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“Our ultimate hope is not in our ability to master this role called ‘parenting’ but in the one who is the perfect parent to us and for us.”
It’s Monday. Monday mornings are crazy. Getting the kids up and ready for school, gathering everything that has been dispersed throughout the house over the weekend and making sure it all gets into their backpacks. Packing lunches and snacks and waters and homework. Finding lost shoes and discovering dirty sweatshirts. It seems like it takes all our energy (not to mention patience) just to get them out of the house.
The next time I see them the house will again be in a flurry getting ready for dinner. Finishing homework, disciplining disrespect, setting the table, finishing the food, cleaning up their toys or activities. Followed by picking one up from a late sports practice or activity, baths/showers, a short devotional time, brushing teeth, and then it’s off to bed.
Tuesday will be pretty much the same. So will Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday. Saturday will have its own activities, events, etc. And I’ll be gone all day Sunday as well.
When we think of our weeks this way (or let them turn into this) parenting becomes just one more thing we have to do along the way. We can end up seeing parenting as a logistical responsibility at best (feed, bathe, and deliver kids where needed) or a hindrance to what we view as “real life” at worst.
In this “always busy,” “always hectic” mode our parenting tends to become haphazard, inconsistent, and unintentional. We end up parenting from our “gut” more than we do from conviction. And most of the time our “gut” ends up being synonymous with our flesh. We end up trying to mold our kids into our own image, instead of taking the care and time to shape them into God’s.
But God calls us to a much more engaged and intentional type of parenting.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:4
To bring our children up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” requires parenting on purpose. It requires doing more than just getting carried away with a busy schedule and just parenting on the fly. It requires the intentionality, thought, and investment of time that one of your greatest responsibilities in this life deserves. I think that parenting on purpose involves at least four components.
We all want to instill certain things into our kids. But, why do you want to instill what you want to instill? When we take time to evaluate our own parenting priorities we may find that more of them are culturally determined than they are biblically determined. Reading through Scripture (and Proverbs is a great resource for this), what is it that is most important that you impart to your kids? Write it down. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t get distracted by the culture’s priorities along the way.
For us these include things like:
· A constant reaffirmation of the gospel
· A habit of Bible reading
· A habit of prayer
· Generosity and care for the poor
· Thanksgiving and praise
· …And a few others
It’s cliché because it’s true: to fail to plan is to plan to fail. Knowing what you want to impart to your kids and actually imparting those things are not the same. You plan all sorts of things. You plan vacations. You plan your day, week, and year at work. You even plan your fantasy football team. But since kids are always there, always present, always available we can forget the importance of planning to invest in them. Failing to plan simply leads to the “parenting from your gut” that I mentioned earlier.
A few of the plans we have developed include:
· Age-appropriate Bible reading plans
· An annual “monthly focus” calendar (i.e. January’s focus is: Work Ethic / Responsibility, July’s focus is: Studying Scripture)
· Intentional, short, daily family devotion times
I am notorious for making elaborate plans only to realize that I don’t have the time to actually execute them. The follow through of any plan requires the time to make it happen. When it comes to parenting this means carving out time to individually, intentionally invest in each one of your kids. Time simply in their presence is important too, but it’s not enough. If we are to fulfill our responsibility to bring our kids up in the “instruction of the Lord” then we need to sacrifice other things (kids’ activities, time in front of the TV, hobbies, etc.) in order to make the time for our kids.
Times that work well for us have included:
· Right before bed
· Monthly “dates”
· Special activities with just one kid
Finally, you can do all the clarifying, and planning, and scheduling you want but kids will smell insincerity a mile away. There is a big difference between parenting intentionally because it’s what you “should” do and parenting intentionally because you have received that kind of intentional love from God and want to echo his love to your kids. More than that, your heart toward your kids reflected in the small, unintentional moments will also communicate just as much or more as the kind of intentional time I’ve described here. A parent’s own relationship with God will determine much of the true quality of their parenting (whether it be intentional or unintentional). As Bill Castenholz likes to remind me: “You cannot impart what you do not possess.”
And, as a concluding bonus, don’t forget the central importance of being reminded of the gospel all along the way. These practical helps are meant to be an encouragement to you as a parent, as something that will help you to be increasingly faithful to your God-given calling. However, the truth is, you will fall short again and again as you strive to fulfill that calling. And I do, too. Our ultimate hope is not in our ability to master this role called “parenting” but in the one who is the perfect parent to us and for us.
And don’t forget along the way, your faithfulness in parenting is not measured by the outcome of your kids. They are people themselves with the ability to make their own choices. But, as the greatest influences in their young lives, we have a unique opportunity to influence them for good and toward truth. It just takes doing it on purpose.
For more on this topic, click here to listen to audio from our Parenting as Discipleship Conference.
Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.
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