“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deut 6:4-9 - NKJV
This week’s principle: Raising children, growing a family, is so much more than instruction, principles, and discipline. Family is the pot in which the growing child cooks until he is ready to face the world.
How to teach your child to respectfully request a modification of your command.
A proper appeal to authority has biblical precedent. Some examples are Daniel’s appeal to his trainers/captors, Abraham who appealed to God regarding destruction of Sodom, and Paul who appealed to Caesar and later to Philemon regarding Onesimus.
The appeal process is when your child respectfully requests a change in their instruction for a legitimate reason. It differs from negotiation in that negotiation does not truly acknowledge the parental authority but instead is a bargaining challenge. The appeal process acknowledges parental authority and its rule in their life. To be in authority and to accept an appeal is to accept that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, and that we are flexible in some issues. We are not always fully informed in our decision-making and commands.
In order to not frustrate our children, we must consider other factors of which they are aware—and we may not be. For instance, it is normally not caring to force a child to prematurely stop something that is about to end naturally and deprive them of that ending—a game, a TV program or movie, etc. This might lead to exasperation. An appeal is a reasonable way to allow the child to express his desire and request grace. It should simply be a way for the child to give information of which we may not be aware.
In order to initiate the appeal, the child must speak. It is simply a question, asked respectfully—“May I appeal?” The parent may respond “yes” and allow the child to give further information in order to gain a change in instruction, or “no”, and the child must simply obey as usual. Reasons for this are below. The appeal process may be misused. Several guidelines will prevent this.
Teaching the child the process is essentially what we did here—sit them down and explain the process, give some examples, and help/teach them through the first few attempts. It is based on trust; if your child gives you reason to mistrust, it may need to be withdrawn for a period of time and approached again later.
“No man on his death bed ever looked up into the eyes of his family and friends and said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” —Unknown
“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” —George Moore
Our current culture and society has done much to break down the traditional family. (It may be argued that this is because of anti-Christian sentiment.) Our government and laws encourage immoral and anti-family behaviors. This is something outside the course of our study, but teaching right morals, right family interaction, and right living in society are our duties—they will not be done in schools or work. Just as we began the course reading Deuteronomy, we must be teaching our children at all times, in all ways, about all things.
Family is the mortar that holds society together, its most basic unit. (It is truly a small church for the Christian family.) Family are those who stay beside us all of our lives (sometimes whether we like it or not!). In order to have a close family, knit together by love, it takes work and effort. Our tendency is to be lazy and assume that family closeness will simply happen. It won’t. However, most of this “work” is very pleasant to do. It often takes creativity and conscious effort to build the family in ways that are exciting, interesting, and fun. It is the parent’s responsibility to build the family as the child grows, certainly not the child’s.
Growing a child consists of gradually releasing responsibility as they are able to carry it. It should not happen too late or too early, but little by little, and not half-heartedly, but in full. The final goal of parenting is that your child becomes one of your closest friends as they become a responsible, independent, moral –hopefully godly—adult. Your job is to raise a person fully independent of you; they will leave home—that is your job.
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” —Hodding Carter, Jr.
“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” —Frank A. Clark
Here are several suggestions regarding family building:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Eph 5:15 - NASU
Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom. Ps 90:12 - NLT
Time is arguably our most precious and useful resource. Obviously, it is irreplaceable. How you spend your time teaches your children how to spend their time. Our children must be taught the value of hard work and how to use idle time. We are called to “work as unto the Lord” in all things, not to be lazy or waste time.
Because of laziness the building decays, And through idleness of hands the house leaks. Ecc 10:18 - NKJV
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 2 Th 3:11 - NASU
Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Col 4:5 - NLT
Family meals. We have found, and studies have also proven, that daily family meals are one of the best ways to maintain a vibrant and communicative family. We are called to break bread together as believers, and sharing meals is wonderful in helping us relax, open up, and be ourselves. Some of our best family times are over a meal as evidenced simply by our Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions. Eating home-cooked meals is also one of the best ways to avoid obesity, save money, and enjoy good health. We believe that this should be one of the mainstays of a Christian family, and it should be done as often as possible, even if requiring significant sacrifices. If not being able to cook is an issue, there are many ways to remedy that situation.
Family nights. Many families have dedicated one night a week to a family game night where they play various board or other games, or at least have some group entertainment. This builds fun into family life, encourages more communication, and teaches wholesome entertainment, as well as often making them more intelligent and creative. This dedicated night is harder to maintain as they grow older.
