Over the past 35+ years of pastoring International Family Church, Jonathan and I have been asked hundreds of questions about parenting children of all ages. We have always tried to be as open as possible about our struggles and mistakes so that you could learn from them and grow and see your family strengthened. God wants you to enjoy your family and enjoy the journey of all the stages and ages of your children.
I want to share with you what we call “Anointed Nuggets for Parents.” These are some of the lessons we have learned on our journey as parents; now that we are the grandparents of five grandchildren, I think we may be getting the hang of it!
1. Identify who the most important people in your life are and let them know it and definitely show it!
Don’t let life pass you by without giving value and attention to those who are really important to you. Some day when we stand before Jesus, we will give account of our stewardship over our relationships with the people we live with.
2. If you desire to have an intimate relationship with your children, start talking and listening to them when they are toddlers.
It is important to stop what you are doing, listen, and look at them when they are addressing you. By giving them your full attention, you are saying that, at that moment, they are the most important people in the world to you. If you have older children, don’t be combative in your communication with them – remember, you are supposed to be the adult!
3. Kids of any age love to be home when home is a fun place to be!
Make your home “the place” to be. We have always tried to make our home the “hub” of all the action. It was a lot of work for us – especially once Jonathan and Lori Ann became teenagers - but if they wanted their friends to be at our house, then we welcomed it. We went through a lot of pizza during those years, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything! Our kids were home most of the time, their friends were at our house, and we were able to observe their friends without them really knowing how closely we were watching.
It is important to play with your children, be spontaneous, have fun and most important of all – shut the TV off!
4. “It’s 9 pm – do you know where your children are?”
I remember that commercial on TV when I was a child. It would air on Friday evenings after the Friday night movie. I was usually in our den watching TV with my parents and they knew exactly where I was!
Please take an active role in your child’s life. I am amazed by the parents I talk to who don’t have any idea where their children are or who they are with at all times. They allow their children to spend the night at the homes of friends whose parents they have never even met. Be actively involved in the life of your children right through their teenage years.
5. Know Your Child!
How well do you know your child? Do you know their favorite color, their favorite food, their most favorite thing to do? Have you had conversations with them about God’s plan for their life and what their passions are? Know your child – believe in your child – they need your vote of confidence.
6. Ask yourself, “Who is raising my children?”
Are you actively involved in raising your children, or is the TV, or a video, or a babysitter, or the Day-Care Center, or the school who is raising them? It is not even the church’s responsibility to raise your children – it is your responsibility! God wants you, their parents, to be the greatest influence in their lives. Children are moldable pieces of clay and will turn out however your hands shape them. Raise your children according to the Word of God and you will enjoy the fruit of your labor.
7. Please consider your entire family when you decide to relocate.
Over the past 40+ years in ministry, we have observed many, many people make decisions about moving without regarding their family and how a move may affect them. Of course when making any decision, prayer is the key to staying in the plan of God for your life. Don’t make relocation decisions solely based on more money, a cheaper cost of living, a warmer climate or even because of proximity to extended family.
Have you asked God what He thinks about it? Have you asked your children how they would feel? Most important of all, have you found a good, Spirit-filled church to plant your family in? Be led by the Spirit in everything you do!
8. Do your best to have a weekly family day.
It is so vital to make family time a priority in your schedule. Your spouse and children need to know, next to Jesus, they are the most important people in your life. For them, it is spelled, T-I-M-E.
Try to have consistent family time each week with just your family. It is not about spending a lot of money, it is about being together. Play games, have a special meal together, do things they like to do – just be consistent and protective about your time together as a family. Personally, I never considered watching a movie “family time.” If there wasn’t interaction and conversation, it wasn’t family time to me!
9. Forgive your children freely as God has forgiven you.
Just like you embarrassed your parents, your children will most likely do things that embarrass and possibly disappoint you: forgive them. Don’t be judgmental, critical and condemning. Give them the forgiveness that God has given you; extend love and mercy just like God extended it to you.
God never said, “Change and I’ll love you….be perfect and I’ll love you….get all A’s and I’ll love you….perform for me and I’ll love you, be what I want you to be and I’ll love you…” No! God loved us and accepted us while we were in a most unlovely state and He loves us unconditionally – forever!
10. Live life with a grateful heart!
Leave life’s pressures at His feet and be grateful for your children. Make a memory everyday : surprise your children with love notes in their lunches, sneak cards under their pillows, be generous with hugs and kisses every day, speak words of love and praise, and leave lipstick notes on the mirrors!
Thank God for the gift He has given you in your children. He is trusting you to raise them for His purposes and He wants you to enjoy all of the journey. It all passes too quickly!