Of all God’s creatures, only human beings have the privilege of imparting to their children character and wisdom. Most animals simply deposit their young and walk away. Even those who keep cubs a year or two teach only survival skills. Angels do not reproduce at all.
Parents cannot force children to become God-fearing people. But we are charged to help them develop a faith of their own. Here, in brief, are eight things parents can do.
Provide for Them.
If we are going to bring children into this world, we must take seriously the responsibility to provide them with food, shelter, clothing, and education. Children are an expense we must be prepared to meet through hard work and sacrifice. If we have to drive jalopies so that our kids can soar, or simply have some lunch money, it’s a worthy sacrifice (Eph. 4:28, 1 Tim. 5:8).
Pass On to Them the Faith.
Faith is not passed down genetically, like eye color and height. It is passed down through a diligent and conscientious effort to teach the faith to the younger generation (Eph. 6:4). Moses commanded the people to take advantage of teachable moments; even to create them (Deut. 6:6-7).
Being a faithful Christian and being a good parent are two separate skills. Imparting faith to a child requires influence, and influence requires time, connection, and conversation. Get involved. Instead of coming home and plopping down on the sofa and turning on the TV, ask what they did that day, and don’t take “nuthin” for an answer.
Three times, God told Israel that kids would ask questions (Ex. 13:14, Deut. 6:60, Josh. 4:6). God’s advice was not to tell them to shut up, to tell them to ask their mother, to tell them to ask the preacher, but rather to explain it. Let us fill our children’s hearts with stories of God’s power and love.
Prove to Be a Good Example to Them.
Teaching must be accompanied by example. While kids often do not do what we say, they almost always do what we do. Paul said that Timothy’s faith came from the modeling of his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5). Don’t just talk about the importance of worship; actually skip the game to go to worship. Don’t just talk about avoiding filth on TV; actually switch the channel. Show Christianity in action.
Despite the modern fad that spanking is wrong, our Heavenly Father, the perfect parent, tells us that corporal punishment is helpful and necessary (Prov. 22:15, 29:15). In fact, if we don’t, the outcome is much worse (Prov. 19:18, 23:13–14, 13:24). Even when they are too old for spanking, we love our kids less if we refuse to discipline them (Heb. 12:7–11; cf. 1 Kings 1:5–6, 1 Sam. 2:12-14, 22).
It is easy to overdo discipline. Failing to express our love for our children gives them a perverted view of a God who is all discipline, no fellowship. We should praise often!
Some fathers do not pay attention to their children unless they require correction. Eventually, this becomes a frustrating cycle, for children prefer negative attention to no attention. Good times with your children should outnumber the bad. Play with them!
Time spent with children should never be considered time wasted. Sure, the garage may not get cleaned this month, you may not get as much overtime pay, you may miss your favorite show, but it will be worth it. We must change the way we look at children—not as a nuisance, but as a gift from God Himself (Psalm 127:3, Matt. 19:14).
Protect Them from the Worst Influences.
No one lets their kids experiment with dynamite or flamethrowers. There are dangers we keep as far away from our children as possible; dangers that have no learning curve, that cause sudden and irreparable spiritual damage. Things like internet pornography, teen pregnancy, and the wrong crowd (1 Cor. 15:33).
Prepare Them for the Rest of What They’ll Face.
It’s impossible to isolate children from everything. Parents have to prepare children to face with maturity a world full of temptation and distraction.
It used to be that my folks didn’t have to worry about what was on TV, about what I’d bump into at other kids’ houses, about drugs or strangers. Those days are over. Now, the adolescent landscape is littered with dangerous pitfalls, secret ones in friends’ homes and official ones in classrooms, and we must prepare them to face them faithfully.
Pray for Them.
Since human parents are finite beings, who cannot be everywhere at once, it is vital to request the help of our eternal all-seeing Father (Job 1:2-5). “O Lord … teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born” (Judges 13:8). Ask for God’s help! —John Guzzetta