The following post is a guest post from my friend Andrew.
Purposeful Parenting in Today’s World
Bob drives his bright red sports car 140 kilometres per hour on the highway and is pulled over by a police officer. The officer gives Bob a:
- friendly greeting
- speeding ticket
Susan prefers sleeping late to showing up at work on time. After arriving at the office two to three hours late for two weeks in a row, Susan’s boss tells her to:
- get to bed a little earlier
- take some vacation time to rest up
- look for another job
This reality check comes from an article on parenting by Dr. Bill Maier from Focus on the Family. It shows in a humorous way how real life consequences will catch up with your child sooner or later (the answer to both questions is number 3, of course).
Now here are a couple of my own:
Your son starts university and soon realizes that one of his professors is a hostile feminist. The feminist professor:
- immediately concedes her radical feminist views and offers to help your son with his studies
- tells the class what an asset conservatism and/or Christianity is to our society
- publicly humiliates your son when he voices an objection, and makes every effort to fail him
Your daughter enters the workforce. Her colleagues say things like:
- how I can become a Christian just like you?
- maybe we could start a Bible study together
- are you for real – do you actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead
Are your children going to be able to handle this?
Let me start off with some general principles that I think you will find useful for parenting in general. Then in the second half of this post I want to share some more ideas that will help you be more purposeful in the formation of your child and help them prepare for what life will throw at them – ideas that I hope will help you to address the last two scenarios above.
Your children need you to be their parent, not their friend
Children need and want their parents to lay down the rules, to set boundaries, and to give them guidance. They really need to know where they stand. While they have friends elsewhere, they don’t get parenting from anywhere else. Your children don’t have to like you, but they have to respect and obey you. When you make the rules clear and consistent and your children choose to disobey them, then the punishment is their choice rather than your infliction. This should really be a separate point, but don’t be afraid to discipline your children. This will help them in the long run.
Your children respect your authority and guidance more than you think
Parents tend to underestimate the influence that they have on their children and overestimate the influence that friends have. Don’t be afraid to teach your children, give them your opinion and set boundaries.
Follow through or your children won’t take you seriously
Children learn quickly, so if you state a consequence you have to be willing to follow through with it. If you don’t, your words will be empty to them and they will not respect you or listen to you. If you tell your child that if they hit their sibling one more time you will call off the big trip to the zoo then you have to be willing to do this, so choose your words carefully!
Short term pain, long term gain
This was our motto when our children were infants, and it still is. Addressing problems immediately will be painful, but they will only become a habit or worse problems down the road if you don’t. We learned pretty quickly that running to our crying baby every hour during the night would quiet them down and give us instant gratification at a time when we were sleep-deprived, but we also learned that if we suffered the short term pain of letting them cry it out a bit then our baby would learn how to settle themselves and sleep better.
Let boys be boys and girls be girls
Don’t let feminist ideology creep into the way you parent. It’s healthy for girls to play ‘house’, nurture their dolls, and play dress-up. And it’s okay for boys to try ‘dangerous’ things, be rambunctious, and open doors for ladies. Boys and girls are innately different, and that’s okay.
Okay, these are some great general guidelines that have helped us with our parenting so far. Now for some deeper principles that I hope will prepare your child for life:
Be purposeful with your parenting…have a plan and an end goal in mind
You can’t guarantee how your children will turn out, but if you are purposeful with your parenting and have an end goal rather than just hoping they will turn out okay, there is a good chance you will be successful. For my wife and I, the end goal is to train our children so that when they come of age we will be able to launch them into life with them being capable of standing on their own two feet (e.g., capable of dealing effectively with the third and fourth situations at the start of this post). This is our conscious plan. Children need to be gradually given more and more freedom and responsibility as they demonstrate that they can handle it. Don’t wait until they are about to leave the nest to give them their freedom because it may be more than they can handle. You have a relatively small window of opportunity to train your children. This window decreases with time, so don’t waste it.
Allow your children to fail under controlled circumstances
Failure is a great teacher, so allow your children to fail when they are young. For example, let them spend some of their hard earned chore money on a cheap toy that will fall apart after the first use. This will teach them the value of money and give them discretion in spending. You don’t want them to learn this lesson the hard way later on when they are buying their first house. Let them go to their math test in grade 10 without having studied because they really wanted to play. Better to have them learn this lesson now than in univer$ity.
