by Jimmy Evans Through the process of raising our children, Karen and I have learned a lot about being parents. Although we have done some important things right, we also know we have made some mistakes. In this article, I will discuss some important Biblical foundations for parenting and disciplining children, as well as some things my wife and I have learned, and are still learning, about how to be Godly parents.
Our children are given to us by God as precious gifts to bring pleasure into our lives, but this will happen only if we are proper stewards over them. Next to our relationship with God and our spouse, our children should be the most important priorities in our lives. They require and deserve much time, love, and attention from both parents.
When we give it to them, we invest wisely. They bless our lives and grow to be responsible adults of which we can be proud. But when we fail to love our children and meet their needs properly, they can become major problems, as well as threats to our marriages.
To understand the Biblical basis for parenting and the skills required to rear children properly, one must understand the four major needs of a child that only God can completely satisfy: Acceptance, Identity, Security, and Purpose.
These needs of children are the same as the needs of adults with one major difference. As adults, we are able to establish a personal relationship with Jesus and our spouses in order to find the deep, inner satisfaction that we need.
Although our children may accept Christ and love Him at a young age, during the first eighteen years of their lives, having their needs met is largely dependent upon us. In fact, for our young children, we are like God to them. We are their protectors and providers. We are the lovers of their souls and their judges. Therefore, as parents, we must understand the critical roles we play in meeting our children's four deepest needs.
For meeting these needs, the goal should be to slowly wean them from our care and usher them into the arms of God. Whether we realize it or not, that is our real purpose as parents. We must realize that a child's understanding of Who God is and what He is like is most influenced by the characters of his parents and the parents' treatment of the child. When parents demonstrate a balance of love and truth to a child throughout his young life and invest themselves faithfully in the development of that child, it will be easy for that child to understand and accept the Lord. But when a parent is absent, rejecting, cruel, abusive, and/or weak, the child will not have its needs met an will have a more difficult time understanding and accepting God.
Consequently, the two-fold purpose of each parent is to: 1.Usher the child into an understanding and accepting of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and 2.Meet the four basic needs of the child.
Parents can measure "success" by these two standards. When a child is grown and ready to leave home, the parents should be able to say two things: "We have done everything we could to reveal the love and nature of God to our child and to lead him or her to Jesus," and " We have met every major need in our child's life in a faithful and sacrificial manner."
If parents can truthfully make those two statements, they have been Godly parents.
In leading our children to the Lord, the best thing we can do is love God and live life that is pleasing to Him. Children observe and learn more than they are taught by parents. They are much more influenced by who we are and what we do than by what we say or teach. Therefore, parents who try to legislate love for God or religious beliefs for their children (beliefs which they themselves are not willing to live out in front of the children) are not parenting properly or providing the role model their children need.
Parents who live what they believe, to the best of their ability, are doing the best possible thing to train their child or children properly. The parent's personal habits, attitudes, language, friends, church participation, and marriage relationship all have profound impact on a child. To reinforce this truth, think about how your parent's values, beliefs, and behavior have impacted your life and understanding of God.
Throughout the lives of our children, as we endeavor to model and educate them into the love and acceptance of the Lord, we must likewise endeavor to meet four major needs.
How to Meet the Four Major Needs of a Child
From the very first moments of life, a child begins to sense the nature of the environment around him. Parents and pediatricians alike are learning the importance of providing a proper environment from the moment of birth. Not only can an infant sense the nature of its surroundings, but each person can throughout his or her entire life.
We all have a deep need to be accepted. Acceptance enhances our sense of self-worth and belonging and causes us to feel safe and secure. When we do not feel acceptance and experience rejection, we feel insecure, detached, and a sense of aloneness and vulnerability is heightened.
Consequently, parents must do everything possible to demonstrate love and acceptance to a child from birth by communicating to their child in five major ways:
Physical affection. Young and older children alike need to be touched and held by both parents. We never outgrow the need for such physical affection. When parents regularly touch and hold their children warmly, acceptance is communicated to them in a powerful way.
The opposite is true when affection is lacking. The less parents touch and hold their children, the more emotionally detached and rejected their children are likely to feel.
Verbal affirmation. All children need to be praised and complimented throughout their lives. They need to hear their parents say they love them every day. When children are placed in an atmosphere of praise and verbal affirmation, they bond to their parents and grow up believing in themselves. However, when there is an atmosphere of quietness or criticism, children will sense a lack of acceptance.
