The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him. Proverbs 20:7
Years ago in one of his commentaries, my dad asked the question: Can you raise G-rated kids in an X-rated world? “You bet you can,” was his answer, “but it isn’t easy.” The challenge to raise kids of character feels harder than ever before—it’s certainly a more rugged job than when my dad and mom raised me. The wired, internet age that we live in, that our kids live in from toddlerhood, makes it feel virtually impossible. It’s the challenge of the century, and perhaps the current challenge of your life. But the five guidelines my dad offered can still help you accomplish your goal.
Guideline #1: Set the example.
Parenting is the raising of children by parents, not the raising of parents by their kids. God made you the mom or dad, so take your responsibility seriously. You brought this child into this world. It’s up to you to live out examples of a life of integrity and character.
If you want your kids to be in a relationship with God, they must see you practicing one, owning up to it when you sin against them, taking time in the Word and living in Christian community with others. You set the example. They learn from you. Otherwise, save your breath. Their hearts will reflect yours.
Guideline #2: Help your child be his or her own person.
One of the greatest things a parent can do for a child is to help him throw off the crushing pressure to conform. Celebrate how God made them exactly who they are and emphasize that they have a role to play in this life, in God’s Kingdom too, a role that only they can fill. This requires putting a certain amount of space between your kids and a world whose values are far from God’s. It means you teach them why the answer is no sometimes. It means you help your offspring to understand, “I don’t have to be just like everybody else. I’m the only person who can be me.” A lot of influences are going to enter your child’s life and it won’t be easy to teach them to resist the comfort of conformity. But remember parent: God placed this unique child in your home and He promises to enable you to build into your child’s young life that which is needed to bring about the purpose God created him for!
Guideline #3: Build character through feeding your kids’ hearts and minds with good things.
My dad said, “I can tell you a thousand places where your children will not build character, including most movies, TV, and a lot of music, so you have got to purposely build good things into your child’s life. This means Sunday School and Church, youth activities and events and being a family that actually has fun together.” Sure, this inconveniences you as an adult. It’s going to involve thought, prayer, planning and a lot of driving. It means you monitor as best you can what is allowed before your kids’ eyes and minds. You seek to nourish their bodies as wholesomely as possible—that same diligence must go into doing your best to grab every opportunity to expose their hearts and minds to good things.
Guideline #4: Empower your child with validation.
Have you ever stopped to really think how powerful your words are to your child? Words of affirmation spoken to a child can affect the whole of that child’s life. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” says Proverbs (25:11 NKJV). The words, “You’re a fine boy. You’re a fine girl” whispered nightly by mom or dad as the last thing a child hears before drifting off to sleep is of inestimable value. It echoes the heart of their Heavenly Father.
With God’s help, raising kids of character who love God and others is possible!
Resource reading: Colossians 3
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