Expose them to scenarios that they will experience later and teach them how to deal with them
Again, in a controlled setting you need to carefully expose your children to what they will encounter in life. Take them to a university debate between a Christian and an atheist. Let them hear the arguments, see how the audience reacts, and allow them to feel uncomfortable. Show them a news article about schoolchildren who were told that they had to send a letter to their government representative with a certain view. Let your child hear a homosexual activist on the radio. Supervise them and discuss with them what they have just experienced. Teach them how to respond in these scenarios. You won’t be able to shelter them for life, so gradually expose them under controlled conditions and teach them how to deal and respond to what they encounter.
Train yourself, and do it well
Listen, training up your children is your responsibility and no one else’s. Not only that, but you are the only one that is going to prepare them properly – you can no longer rely on school, church, friend’s parents, etc. In order to train them to respond to life circumstances and defend their beliefs you are going to have to learn this stuff yourself. Take the time to read books, listen to lectures/debates, etc. As a parent I know it is really tough to find the time to do this when you are working full time or are busy with life, but you have to do it. Don’t let your life get too busy with distractions because otherwise your purposeful parenting plan won’t happen, it requires purposeful daily decisions. What is the point of having children only to lose them to militant atheist, leftist, feminist, homosexual, etc. ideology because you didn’t prepare them properly.
Train your children well
I know I’ve touched on this already, but let me expand a bit. This is really, really important! A lot of people around your children are going to teach them bad ideas that are opposite to your own – their school, their friends and the government will all do this. You need to be purposeful in teaching them moral values and virtues, otherwise they probably won’t learn them. Training your children is your responsibility. Be purposeful in teaching your children virtues like loyalty, bravery, chivalry, respect, modesty (especially for girls), and discipline. Teach them about freedom of speech, religious liberty, chastity, capitalism, free markets, the sanctity of life, post-modern culture, traditional marriage, and abstinence. Also give them books with characters who portray these things and discuss these things with your children on every occasion (as an aside, don’t let your children rot in front of the trash that is shown on television…rather teach them to love to read books).
Most importantly, as a Christian who believes that Christianity is objectively true, I can’t stress enough how important it is to teach your children about Christianity. All religions are testable, and our Christian faith can hold its own and can compete well in the marketplace of ideas. The evidence is very much on our side and we stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us. Having said this, we live in a world that is very hostile to Christianity and you need to teach your children the evidence for their faith. They need to know the Bible inside-out and backwards, but they also need to know how to defend their faith using other evidence (hint: Christian apologetics; see the Resources section below). Teaching them how to do this will give them the courage to defend what they believe to be true. You also need to teach your children about different worldviews and religions, and why they don’t make sense.
I know, this all sounds like a tremendous amount of work, but your child is relying on you and no one else to prepare them for life. It’s actually easier than you think. Just start off with a few books. This is so much more important than teaching them how to be on time, how to drive a car, how to take a math test, how to swim, and all of the other things that you will obviously teach them. As I said above, you have a relatively small window of opportunity to train your children. This window decreases with time, so don’t waste it. For a first step please look at the Resources section below.
Put your marriage first
Make sure that you put your marriage ahead of your parenting. I am convinced that one of the best things that you can do for your children is to give them the security of a stable family life and to model what a good marriage looks like. Let them witness husband and wife roles, let them see that you love each other, and let them see you apologize to each other when you get angry or make a mistake. Don’t get so involved in your children’s life that you neglect your spouse. If you do this then once your children are out of the house (if your marriage survives that long), you and your spouse won’t know each other anymore. Parenting in today’s world requires a parenting team, so you need to make sure your team is strong.
UPDATE: This is Wintery Knight. I wanted to include this bit of wisdom from commenter Shalini:
One other important thing is when one parent is disciplining the child, the other parent MUST NOT talk in defense of the child. Parents should always agree on disciplining, ’cause if one of the parents try taking sides with the kid, chances are the kid is going to assume that one parent is good and the other is bad. It doesn’t help the case in anyway!
Andrew liked this comment, so I thought I would add it to the post.
A few resources: