Raising Happy, Holy Kids in Tumultuous Times
- Updated Mar 30, 2004
If you are like many people, you are already dreading the day when you turn on the TV news and hear about another school shooting. With killings at Columbine, San Diego, and just recently Gary, Indiana . . . we wonder, "When will it ever stop?"
Well, if you are a parent, grandparent, or someone who simply loves kids, this article is for you. And the issue I'd like to start with is simple: How do we build positive values into our children's lives? How do we shape and influence our kids so that the right things happen instead of the wrong things-like school shootings?
Before we dig deeper, however, let me make a disclaimer. There is no one-to-one correlation that says if you raise your children the right way they will turn out well. Our children all have free wills-and they will make their own choices.
Our responsibility as parents, however, is to create an environment that models Christ and shows our kids that God's way is best. And if they want to make bad choices, they will turn away from the powerful reality of what it means to be a Christian. So let me give you three principles to build positive values into your children's lives.
Step #1: Recognize that Your Child's Two Primary Needs Are Significance and Security
To raise happy, holy kids, the first thing you need to do is recognize that your children are always asking two questions. The first question is, "Do you love me?" Children ask this in a million different ways. When they are two or three, they might grab your pant leg and jerk on it. Or they act out. But kids are always asking, in one way or another, "Do you love me? Am I wanted? Do I matter?"
The second question they are always asking is, "Where are the boundaries? Who is in charge here?" And if there is any doubt, they will try to fill that vacuum.
So how do we meet these two basic needs our children have? After all, there are so many distractions-like jobs, finances, and marriage or single-parent issues. But it is possible if we keep these primary needs top of mind. Write them on a 3x5 card and post them on your mirror. Or put them in your purse or wallet. Whatever it takes to help you remember that your kids' need for security and significance is paramount.
Step #2: Build Relationships to Give Your Children Significance
To show your children they are significant, you must build a relationship with them. And the stronger that relationship is, the more likely it is that they will embrace your values and beliefs when they grow older. While this is not a guaranteed formula, it is usually true.
To build strong, loving relationships with your children, there are some great lessons we can learn from the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12. He's writing to a church he had planted, and he uses metaphors of parent/child relationships to express his love and concern for them. First of all, Paul says, "We were like a nursing mother gently caring for you." Then he tells them, "We were like a father, encouraging, exhorting, imploring." Put the two together and you see tender love and tough love.
That's exactly what our children need from us. They need the gentleness and affirmation that mothers are especially good at. But they also need to be nudged, prompted, and disciplined, even when they don't feel like it. That is sometimes tough, but it's done in love so the child can live up to his or her full potential in Christ.
Step #3: Give Your Children Security by Setting Boundaries
Finally, we need to give our children the security they yearn for by setting up clear boundaries. The principle we need to recognize is that your child's primary responsibility is to learn obedience. In all the New Testament, there is only one command for kids-and that is to obey (Eph. 6:1). We need to take this seriously.
If you succeed at this and your children do what you ask, it is an act of obedience to you, but even more to God-because you pointed them to Him. And it can happen.
Just stick to the basics. Recognize that your kids need to feel significant and secure more than anything else. And you can meet those needs by building a relationship of trust where your values are transmitted to your children, and where they know there are boundaries.
Excerpted from the booklet: Five Smooth Stones, by Chip Ingram. Used with permission. Copyright 2002 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.
About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.