“Poor things,” she would say to herself, “they haven’t had any bringing up; they’ve just scrambled up!” This is what the dear mother had to say in Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. As a tired and always busy homeschooling mom of eight, that is often exactly how I feel about how my own kids have grown. However, in this story, the Pepper children didn’t just “scramble up,” but they grew in responsibility and maturity as they learned to live courageously in poverty and through trials of many kinds after the death of their father.

I would love to know that my children are growing in maturity. However, I often hear myself saying “You are too old for that kind of behavior” or “When are you ever going to learn?” or “You are acting like a 2-year-old!” I am a mess of a parent who is trying to (and needs to) grow up, too, so you’d think I would be extending more grace to the hearer. What I really desire is that my children would not carry their babyhood into their futures.

I have seen extreme babyhood continue to play out in adult lives. This self-focus, whether in adults or children, inhibits outward vision, outward action, and grows people up who are concerned only with their own needs being met or with being entertained and coddled. Where are the people who think of others first and love when it hurts and stick it out when things get tough? Where are the true adults? Is there anyone we can learn from?

The Word of God is full of the real history of people either living out an extended babyhood or living as strong, mature men and women of God. Consider Jezebel compared to Sarah: Jezebel strongly demanding—Sarah strongly submitting, even when it hurt. How about Saul compared to David? One lacked self-control; the other put himself under God’s control. When they sinned (and they both did), the immature one made excuses, but the mature one repented. What about the wise man versus the foolish man in Proverbs? Obviously, we would be wise to do the opposite of the foolish man, but so many times I act foolishly. So just how do I raise my children in maturity?

The answer is found in another Biblical personality—Jesus. We should look at how Jesus grew and then copy Him, since a truly mature person will make it one of his goals in life to be like Christ. This is what the Bible says about how Jesus grew:

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. . . . And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them . . . . And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” Luke 2:40-52).

In this passage we find five wonderful and extremely important goals to have for our own children. Let’s pull out some of those phrases and look a little closer:

1. Jesus Grew and Waxed Strong in Spirit

Jesus was strengthened in spirit as He grew. As our kids grow, we really want them to be strong in spirit and mind, too, and what better place to do that than in our own home? So many anxieties and problems arise when our children are placed where their minds and spirits are confined or attacked or defiled. To have a child be able to “wax strong” in spirit and mind, is to have a child who is free to explore his world while getting to know His Creator and learn His wisdom in all areas, including academics. By the time Jesus was 12, He knew the academics required of teachers of the Law to the point that even they were amazed. I have felt that same kind of amazement as I have met some of these very young homeschooled children and seen wisdom beyond their years and beyond their peers.