How to be an intentional parent.
Every parent has dreams for their children. As parents, we all start out with the best intentions. Although, at some point, we move from lofty dreams to more realistic appraisals. Raising kids in today’s culture is a difficult challenge and it requires a plan. Without a plan, parents usually default to focusing on today’s problem rather than looking more long-term at the more important underlying issues. But how we parent each day will impact a child’s future. We need to be more intentional in our parenting.
Something To Talk About:
- Principle, pattern, persistence, participation, praise, and prayer: Principle means instructing children in the ways of God. Reading the scriptures and learning about the gospel is one thing, but applying them to modern life is a whole different ballgame. We need to teach our children religious principles by setting time aside for religious teaching in our home. The goal is to help them understand how they can apply their lesson to their lives. That gets them thinking beyond the principles themselves, and we are often surprised by the depth of understanding that they have. Children learn from our patterns. They learn from watching what we do more than by watching what we say. What patterns are your children learning from you? What about our persistence? We pass it on by hanging in there and doing what needs to be done when it’s convenient and inconvenient. By repeating things over and over again. By being consistent. Something positive happens when we get involved and when we participate in our children’s lives, and when we show an interest in what concerns or interests them. Participation goes a long way to establishing a caring relationship that makes it easier for us to communicate with them and teach them. The greatest motivation in the world is praise. We always seem to have time to tell them what’s wrong, but we should spend more time telling them what is right. God speaks to His children. Therefore, we teach our kids that they can talk to Him about anything and He will answer. When they have a problem or are unsure about something, we should encourage them to pray. But we must set the example. We should pray as a family regularly. We should pray with individual children about things that are troubling them. We try to show them through word and example that praying is always a good option, no matter the scenario.
- Be intentional with your talk: In order to instruct, you need to be very intentional in your conversations with your kids. In an ideal world, our children would walk out of church rattling off Bible passages and apply it in their young lives during the week. We know it doesn’t work that way. Talking to our kids about their faith can sometimes be challenging. Not only do we think that we are ill-equipped to discuss theology, but it can often be uncomfortable relating to our kids on such a personal level. Yet, God designed us as parents to not only protect and nurture our kids but supply their spiritual needs as well. We need to talk to them about God’s unconditional love. We need the Spirit to help guide our conversations. We need to learn how to have conversations rather than interrogations. And we need to help them apply what they learn in their daily lives.
- Be intentional with the truth: Children of all ages will be exposed to negative criticism of Christianity at school, with friends, or online. Our job as parents is to try to prepare them for the questions and the viewpoints they will get. God’s Word is our best weapon in this battle. His Word is our anchor in the confusing culture kids find themselves in. If a Christ-loving/following parent hopes their children will choose the same life, there must be discussions about the validity/evidence of and for the faith. This doesn’t happen due to growing up in proximity to a believing parent. Neither does a child learn anything (at least not properly) without direct and coherent conversation and explanation. There is the truth and there are lies. It is our job to define for the next generation the difference between the two. The next generation needs to know the truth about evolution, morality, the challenges presented by culture, etc. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
- Intentional parents believe they have an incredible influence on their children. Agree or disagree and why?
- Intentional parents understand that children learn from observing them as their primary role models. When do you most often doubt you have any influence in your children’s lives at all? What makes you nervous about your kids following your example? What do you want your kids to pick up from you?
- Intentional parents make sacrifices to be completely present: How do you try to show your presence on a daily or weekly basis to your children? What does “presence” look like in your home? What is something you might have to sacrifice in order to be more present? Why will that sacrifice be difficult for you? What is a strategy you can use to develop a devotional time with your family?
- Do you have a hard time being consistent with your kids? What spiritual quality do you most want your kids to see in you on a consistent basis?
- When you were growing up, how did your family pray? How do you pray in your home today? How do you invite children to pray in your family?
- How are you maintaining a culture of communication and conversation in your home? How can it be improved?
- Do you look for opportunities to praise your children?
- We must seek out opportunities to speak God’s Word to them. What is a question you can ask your child this week to stimulate a faith discussion?
- What steps can you take to talk about your relationship with the Lord to your children?
- What are your expectations for this week as a result of Sunday’s message?
Take one thing home with you:
“And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
The Deuteronomy passage is a roadmap for how we are to live out our faith in front of our children. What we believe must make its way into our daily attitudes, conversations, and routines. If we want our kids to have a growing faith and love God’s Word, we need to demonstrate its importance in our lives. We need to read His Word daily and make it a necessary part of our daily life. Allow your kids to be a part of that process. Allow them to see the importance and joy of God’s Word in your life. They will learn to lean on God and develop a growing love for Him and His Word.