By Dr. Harold Sala

Like arrows in the hands of an archer are the children of your youth!  Psalm 127:4

When Jews of ancient Israel made their way to the Holy City in Jerusalem, they sang or chanted songs, reminding them of Jehovah God’s blessing. Such was Psalm 127 that, according to tradition, was written by Solomon himself. As a boy no doubt he had been with his father David who was a consummate warrior and must have thought of his skillful use of a bow when he wrote, “Like arrows in the hands of an archer are the children of your youth!”  (Psalm 127:4).

For centuries archers have done essentially the same thing. Take an arrow from a quiver, then notch the arrow, then pull back the bow-string sufficiently to have enough thrust to drive the arrow to its target, then release the bow string. Simple? Not really! It requires great skill, and a warrior’s life and reputation often depended upon the skillful execution of this procedure.

But shooting arrows wasn’t what Solomon was driving at—he was likening children to the arrow in the hands of an archer. I don’t know if Solomon ever thought of this, though being as wise as he was said to have been, makes it possible.  The reality is that there are three distinct phases that a youngster goes through from birth to maturity. Phase 1: The early years—birth through age six. Phase 2: The middle years—age seven through twelve, and Phase 3: The teen years, thirteen through nineteen.

To become an architect, a doctor, a professional of almost any kind requires education, testing to certify competence, and then licensing; however, most young couples are almost totally unaware of what to do when a child is born. Unfortunately there are no “instruction manuals” attached and certainly no information on how to do a return to the manufacturer.

May I point out that there are basically three distinctive styles of parenting, and in most cases a couple simply gravitates into one of these styles without thinking of the implications that are involved. In some cases a husband or a wife begins to practice the kind of parenting he or she grew up with, whether it is good or bad. It’s parenting by default.

Style 1 is the us-against them “fortress” mentality. Parents who adopt this kind of parenting are conscientious, recognizing that there are evils on the other side of the door and are committed to keeping their offspring as safe as possible. They are strong on the negatives: “Don’t do that!”  “No, you can’t go there.” “Don’t ask me because I won’t let you do that.”  The problem, however, is that you can’t raise a child in isolation. Sooner or later a youngster will say, “I can’t do what? Try and stop me!”

Style 2 is the “open door parenting style.” It’s the mentality: “Who am I to decide what my kids choose to do. When they are old enough, they can decide for themselves.” It doesn’t work. Parenting is done by others—peers, our culture, or the neighbors.

Style 3 is parenting with purpose and direction. The objective is to meet our culture head-on, provide valid reasons why some things are right and some are wrong. Part of the parenting process involves solid relations within a family, the establishment of red lines whereby parents say, “This far and no farther,” church attendance, and a belief system that often counters the attitude of our culture and world.

A baby is God’s way of saying, “Life must go on!  It takes two people to make a baby and it takes two to raise one, too.

Resource reading: The Parent Map by Harold Sala