.
It's nice when you can be around those who are in the same stage of life or have been in your stage of life, and you can ask them for wisdom. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; in fact, it is a sign of strength and faith. We can learn a lot from one another. Seeking counsel from those who are seeking to honor God in the way they love and lead their children will provide an opportunity for learning and encouragement.
Parenting is one of the most challenging tasks I've undertaken. Few immediate gratifications exist when parenting, and often we wonder if we are doing more harm than good. Fortunately, Jesus is very gracious to make up for areas where we lack and is able and willing to bring about great transformation—even in the most broken of families.
Casey Cease is husband to his high school sweetheart, Steph, and they have two beautiful daughters. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Christ Community Church in the North Houston, TX area and the Founder and CEO of Lucid Books, a Partnership Book Publishing Company. His first book about his tragic car crash and his journey to faith in Jesus, Tragedy to Truth (Lucid Books), was released in 2014. He blogs at www.caseycease.com