“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1b NIV).
Not to tell you something you don’t already know, but this parenting thing is hard. As I’ve said many times (and heard other people say), these little bundles of joy that God gives us do not come with instruction manuals, and they do not stay little for long. Once they become a part of our family, everything changes. We spend the next 20-30 years (maybe longer) just trying to navigate everything from sippy cups to car insurance. It’s exhausting. But it’s also amazing! God has entrusted us with the life and well-being of another human, or two, or three, or more (we’re praying for you folks!). We get to be on a journey of life and faith that will truly have an impact on generations to come. But we must ask the question: “What does successful parenting look like?”
If you were to sit down with a group of parents and ask them this question, you would get a lot of different answers. Most people want their kids to experience material success and live the “American dream” whatever that is. We can all so easily become focused on that. We fall into the trap of believing our job is to help our kids get good grades, get into the right college, get a good job, become good citizens, marry the right person, have the right friends, make good money, and the list goes on. We want them to be “successful” in the world’s eyes. All of that is good stuff (at least most of it) and all things I want for my kids. But what is the goal in Christian parenting? What are we aiming for in raising our kids?
As I’ve worked my way through a few projects over the last several years, I’ve come up with a bit of a different target. You see, I know a lot of adults who have achieved worldly success, who have chased and caught the American dream, and who are still so very empty. They have worked hard for years and years to provide for themselves and their family, but they have missed so much along the way. They have chased after things of this world and have sought to build their own kingdom with a false sense of stability. As I think about my kids and what I want for them and their future, I’ve landed on a few things.
I want my kids to be healthy. The obvious first thought is for them to be physically healthy, but I only have a certain amount of control over that one. Aside from that, what I really want is for them to be mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy. I want them to have a strong mind where they have the confidence to think on their own. I want them to be able to stand up in the face of difficulty and not be thrown by the wind and the waves of life. I want my children to be able to look someone in the eye and have a real, face-to-face conversation that can lead them to deeper relationships. I want them to have a real understanding that there is a God in Heaven Who is the author and perfecter of all things. I want them to know this same God is pursuing them, and they can pursue Him back.
I want for my kids to have great relationships. I once had a wise mentor tell me that one of their goals in parenting was to have a real relationship with their kids when they got to their 20s. That’s what I want! After having talked to countless young adults who don’t have a real relationship with their parents and feeling their pain, I agree with my friend. It’s the idea of “keeping the end in mind” as we travel along our family journey. I can’t influence someone with whom I don’t have a relationship, and my kids will need my influence in their young adult (and older adult) years. I also want for my kids to have healthy relationships with their siblings, their peers, and other adults in their lives. Healthy relationships don’t make life perfect, but they do make it better.
I want my kids to know, love, and follow Jesus! We’ve been praying this for them since they were born. So much of what we try to do in our parenting points to this. We don’t have a lot of Bible studies and family devotions in our house, but we really do try to have a D6 mentality with our kids.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV).
So again, you must determine what the goal is in raising your kids? What do you really want for them and their future? You can want lots of things but, if you want health, then focus on that. Focus on figuring out how to stay close to your kids relationally so you can help them grow in their own relationships, most importantly their relationship with God. Then, they will grow into the young men and women you really hope they will be.