Every parent wants their children to grow up to be successful adults. God's word gives parents guidance to help them succeed in raising their children.
A. Remember that children belong to God.
In one sense, parents and their children belong to each other. Children are fruit from the parents' bodies. The child may look, talk, and behave like the parents in many ways. Concern and love is stronger for the child who is "ours." A mother can recognize her own baby's cry. And a father feels pride at the success of his children. But in the highest sense, children belong to God.
"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" (Ps. 24:1). God owns the world and all of the people in it. He expects parents to be stewards of His children. Stewards are managers and not owners. An owner entrusts a steward with caring for things of value. The steward manages the wealth and seeks to increase its worth. As parents, God expects us to manage children in ways that increase their value. The Lord gives children to parents to love, train, and guide in godly ways.
Some children are called accidents, mistakes, or possessions. Some children are unwanted, abandoned, or abused. But each parent will give account to God as a steward, because—from the unloved child to the most loved—each child belongs to God. Jesus warned adults: "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven" (Matt. 18:10).
B. Discern that God places great value on children.
Children belong to God. As people created in His image, they are His greatest wealth. God paid no ransom to redeem the angels who fell. But He gave His only Son to redeem people. The woman in the parable of Luke 15 was not willing for one coin to be lost. A shepherd with 100 sheep is not willing for one sheep to be lost. They are valuable to him. "In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost" (Matt. 18:14).
Consider the value our Lord placed on children.
- Jesus blessed children (Mark 10:13-16). He was angry with His disciples when they tried to keep children away from Him. Perhaps the disciples thought that children were not important enough for Christ's attention. But Jesus called the children to Himself, He touched them, and He blessed them. They are a big part of His wealth.
- Jesus desires the worship of children (Matt. 21:14-16). Jesus was angry with the disciples about their view of children. And Jewish leaders were angry with Jesus because of His view of children! Jesus was only a few days away from being crucified. Children worshiped Him in the street and the temple, shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matt. 21:9). The Jewish leaders insisted that Jesus stop them, but He accepted their praise. He said, "From the lips of children and infants you [God] have ordained praise" (Matt. 21:16).
- Jesus identified Himself with children (Matt. 18:1-5). The disciples wanted to know how to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It must have shocked the disciples to hear Jesus say, "Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me" (Matt. 18:5). What parents do to children, they do to Jesus Himself!
- Jesus will punish all who sin against children or cause children to stumble (Matt. 18:6). He said, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."
C. Recognize that children are among God's greatest gifts to parents.
"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" (Ps. 127:3-5 NASB).
God blesses parents with the gifts of children. No one else can bring the joy, comfort, hope, and help that a son or daughter can bring. Among God's greatest gifts are the blessings of love and loyalty between parents and their children.
D. Seek to understand how children grow.
God has entrusted children to parents. What children become depends much on their parents. The more parents understand how children grow, develop, and mature, the better these parents can help children become fruitful.
Children must grow into adults. Everyone knows this. No one would look at a small child and confuse him with an adult. But parents often forget that children cannot act or think like adults. When parents expect a child to behave like an adult, it brings pain to the parents and the child.
Many parents view their child through their own adult experiences. They wrongly interpret a child's natural stages of growth as rebellion. They err by thinking that a small child's desire for attention is sinful. Rather, it is normal, especially during the first three years of life.
Punishing a child for curiosity stops healthy mental growth and increases rebellion. An unwise parent will rebuke a child for asking questions about sexual matters. But wise parents understand how children grow, develop, and mature. They encourage children to ask many questions. Such wise parents realize that questions are opportunities for a parent to guide a child's thinking. When a child asks a question, he opens the door to his mind.
E. Discern that each child is unique.
The task of parents is not easy. They need to understand the way children grow. But, they must also discern the unique qualities of each child. Perhaps the number one complaint that children have about their parents is "They don't understand me!" We need to study our children and know what makes them unique. Parents who have more than one child understand that their children are different from each other. You cannot guide all children in the same way. They do not have the same strengths or weaknesses, talents, abilities, or interests. It is a bad mistake to compare them to each other. Like adults, all children are unique.
Each child is different. One likes to study books; another likes to build or sew. One likes to be guided by another child, but another likes to guide. One likes to talk; another likes to listen. One likes to be alone more; another likes to be with a group. One obeys and agrees quickly; another always asks "Why?" One is a child farmer; another is a child doctor. One is a child teacher; the other is a child carpenter. One is a child businessman; the other is a child pastor. We should study each child and encourage each in the direction in which his nature, talents, and abilities guide him. We should not seek to make a child behave like someone else. Would a wise man expect a cat to bark like a dog, or a chicken to act like a sheep? Each child is unique. We should honor how God created each one. If they are shy, we should not try to make them lead singing. If they like to talk a lot, we should not force them to be silent. Even brothers, like Cain and Abel, may have different interests. And twins, like Jacob and Esau, may be as different as night and day.
Some children are like their parents, but others are different. Parents can be frustrated and impatient with both. The Scripture says, "A patient man has great understanding" (Prov. 14:29). With patience we can learn to help each child find the path God has planned for him.
F. Recall that your example teaches your children the most.
Children learn more by example than by words. This is true at school and at home. Parents do not plant values in the hearts of children by talking. Values, both good and bad, grow as children see them in their parents. Words of instruction are good and necessary. But the advice children hear means more when parents live what they teach. As one poet wrote, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day!"
G. Provide for each child.
Children need care. They are helpless when they enter this world. Parents must provide for all they need. Food, clothing, shelter, security, and love are the most important things.
The father's role is important. He is the main provider and protector. But the child also needs a father's understanding and love. A husband is a successful father as he provides for the needs of his family.
The importance of the mother's care is great. One teacher said, "Mother is food; she is love; she is warmth. ... To be loved by her means to be alive, to be rooted, to be at home." A child's need for care changes in some ways as he grows—but it never disappears. Even adult children can look to their parents for strength and encouragement.