• The shoes you must replace today will go on sale next week.
• The chances of a piece of bread falling with the jelly side down are directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
• The garbage truck will be two doors past your house when your teen remembers it’s his turn to take out the trash.
• The shirt your child must wear today will be the only one that needs to be washed or mended.
• The item your child lost, and must have for school within the next ten seconds, will be found in the last place you think to look.
• Sick children recover miraculously when the doctor enters the treatment room.
• Your chances of being seen by someone you know dramatically increase if you drive your child to school without fixing your hair.
One pastor tells the following story: “My wife was busy one evening pursuing her hobby of making porcelain dolls at a doll-making class, leaving me at home to watch our two children, Melinda, age seven, and Craig, age five. While I was chatting with a neighbor on the front porch, the phone rang. I was proud to hear Craig answer the phone promptly and politely. My pride vanished as I heard my son’s response to the caller’s request to speak to my wife: ‘No, my mom’s not here. She’s out making a baby. But my dad is here if you want to talk to him.’ Naturally, the phone call was from one of the elders of our church!” (Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, p. 35).
John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester said, “Before I was married I had three theories about raising children. Now I have three children and no theories.” We’re all experts on parenting until we become parents. Then we realize it’s not as easy as we thought.
God values families:
• When God created Adam and Eve, He brought then together as husband and wife and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, to create a family.
• When God gave the Ten Commandments, He put the command to honor one’s parents right in the middle (fifth).
• When God sent His one and only Son to earth, He put Him into a human family with a mother and a father.
• When God chose from all the names and relationships in our human vocabulary to describe Himself, He chose the title “Father.”
• When families fail, God steps in. Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
Let me make one statement before I begin: I do not claim to be a perfect parent.
Three necessities your children shouldn’t live without:
1. YOUR LOVE
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
A paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 for parents: “If I offer the best parental advice, but have not love, I am only a two-year-old banging on a dishpan. If I read every book on parenting, and if I attend every parenting conference, but have not love, I am nothing. If I spend all my salary to provide the best for my children, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
John Lennon wrote a song called “Love.” In it he said,
Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved
But listen to what Lennon’s son, Julian Lennon, said about his father: “I felt he was a hypocrite. Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world, but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family
in bits and pieces—no communication, adultery, divorce? You can’t do it, not if you’re being true and honest with yourself” (Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, p. 89).
Ninety-nine percent of parents will say that they love their children (I’m sure John Lennon would have said he loved his son), but love is more than a feeling; love is an action. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16a). God showed that He loves us by His action of giving His Son for us.
Are our children seeing loving actions in our homes? Dan Benson, in his book The Total Man, surveyed a number of families and found that for every positive statement made in the homes there were ten negative ones. We have an amazing capacity to be critical. We need to learn to see the positive in our children and to frequently praise their strengths rather than continually harping on their weaknesses. First Corinthians 8:1 says, “Love builds up.”
“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers [the household of faith, KJV]” (Gal. 6:10). We can apply this verse to our families, our households.
Not only do children need to see that their parents love them, they also need to see that their parents love each other (if they live in a two-parent home). One of the best things you can do for your children is love your husband or wife. Children might get grossed out when they see their parents kiss, but they are much happier when they know their parents are in love.
Do your children (grandchildren, nieces, nephews) see by your actions that you love them?
2. YOUR TIME
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). I don’t need to tell you that “the days are evil.” These are dangerous times for children. And today, more than ever, parents need to spend time with their children.
In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putman says the following statistics are indicators of the decline in community life in [North] America over the past 25 years: Attending club meetings: down 58%; family dinners: down 33%; having friends over: down 45% (Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, pp. 44-45). It seems we have no time for relationships these days, including family relationships.
Why are our children in so much trouble? One reason: They spend much more time in front of the TV or computer or with friends of poor character than they do with their parents. Our children need our presence more than our presents.
Let me ask you a multiple choice question: What’s the only thing you can take to heaven with you? A. Your house, B. Your money, C. Your job, D. Your child. The answer? Your child (if he or she commits his or her life to Christ). I can’t think of a greater responsibility for a parent than to do all he or she can to lead a child to Christ and train him or her to serve Him.
We can usually make time for what we really want to do. Spending time with our children needs to be made a priority. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
You only have a limited amount of time to be a positive influence in the lives of your children. Are you making the most of every opportunity?
3. YOUR DISCIPLINE
Pediatricians and psychologists are finding today’s parents are too permissive. They are reluctant to set limits for their children. And this parental neglect is harming kids from the ages of nine months to adolescence.
Karen Stabiner writes in the New York Times: “It seems that the parents of today’s parents, those strict disciplinarians of the 1950s and early ‘60s, may have been right all along: father and mother did know best….”
Nancy Samalin, a parent educator in New York City, sees both single-parent and two-parent families as overwhelmed. She says, “Parents want their children to love them, and it’s harder to say no than yes, especially if you’ve been working all day and you’re tired.”
Revetta Bowers heads the Center for Early Education in Los Angeles. She says schools are replacing parents. “Schools now make rules, which in many instances are the only rules that are not open to arbitration or negotiation. What children really need is guidance and love and support. We expect them to act more and more like adults, while we act more and more like children. Then, when we’re ready to act like parents, they bristle at the retaking of authority” (Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, p. 33).
I’m not going to tell you the form that your discipline should take. I want to stress one point: Children need discipline.
A kindergarten in one town sat right on a corner by a busy highway. Although the school had a nice yard in which the children could play, at recess they would huddle right up against the building. The cars speeding by frightened them. One day, workmen erected a steel fence around the school yard. From that point on, the children used the entire playground. The fence did not limit their freedom; it actually expanded it. Children need fences, for they feel more secure having the discipline of clear boundaries (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, pp. 592-593).
Discipline must always be motivated by and exercised in love. “My son, do not despise the LORD’S discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Pr. 3:11-12). Withholding discipline is not love.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Pr. 13:24). The “rod” is probably a figure of speech for discipline of any kind.
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death” (Pr. 19:18).
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Pr. 22:15).
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (Pr. 23:13-14).
“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Pr. 29:15
Adonijah is a biblical example of someone who lacked discipline in his life and became a disgrace to his mother and father. We read in 1 Kings 1:5-6, “Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (His father [David] had never interfered with him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)” David had another troubled son named Absalom. He was negligent in disciplining his sons and he reaped heartache.
“Fathers [and mothers], do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). “Exasperate” means “to make somebody very angry or frustrated, often by repeatedly doing something annoying.” The King James Version says, “Do not provoke your children to wrath.” Colossians 3:21 is similar: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Discipline must be exercised in such a way as to lead children to respect their parents. It must not be done in anger or frustration, inconsistent, unreasonable, excessive, etc.
Are you setting proper boundaries for your children? When those boundaries are broken, are you disciplining them in love?
You can give your children all sorts of nice things, but what they need most is your love, time, and discipline.