“The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day.” —O. A. Battista
“A “good” thing is not necessarily the “best” thing. Consider moderation in everything (with obvious exceptions).” —Frank Saucier
We have found that one of the biggest problems with our society’s use of time today is poor usage of large chunks of time. This is apparent even in the Christian community. There are many fun and worthwhile uses of ours and our children’s time, but do we really take full inventory of the cost before committing to something? Do we really spend our time in ways that glorify God and build our children and family the best? While every believer is indwelt with the Holy Spirit and makes their own decisions, we feel that all of us—some more than others—do not truly consider and pray about how we spend our time before we launch into something very time consuming. For instance, there is nothing wrong with your child playing rec soccer, Little League baseball, karate, dance, etc., but do we really count the cost before committing? While we have allowed and encouraged our children to play recreational soccer, we did not let them play “travel soccer” which requires much more time and travel, taking time away from the family. Admittedly, some children will grow up to be a professional athlete and serve God well in that role, but most of our children will never even play college ball nor receive a scholarship based on sports. We have seen many talented athlete children who are so burnt out on their sport that they give it up entirely in or right after high school. Travel and/or very competitive sports require large chunks of time which may be good usage, but maybe not the best usage of their and your time. We would venture that that time might be spent better in other ways. Why not some sports and more time spent in more family building events? Do we want to be exclusionist? Certainly not. But we must have proper priorities, and we will be accountable for how we spend our time.
Pray about how your family spends its time! Consider other alternatives. Do not allow your child to do something because everyone else is. All good things are not the best thing! We cannot do it all.
Events Read Joshua 4:5-9.
Our family loves to look back at major family times as they grew up. The precedent for this is as above. We should create “monuments” or special times of remembrance which will give our family identity and consistency as they grow which create special memories for future enjoyment.
Traditions. One obvious way is family traditions, most of which are associated with holidays. Having specific and consistent family traditions at birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and July 4th add to pleasure, anticipation, and consistency of those family times.
Vacations/Travel. We have found great enjoyment from times away from home with family, normally as vacation. Times away help us to relax, do things (like play) as a family for which we often don’t find time in day-to-day living. A new environment adds excitement; new places add to our knowledge of history and people. It also gets us all away from the daily drains on our time/attention (friends, phone calls, internet stuff, work around the house, even TV’s and computer/video games).
We choose to budget and save money every year for time away on vacation. We see this as money, time, and effort well spent as the memories created and relationships enhanced are worth every penny. Vacations don’t have to be expensive, just special and different from “normal times”.
Rites of passage. Certain “rites of passage” are automatic, like graduation from high school or marriage, but others have fallen out of favor by our current society. We have found value in “coming of age” ceremonies which bring attention and acknowledge that the child is growing into a man or woman. There are books, such as Raising a Modern Day Knight by Lewis, which help you understand and plan these events. Our children need to know that they are becoming adults and are expected to act as such.
“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” —Abigail Van Buren
“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” —Booker T. Washington
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Co 15:33 - NASU
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Pr 13:20 - NIV
Read Proverbs 1:8-19 on your own (Not befriending evil persons or fools)
Who is investing time into your children? Are baby-sitters and caretakers spending more time with them than family? While there are times when it may be necessary to leave the children for long periods of time with someone outside the family, it is not ideal nor, we think, biblical to do so. We would argue that one parent, whenever possible and barring tragedy, should care for the children on a day-to-day basis. This may mean that parents work opposite shifts (which we also do not advocate long-term) or learn to live on much less income in order to raise a family. We all recognize that material goods will not bring happiness, but this should be put into practice in life. Clearly, single parents must do the best that they can regarding time with kids.
Strong relationships with extended family can be very beneficial as they give more identity to your family itself. Grandparents are potentially a special a source of wisdom and love for your children.
Watch closely with whom you allow your children to spend time. As they grow older, their friends will have more and more input into their thinking and behaviors. While you cannot completely monitor and control your children’s friendships, you can discourage bad ones and encourage good ones, as well as teach why some friendships should be minimal or distant. Try to keep your children involved with godly groups of teenagers like youth groups.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. Jas 1:22 - NASU
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” I say, “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.” Jas 2:18 - NLT
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. Jas 4:17 - NLT
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Lk 12:48b - NASU
It is so discouraging to see children of godly people grow up with no relationship to God at all. We see this often in the church. We know that God is sovereign, that He saves, and not us, that we cannot, no matter what we do, save our children—but it still hurts. We believe that one of the best ways to help your children see God in daily life is to see you, their parents, involved in active ministry. I know that our children benefitted from our growing, living, and working in China when they were young, but it is not necessary to live overseas. Be missionaries wherever you live! Be involved in all sorts of ministries which match your personal interests, time, and gifts. We have all been given gifts to use, and today’s churches tend to be very lazy and selfish in using them. Actively look for ways to be involved in some ministry at all times.
Devotions. While your children are young, devotions are simple as reading Bible stories each night is educational and entertaining. Meal times are also opportunities where the family is gathered, and reading scripture can be a healthy and godly tradition. The earlier these are started, the less grumbling you will get from your kids. The power of reading scripture cannot be overestimated. You must do this. As they get older, have them pick verses of scripture to share which have significance to them. (Don’t criticize their choice!)
Pray before leaving the house. Pray when dad goes to work. Pray when you drop your kids at school. Pray without ceasing! Help your children to learn that prayer can be a constant thing, not super-sophisticated and strenuous. Teach them—and yourself—to simply talk to God throughout the day.
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. Isa 55:11 - NKJV
… and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 - ESV