I’ve been on a parenting kick recently. Not sure why. Probably has to do with the fact that being a parent of two is much more demanding than being a parent of one. No offense to anyone who is raising a single child! I’ve just found that, for myself, raising two demands much more of my time, efforts, energy, and patience.
So I’ve been trying to focus recently on what it means to be a good father. And as I study, learn, and grow, I am attempting to share my thoughts so that somehow I might help make a difference in the lives of other parents and children.
I’m offering up Five P’s of Parenting that tie in closely with Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Yesterday, I wrote about the first two P’s, Prayer and Presence. Now I’m going to finish up with Passion, Persistence, and Perseverance.
I think Proverbs 22:6 is one of the most misunderstood and misused of all the collected proverbs. It has been used to build a case for an authoritarian style of parenting in which the children must fully and utterly obey the parent, or else. Some parents have a tendency to view this verse as a “My way or the highway” mentality. It ends up being understood as something like, “Train up a child in the way [you think] he should go…” or, “Train up a child in the way [that you demand] he should go.”
But I really like the way the Amplified Bible translates this verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
When there are multiple ways of translating and interpreting a certain word or phrase, the Amplified Bible will include those meanings in brackets. Here, the translators want to make it clear that the idea behind the phrase, “in the way he should go,” has more to do with the child’s own God-given gifts, abilities, talents, and interests than those of his parents. In other words, train your child up in keeping with his God-given passions.
This is a lot more difficult to do because it requires that parents actually, like, get to know their kids. You can’t know your kids’ passions if you never spend time with them or let them choose what activities they want to pursue. This requires parents to get over themselves and stop trying to live vicariously though their children. Little Johnny might like chess more than baseball. Susie might like a chemistry set for Christmas instead of a doll house. Your right-brained artist might not want to follow in your footsteps to become an accountant.
And let me be clear – this is more than just giving your children what they want and bowing to their every desire. Training a child in the way he should go sometimes requires laying down the law, unplugging the video games, and making your kids be productive. On the other hand, discerning the way he should go requires you to discover, together with your child, how God has gifted him and training/guiding him to reach his full potential.
You can’t really tell your child what to be passionate about, and your passions may not be her passions. But the one passion you absolutely must share with your children is your passion for God. A child learns to worship from his/her parents. Be passionate about God in your homes and in worship on Sunday. Make involvement in the church a priority. Study the Bible together. Pray together. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs together.
We may not be able to demand that our children go a certain way (lower case), but it is definitely our job as parents to get our kids started in The Way (upper case).
Our three year old son is nothing if not persistent. If there is something he wants, he will ask for it and ask for it until the very act of asking gets him in trouble! There are only so many times I can stand to hear a little whiny voice asking, “Can I have a cookie?”
But when it comes to parenting, we must be persistent. Webster defines persistence as, “the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.” Those “other people,” in this case, might be the cutest little bundles of joy, the very fruit of your womb. But. Lord, do those tiny rays of sunshine know how to test limits and push boundaries!!!
This can be the most difficult of the Five P’s to stick with. But the simple fact is KIDS NEED STRUCTURE. I’m so sick of this psycho-babble out there that says kids need the freedom to discover their own way. Well, Mr. PhD, I’d rather not have my kid discover his own way right into the kitty litter box or the roof of my house.
This laissez-faire, anything goes style of parenting just simply does not work. It gives parents an excuse, backed by “experts,” to be lazy and inconsistent. Children need boundaries, not only to keep them safe but, more importantly, to give them a sense of trust and security with their parents. Children need to know that their parents are going to keep them protected every single time, no matter what. And if that means we have to punish them again and again for testing the same boundary, so be it. I want my child to know that when I say stop, I mean stop – whether he is about to jump off the couch in our living room or about to run into the Wal-Mart parking lot.
We must be persistent. Children need consistency. They need to know what to expect.
And as our children mature, it’s increasingly important that we parents model persistence in our faith – worshiping, praying, and meeting with the church even in the midst of crisis or hardship. Older kids, especially into their teenage years, can see right through our “Christian” masks. They can spot hypocrisy a mile away. They need parents who will demonstrate faithful discipleship at all costs.
I could have chosen “patience” for my last “P,” but I think many parents are way past patience. Most days, patience seems so far out of reach that I would simply be putting myself and my fellow parents on a guilt trip if I harped on the need for more patience.
What I think parents, myself included, need instead is perseverance. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Parents face trial after trial, test after test, day after day. We work long hours with little appreciation. It’s one of the hardest jobs to do right, and it seems like everybody has an opinion about what you’re doing wrong! And many first time parents, quite frankly, are immature. I know I was. But like James reminds us, perseverance in the face of trials produces maturity.
I don’t know what it is that keeps me going, able to get up night after night, morning after morning. There are days where even the best parents just want to stay in bed and not have any responsibility whatsoever. But that’s not possible. We must persevere. We have no other choice.
Parenting is a 24/7 job for 18 (or more) years. It can often be difficult to keep the end result in mind.
Romans 5:3-4 gives us a good reminder: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
And again, Peter lists perseverance among the highest Christian virtues: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:5-8
So don’t give up. Persevere. Be persistent and passionate. Be present. Be prayerful. By doing so, you will “Start your child off on the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.”