There are many things I need to learn about parenting. Thankfully I have virtually limitless number of books and websites dedicated to helping me learn how to effectively lead my little ones. Of course we also have the word of God, our only infallible and perfect authority in all matters of faith and practice. But if I had to say what the most important thing is a mother must know in parenting her children it is this: your child is not your own. He or she ultimately belongs to God and he has made us the stewards of that child’s soul.
Our children are gifts meant to be loved, cherished, nurtured, and returned unto the Lord.
How should this affect our parenting?
1. We must be careful with them
My children are little people created in the image of God. He gave them life, value, and infinite worth. Therefore I must treat them carefully. I may not use them as my punching bag or as a place to vent my anger and frustration. Nor are they merely conduits through whom I can fulfill my own failed desires and dreams.
I think of it this way. If I was babysitting my friend’s children I would be careful in how I talked to them and how I treated them. They are in my care, but I must return them to their parents. This should be the same consideration I must give my children. They are his and I must be a faithful and good steward with what he has entrusted to me.
2. We must pray for them
We are called to pray for each other. This includes our children. J.R. Miller says that when we don’t pray for our children we impoverish them. Here are some things we must pray about often.
- That God would give them a new heart filled with a passion for his glory and a love for others.
- That they would grow to be wise
- That God would protect their bodies as well as well their souls
- That he would convict them of their sins, especially the ones they commit against their siblings and parents.
- That God would be the center of our homes and that we would be marked as a family with Christian joy - for his glory and the good of the children he has blessed us with.
3. We must teach them to love and respect God
We spend a lot of time teaching our children that they must respect us. I know this is a lesson I am still working on with my kids. This is important, but it cannot be separated from a child’s need to honor and respect the Lord. Until they see him as their God and as their greatest good, love and respect for the parents he has given them will be weak.
4. We must be godly examples
Timothy tells us to set an example in speech, in life, in faith and in purity (1Tim. 4:12). That is a tall order. I am to be a picture of Christ to those around me, and especially to my children. I am called to show my children the beauty of Jesus through my life--through my care of them! This one bothers me the most because I feel like this is where I fail the most. But a good example doesn’t merely show them a good parent, but a good God who reigns in our lives.
5. We must forget ourselves
We often say that the home should not be child-centered. What happens in many homes, though, is that instead of being child centered it becomes parent-centered and that is just as bad. It is easy to merely command our kids, to say “no” to their requests because we are selfish. Parents, and I in particular, sometimes want things to go our way.
What needs to be remembered is the importance of forgetting oneself in order to make much of Christ. This means putting the glory of God above our own glory, putting the interests of others in front of our own, loving with gentleness a member of the home who is being unlovely. This is what it means to deny ourselves in our following of our Savior.
The most important thing I need to remember in my parenting is the truth that my children ultimately belong to the Lord. To forget this truth is to break the 8th commandment, robbing our children of the proper care they need.
I can tell you straight up that I fail. I lash out at my children when I should be self controlled. I can speak unkindly when I should be loving, push them away in order to to feed my own selfish desires, and deny their requests because I do not want to serve.
Thankfully God has not left me alone or without hope. Parenting will push us to the brink of exhaustion, but I must remember the children God has placed in my home are his, and he has given me charge over them, and grace to care for them. Since becoming a mom I see much more clearly my need of my savior, how deep my sin runs, and how gracious and good God is to me. As one who knows my heavenly father and his care for me, I am led to to live and to parent, differently. My desire is for my kids to see Jesus in me as I lead them.