As a father of two imaginative and strong-willed boys, the only thing that I claim to know for certain about parenting is that I learn something new every day. That, and I have learned the hard way to not search online for answers to questions about parenting. It seems that everyone has an opinion, and you can quickly find conflicting expert advice. Which begs the question, “Which of the expert answers are correct?” Perhaps they both are, just in different scenarios.
The fact is, not many parenting issues can be answered with one concise answer. Raising a child is one of the most complex challenges on earth. Case in point, my wife and I work hard to provide a solid and safe Christian environment in which our children can flourish and grow to meet their full God-given potential. Yet, within our home I am continually amazed at the unique differences between the two boys. Their personalities, self-confidence, and energy level are all so very different.
One son (14) is an introverted tactician, while the other (5) is our in-house comedian, loud and rambunctious. For the most part, we raised each of them with the same techniques and principles. Yet, God made them so incredibly unique that they each bring their own need for different parental approaches.
Growing up as I did, spawned in me a desire to instill confidence in my children. I want to help them avoid the pitfalls I fought through because of my childhood issues. I want to be the best parent on earth. There are too many ‘expert’ books, tips, or research papers on raising children. Somehow, I had convinced myself that through head knowledge I would know all the correct answers to any parenting need. Boy, was I ever wrong! It was only a few weeks after our first child was born when I realized that, even the best advice must be filtered and adjusted to the individual child.
While individual personalities, environment, social, economic conditions, and more create unplanned variables, there are some factors in parenting that can and should be constant. These factors won’t guarantee a trouble-free childhood for our youth, but they provide a stable foundation on which they can grow and find their way through the darkness.
First, through more than just words, my kids must know that my love for them is unconditional. This doesn’t mean that I will always be pleased with their actions or won’t provide correction, but that my love is a stable factor that they can trust. Over time, that stability helps boost confidence, reduce insecurities, and lessen the fear of failure.
Next, they need to know that God’s love is also unconditional and trustworthy. A consistent voice in their life about the love of God is a direct contradiction to the negativity that they likely hear through secular environments, media, etc. The knowledge that God loves them, cares for them and is always accessible will provide reinforcement that they aren’t alone in their daily struggles. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Much of what God has proven over time we take for granted. We forget that our children don’t have experience. The responsibility for that training ultimately is ours as parents.
Last, but certainly not least, is genuineness. This has everything to do with trying to be the person I say they should be. Children learn more from your daily examples than from your words. As they see your commitment to be an authentic Christian, it will boost their faith and confidence in the words you are teaching them. Your daily actions will have a bigger impact on them than anything else. Tell them about Jesus, yes! Then show them how Jesus would treat others. Show them what compassion and mercy are all about. Let them see you pray and read your Bible. Playing Christian is perhaps one of the greatest detriments to a young mind. Love them, teach them, and then lead them by example.
Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord.” What a blessing God has entrusted us with! What a challenge to raise a child during a time when many do not follow God. With love, diligence, prayer, and a lot of patience, you can raise a child who decides to live their life for the Lord. There are no perfect answers or perfect parents, but keep doing your best, seek God’s help, and I believe you will be successful!