Becoming A Winning Parent!
Trying to raise little people to become big people is quite a mystery. It is a mystery because in spite of our vast experience from being a child, a parent, or a grandparent, we still can't figure it out. The mystery resides in the fact that every single one of these little people are unique and they do not come with user manuals or instruction booklets. Not only that, but they do not come with a return shipping label! When my oldest son was about 3 1/2 years old, he didn't like the fact that my wife was paying attention to our youngest son who was just an infant. He had an idea: "Mommy, I don't like that baby, send it back!" Sorry son, he didn't come with a return shipping label.
Even though parenting is such a mystery and often leaves us feeling totally inadequate, there is one principle that is found in scripture that will greatly help us become winning parents.
A winning parent encourages the heart!
We often focus on behavior because that is what we see right in front of us. However, a winning parent traces all behavior back to what is unseen in the heart. Behavior modification is important and we need to set boundaries and teach our children for sure. But more importantly, we need to encourage a child's heart by tracing their behavior back to the heart issues that explain "why" they do what they do, good or bad.
Behavior modification will only be effective as long as the conditions that control the behavior are present. When you remove those conditions, the behavior will always give in to the heart. Behavior modification must always include heart transformation. Jesus said...
"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). (See also Mark 7:21-23)
Solomon also knew this far too well as the wisest man on earth in his time. He taught his own son with these words:
"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
Orienting our children to a life of faith in God by tracing behavior back to the heart issues is what a winning parent learns to do. Here are some pointers to get you started.
1. Model a Faithful Heart.
Parents must live what they teach or else your children will not take you seriously. Moses said this before he penned the instructions to teach your children:
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (Deut 6:6)
When a parent models a faithful heart, he or she does so by first tracing their own behavior back to the heart issues and letting their children see it. In other words, the power in a life of faith is revealed to your children when they see you living it.
Winning parents admit their mistakes to their children. Don't be afraid to say, "I handled that wrong, I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"
2. Connect Life to Scripture.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deut 6:7)
This verse not only tells us to teach our children, but it tells us how - throughout the daily course of life. When my children were very young I tried to teach the bible to them. I failed miserably. I learned not to teach the bible to my children. A better way is to teach your children the bible. You do that by something called "teachable moments."
When my oldest son was about 5 years old his bike was stolen. Instead of getting angry and calling down curses on the culprit, my wife and I decided to get together with our son and pray with him for the person who stole the bike. We explained to him that God wants us to pray for our enemies and those who mistreat us. We prayed. Two days later the bike showed up on our front porch. God used that situation to teach us as parents how to connect life with scripture.
Say something like, "God made you beautiful and beautiful children don't bite." "You don't have to be mean because God made you loving and kind, and loving people are not mean to their friends."
You don't have to have chapter and verse memorized. Just orient their hearts to God in language they understand.
3. Make Home Life Attractive.
9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:9)
One of Solomon's great words of wisdom to his son was "...turn your foot away from evil" (Prov 4:27).
The best way to help your children turn from evil is to make your home life attractive through unconditional love and acceptance. The home should be a shelter, a refuge in times of trouble. The home should be a place where children can be vulnerable and wrestle with their fears and weaknesses without judgment. The simple truth is people generally do not run from places where they are loved and accepted.
When your home is attractive, your kids will want to bring their friends over. They will want to hang out at your house rather than run the streets and expose themselves to the evil in the world.
Imagine what our world would be like if parents and teachers began to encourage the heart of our children by orienting them to a life of faith in God. Rules and boundaries are important but they will never be enough.
Keep REACHING FORWARD in your family! You don't have to be perfect to be a winning parent. Model the way, look for teachable moments and create a refuge for your children. It's ok to start over - but start now to encourage the heart!