Last time, we looked at Proverbs 10:4, which reads, “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” Applying the principle found in this verse to parenting, we learned that successful parents must be diligent in training their children. Parenting with a “diligent hand” produces the wonderful riches of upright, charactered children, while parenting with a “slack hand” produces the reverse.
In Part 1, we looked at how diligent parents must:
• Start early. The work of diligent parenting doesn’t start after a child reaches a certain age. Instead, it needs to start as soon as a child is born. In fact, in some respects, it actually needs to begin before a child is born.
• Build good habits. The human soul is designed by God to be able to set itself into patterns of regular conduct, so diligent parents must work to train their children in good, positive habits. Somebody has defined character as “doing right until it becomes a habit.”
• Determine the path. When Proverbs 22:6 exhorts us to “Train up a child in the way he should go,” we need to determine to put our children on the right path. Parents who simply try to restrain their children from doing wrong are not as likely to raise good, Godly children as those who actively put their children on the right path. Why? Because Godliness is primarily positive, not negative. Some people think there are many paths a child could take and be all right, but the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go.”
• Keep them on the right path. The right way is a narrow way, and parents must always be alert and watchful. Satan is continually using pressure and deceit from all kinds of sources to get your children off the right path. If you turn your back for a moment, your child will take him or herself off the right path without you doing anything. As parents, it is our responsibility to keep our children on the right path until such time as they’re strong and mature enough to keep themselves on the path. (Incidentally, many parents wrongly assume that their children are mature enough to stay on the right path well before they’re actually prepared to do so. Discernment is needed here.)
Today, I’d like to look at the question, “How and why do Christian parents let their children get off the right path? And how can diligent parents help keep their children on the right path?”
As we look around today, we see many Christian parents losing their children. Why does this happen? It does not usually happen because parents give their children permission to do wrong when they ask to do something the parent obviously does not want them to do. Instead, it is usually because the child does something wrong and the parent finds out about it, but just lets it go. The child gets off the right path, and when the parents do not speak up, the very fact that they let the wrong go is permission in itself. The child is then left to himself. Remember that “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 29:15).
Rebels in good families do not become rebels all at once. The parents let one area slip a little, and then another area slips and then another, and before you know it, you have a full-blown rebel on your hands who has totally left the happy, joyful path of serving the Lord.
The diligent parent cannot let disrespectfulness, bad friendships, laziness, stubbornness, or disobedience slip by. They can’t let it happen. Parents must not let their children off the right way for any reason.
Several years ago, one of my girls wanted to go to a friend’s house one Sunday afternoon. She asked her mom, who in turn wanted to know what I had said. Our daughter answered, “Dad said it was fine.” My wife then gave her consent. Later, when we were getting in the van after church that morning, I asked my wife where the missing daughter was. She said, “She went to her friend’s house. She said you gave her permission.” In reality, I hadn’t given her permission; instead, I had told her that her chores had to be done first—but they hadn’t been done yet.
At this point it would have been much easier to have a slack hand and just let her go. But it would not have been best for her. We didn’t drive home. Instead, we drove 12 miles in the opposite direction, pulled in the driveway, and there she was. Talk about a shocked look on her face! We picked her up and drove home. To this day, she clearly remembers that Dad came after her. Why? She tried to sneak off the right path and got caught. If we had allowed her to get by once, she would have known that she could get by again.
We do not lose our children to the world because of strictness that we should have loosened up. We lose our children because of the looseness we should have made stricter. We lose our children not because of high standards, but because we do not have their hearts closely enough to institute and keep the right standards.
Probably the number one reason good, Godly parents lose their children is that the parents violate Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” They get angry at the child, and that creates anger in the child. As a result, they lose the child’s heart.
What are some of the other influences that can take a child off the right path?
Parents say, “Well, I just love my son too much to discipline him.” I’d like to suggest to you that that’s not really love—it’s emotionalism, and it spoils children. Your children need to feel Dad and Mom’s love, care, and protection at all times. But it is dangerous for you to spoil a child to the point that he does not feel the consequences of his own wrong attitudes or actions.
Real love makes a child do right. No matter what, it makes a child do right. It provides the diligent hand that says, “You have got to do this. I love you. You have got to do this.”
Personal Weakness and Failure
Some parents say, “Well, you know, I drank [or smoked, or caroused, or whatever], so I don’t feel like I can tell my child not to.” Your past is all the more reason to tell your children “No!”
Your kids don’t need to know all the details of your own past failures, and there are some things your children will probably be better off never finding out about. But do not let your failures be an excuse for your children to do wrong. Let your failures be a reason for your children to do right.
Every parent has one of two good reasons to make sure his children stay on the right path. Either you can look at your child and say, “I did right, so can you,” or you can look at your child and say, “I did wrong, and I know how bad it is, so I’m not going to let you go the same way I did.”
Extended Family Members
Someone told me about a 5-year-old boy who was taking a reading readiness test. He used filthy language to his teacher right in the middle of it. The person telling me the story said that the boy had been around his grandfather, who had a terribly filthy mouth.
