It’s hard to believe how time flies. Last year, I saw my middle two children graduate from high school. This week, my youngest finished the eighth grade. Sitting at his eighth grade recognition ceremony, I felt pride and joy. It was a parenting and a teaching win. The majority of this particular group of thirteen students have been together since kindergarten. Each year I hear teachers comment about what a great bunch of kids they are. Last year, I got to teach them for the first time. It was a pleasure. As I sat and watched their social studies teacher give his address to the class, I was impressed that the students sat forward, heads turned to see him better, and listened with eager expressions on their faces. The eighth grade teachers were sad to see this class go, and the high school teachers are excited to get them!
As I thought back on my time with that group of students not just during their recognition ceremony but on their all day field trip the next day, I realized that this special group of kids will bring a lot to the high school.
However, despite their great intelligence, teamwork, and abilities to get along, these kids need more. This need is what every parent longs for. These students need to catch the worldview of their parents.
Today in church, I sat next to my second youngest son as our class discussed the plagues of Egypt. The discussion about the gnats or lice, depending on which translation you use, and the flies led us to discuss why the plagues occurred. They were there so the Egyptians would realize that God is real and the only God. However, they were also there so the Israelites would recognize the power of their God. They were then to pass that on to their children. A question was raised. How well do we pass our faith on to our kids? How do we do it? The class came up with five helpful points.
1. Have your own personal walk with God.
How often have we heard parents say, “Do as I say, not as I do”? This paradox doesn’t work for raising kids to catch their parents worldview. Or maybe it does. The kids latch onto what really is important to the parent. If the parent acts one way on Sunday and lives the rest of the week another way, the kids will pick up on that inconsistency. I remember growing up and seeing my Mom at the kitchen table with her Bible and a cup of coffee. It made an impression on me. Although, it took me a while to get my own time schedule down, I now have a daily time in the Word of God. This time gives me a resource to pass on to my kids. Without having a solid faith, I would have wavered during the month of May when my publisher went out of business and I was left to fend for myself with my books. I wrote about that in my post How to Survive When the Fairytale Turns Dark.
2. Let your child in on the struggles of life.
Way to often parents try to protect their children from the hardships of life. We think the kids are too little to handle knowing we’re struggling making ends meet. When we can be honest with them and share what’s going on and then pray together about it, we can give our kids real experiences to know God and His goodness.
I was in the third grade when I first saw this in action. We had moved from Iowa to Tacoma, Washington. My dad was going to seminary and as with many college students he didn’t have a strong income. He and a fellow student had banded together to create a lawn cleaning service. That all fell apart when on a church roller skating party, Dad bent over to help my friend up. He tripped over her legs and broke his ankle. Now on top of an already tight budget, they had to add an emergency room bill. I remember vividly the day our friends pulled up and opened the back of their station wagon and began unloading grocery bags–not those plastic ones we get now, but real paper bags full of cans, boxes, and packages. We unpacked those sacks with as much joy as if it was Christmas. Then we sat down and thanked God for providing.
Without that memory, years later when I was married and in college and didn’t know what was for dinner–literally had bare cupboards–I wouldn’t have been as ready to trust that something would be provided. When our neighbor showed us a three foot square box that had arrived that day, we questioned where it had come from. But upon opening it, we rejoiced and praised God! It held food for starving college students. It wasn’t until years later, that we realized where the box had come from. All we had to go on was a P. O. Box number. So, at that moment in time, it was God who had provided for our needs.
3. Be honest with your children.
This one is true about a lot of things. Parents think their kids can’t handle the truth, but in reality, it’s the lies children can’t handle. If we lie about one thing, how will they know when we are telling the truth. We need to be honest about what life is like, but also what God is like. This is tough. Say we let our kids in on our struggles and ask them to pray for it. What happens when our prayers are answered with a no? This has the potential to crush our children’s spirits. What about the boy who prays his dad will come home, but no dad ever shows up? That’s when his mom or grandma or grandpa or another wise believer has to come along and explain that not always do we get everything we want or even ask for. God is still good, and He still knows what we need. This is a concept that adults wrestle with. Our kids need to know that we wrestle with our faith, and that God is big enough to handle it.
4. Read the Bible with them.
How will your children have a foundation, if they don’t know what the Bible teaches? There are plenty of kids Bibles and understandable translations out there. It will take just a moment to do a google search and see. A few more minutes of your time and you can do the research to know which one is right for your child.
Other resources are Keys for Kids. This is a devotional book from Children’s Bible Hour. I remember listening to them on the radio when I was five. My kids have enjoyed listening to Down Gilead Lane from Children’s Bible Hour. Another program the kids have listened to over and over is from Focus on the Family. Adventures in Odyssey revolves around a grandpa like character, Mr. Whitaker, who has an ice cream emporium where kids can come and learn about God. Through these free half hour shows, kids learn valuable lessons in what it means to be a believer.
5. Realize that there is a balance between God’s Grace and your child’s free will.
In our class, we heard tales of families where the kids were all raised the same. Now as adults, some of those children are believers and others are going their own way. I’ve seen it in my own family. Kids have a choice to make. However, as parents, we are called into account for our actions in raising them, not for our children’s decisions. This may seem a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. We have to trust God to bring our kids to Him.
I deal with this underlying theme in the Dragon Courage series. As dragon riders, the parents want their kids to become riders. They have to wait and trust that the best will be done for them and their kids. Of course, they’re just characters that I write, but the parents’ emotions are as real as my own desires for my kids.
Duskya was so still beside him, that he wondered if she was okay. Cerulean looked down to see Duskya holding her face in her hands.
“Are you okay?” he asked, his hands gentle as he lifted her face to look at him.
“I don’t know what to say. I have worried for the last five winters that she would never be chosen by a dragon. Now, to know that she can hear them, it is almost too much.”
Cerulean took her hand. “I know. I see it as a good sign. If she can hear dragons, than she should have a good chance of at least working with them.”
~Dragon’s Heir, p. 24
When it all is said and done, it’s God’s grace that brings us and our kids into a relationship with Him. It may take years for a wayward child to come back, but God has a plan and works His way through our disobedience and our obedience.
What about you? Do you have a wayward child? Do you want prayer? I’ll happily add your loved one to my prayer list.