Availability. A lot is being said and written about spending "quality time" with children. Although I agree that the time we spend with our children should be "quality" time, I know that children also need large quantities of time around their parents, especially when they are younger. Parents who spend time too much time at work, at church, with friends, or doing other things leave their children felling alone and unimportant.
Expression. Every child needs a sense of belonging and a sense of identity and individual expression. A healthy person has a balanced sense of who he is and to whom he belongs. An unhealthy person feels a lack of belonging and/or a lack of identity.
Therefore, as parents, we need to let our children know we respect their feelings, opinions, and individuality. Although we must teach our children to obey us and to confirm to certain standards, we must not overwhelm their individual identities with our own opinions or dominant personalities.
Parents who try to overcontrol a child's life or make that child into something they want him to be are harming the child. Although parents should lead a child in the right direction, they should also give the child room to be an individual and to make certain personal choices.
As a child gets older, this freedom must increase until finally one day that child in on his own, knowing who they are, and also knowing they belong to someone who loves them deeply.
From the moment of birth children need to feel acceptance from their parents. Parents' acceptance of their children includes physical affection, verbal affirmation, availability, and a freedom for the child to express themselves in healthy ways. As a child grows, he must develop a sense of who he is and a knowing that he belongs to someone who loves him deeply.
Second Basic Need: Identity
All of us have a deep need to feel unique and significant. Parents begin to communicate this sense of identity to their children by letting them know how special they are. A child should not be compared to brothers or sisters or made to overly conform to the family system. Rather, a child should be allowed to express himself in an atmosphere of love and order.
I remember one young man who was being emotionally crushed by a father who pushed him throughout his life to be a football player. When the young man resisted, the father browbeat him and tried to make him feel guilty. Although parents sometimes need to make a child do something the parents know is best, they must be careful not to make the child live out their own personal plan for his life.
The older children get, the more their feelings and opinions should dictate the direction of their lives. Children should not be given the freedom to self-destruct, but they should have the right to be who God made them to be and to find themselves within safe parameters and in His will.
Third Basic Need: Security
A child's sense of security is derived chiefly from the stability of his or her parents' lives. Therefore, when a child senses strife in the home, he immediately will feel insecure. Whenever there is financial conflict and pressure, although the parents may not discuss it openly, a child will intuitively sense it and become insecure. Parents need to respect the natural sensitivity and emotional vulnerability of their children.
Even if parents know their disagreements are not going to end in divorce, the children do not need to hear them argue or fuss. They need to see their parents love and serve one another. Therefore, parents should be careful how they live their lives in every area. With careful living by their parents, children will sense that they are safe, and their need for security will be met.
The bottom line is this:
Children feel secure when they are in an atmosphere of stability and love. Parents need to do everything possible to create this type of environment for their children. Children need patient instruction and communication concerning their fears and the things they need to know about life in general. Setting parameters and disciplining them properly also makes them feel secure in the family environment of love.
Fourth Basic Need: Purpose
Even when a child is young, he needs to be taught that God has a special purpose by giving them responsibilities around the house and with the family. Children need to learn to pick up their toys and keep their rooms clean. As they get older, parents should give them increased duties and responsibilities, but should be done in a balanced way.
Balancing responsibilities with the fun and activity children need requires sensitivity on the part of the parents. Children should have time to be children, time for fun and friends, yet they should do their part of the chores around the house. This satisfies a critical need in themselves to feel productive and important.
We also need to encourage our children to serve in the church and the community. Children need to be educated from the Bible about their spiritual giftings and how to use these gifts to help and serve others. From the time our children are young, we need to pray for them to find and fulfill their ministry for God.
No person will ever feel fulfilled or have a true purpose in life until they are fulfilling God's call on their life. Remember, we will not be judged only for the good and bad things we have done, but we have will be judged according to whether or not we have obeyed God's will for our lives.
When a child is taught to be productive and responsible, he is happier and feels he has purpose. However, when a child is allowed to be irresponsible or lazy and is never taught to obey God's will for his life or take responsibility in the family, church, and community, he will be unfulfilled and unhappy.
Therefore, from the time children are young, parents need to give them responsibilities and instructions commensurate with their age and abilities.
Excerpted from Marriage on the Rock by Jimmy Evans.