If you have good, godly grandparents and other relatives who support the rules and standards of your family rather than undermining them, thank God. But if you do not, be careful. As sad as it is, extended family members can be some of the most dangerous influences on your children. In fact, you may not be able to let your children visit them alone. Even if the relatives are well-meaning, they can still have a damaging effect on your children if they do not hold the same standards that your family holds.
This is a big one. Biblically speaking, a friend is a shepherd who cares for you, guides you, and feeds you. That is true whether your friend is a right friend or a wrong friend.
A right friend will guide you the right way. A wrong friend will guide you the wrong way. The Bible is very clear in stating and illustrating the power and the destructiveness of wrong friends.
Because of the innate need in the human heart for friendship, parents will sometimes let their children have a friend even if he or she is a wrong friend. I want to tell you: Friendship is so powerful that if you even think that your child has a wrong friend, you would be wise to have the diligent hand that reaches out and pulls your child back on the right path, regardless of whether they like or understand what you’re doing.
One of the most foolish and destructive things parents can ever do is to let their child get off the right way in order to have a friend. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 28:7 tells us, “Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.”
For Christian families, where are the main areas where the children are likely to form friendships? Church services and activities, the neighborhood, and extracurricular activities, such as sports, hobbies or special classes, are all potential areas. Some of these things may be truly beneficial in some ways, but the more involved your children are in these things, the more diligent your hand has to be to know what is going on in the lives of your children. Anytime you see your child forming a wrong friendship, you have to do anything necessary to stop it.
“But it’s hard.” That’s why you have to be diligent. “But my hand is tired.” That is why you have to be diligent. “My child will be displeased and upset, and other people may get upset.” That is why you have to be diligent.
My wife and I were blessed with four daughters. They were and are the delight of our lives. And now their husbands and children are an equally great delight to us. But we learned that God made our girls with different strengths and weaknesses, and we had to study them to know what those strengths and weaknesses were.
Frankly, there were times even in the church where I’m the pastor that I could not let one of my girls out of my sight. She always had to be in my sight, and if she got out of my sight, I had to go looking for her. Other parents didn’t understand it, and we were criticized for doing what we did, but I’m still glad we did it. My only regret at this point is that I didn’t do it even more diligently than I did.
Parents, have a diligent hand that protects your children from wrong friendships at all times in all places. If your child has formed a friendship anywhere that is a wrong friendship, and you cannot be there with your child, you will probably have to pull your child out of that activity until you can be there so that you can get them back on the right path. Do anything you have to do to make sure your child does not let a friend pull him or her off the right path.
The Bible warns, “Love not the world.”
The problem is this: It’s easy to love the world. There are parents who, by seeking popularity for their children, will let them go off the right path. That is nothing more than love of the world. They want their child to be known among the “in crowd,” whoever that is.
The world has a powerful attraction and is highly addictive. You have to guard your children against the influences of the world.
The Boyfriend/Girlfriend Game
I call it a “game” because when young people who are not ready for marriage start playing with each other’s emotions, it becomes a deadly, self-destructive, and family-destroying game that almost always takes the young people off the right path.
I have talked to several pastors in the last few months, and they have told me, “There are more young people being destroyed by the boyfriend/girlfriend game in our churches than by any other thing we know of.”
Paul gave the principles for purity and happiness in II Corinthians 11:2 when he said, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” The meaning is, “A pure maiden saves her love for one man only.”
Twenty years ago, we thought the boyfriend/girlfriend game was normal. It was destroying lives all around us, but we just thought it was part of our culture and didn’t really know what else to do.
I remember a godly father in our church who had a daughter who started liking a young man. The father watched it and didn’t try to stop it. After all, it was normal. Then the father saw some character flaws in the young man’s life. He became alarmed. His diligent hand went to work. He talked to his daughter. He pulled her away from that young man. He did anything he had to do for his daughter. That was over 20 years ago. That daughter is now married, faithfully serving God with her husband and children. The young man has been out of church for years, and I believe he has had two failed marriages. I wish both had been rescued, but at least the hand of a diligent father saved his daughter’s life.
A diligent hand in parenting produces the inestimable riches of character and virtue in our children. That’s why it is so foundationally important for parents to be both vigilant and diligent in raising their children. There are so many influences that would try to pull our children off the right path that we must be always watchful, ready and willing to do whatever we need to do to keep our children traveling down the right path. May God help us as we diligently seek to keep our children in the right way.
Dr. S. M. Davis has been the pastor of Park Meadows Baptist Church for 33 years. He and his wife, Rae Jean, have been married for 39 years and have four children and 11 grandchildren. He also speaks widely in churches and at homeschool conventions on family-related issues. For more information about his ministry, visit www.SolveFamilyProblems.com or call 800-500-8853.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally preached as a sermon by Dr. S. M. Davis and is specially edited and adapted for publication in Home School Enrichment Magazine.
This article was originally published in the Sep/Oct ’08 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more great homeschool help, download our FREE report—The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom! Click here to download: http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com/resources/report.htm