I just had one of those milestone birthdays this week. One of the yucky ones where the light from the candles forces people to reach for sunglasses. In our culture, I have lost all value. My modeling career will never happen now (because we all know it was only a matter of time and not looks!) and if I accomplish anything during the rest of my life, I will most likely be compared to Grandma Moses. Of course, I now get that wonderful mid-life crisis, when I can live only to please myself in an effort to re-capture the glories of my youth. It is my time to be Peter Pan.
Peter Pan used to be looked down upon as irresponsible. Now, he has become the poster child for everyone who wants to stay youthful. Which, in our country, is just about everyone. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for moisturizing and not being too proud to swing on a swing set in the park. My issue is with parents who want to be a co-conspirator with their child instead of a parent. Or the parents who believe being an adult means becoming a drill Sargent. Or parents who ignore many of their child’s needs so they can live the life they had before having kids.
If we want to dedicate our children to God like Hannah did, we need to be real Biblical grown-ups. I know; the word grown-up isn’t even in the Bible. God knew though that children need parents who are mature and godly. He gave us lots of scriptures to help us know exactly what our children need from us. Ironically, I believe if we follow God’s Words as parents, we will actually be closer to our kids than the “cool” parents and have better discipled children than the “drill Sargent” parents. (Yes, I meant to say discipled, although they may be better disciplined too.)
Probably the most quoted scripture on parenting is Proverbs 22:6. You know, the one about training your child in the way he should go. When I was growing up, we had an afghan hound. Sheba was the sweetest dog ever. She was also a mess. We used to say she was too stupid to train. The truth was, we never put the time and effort into training her that she needed to become a trained dog.
My grandpa, on the other hand, always had the best trained dogs you have ever met. They could have been Hollywood dogs had Grandpa lived closer to movie sets. Grandpa spent probably several hours every day training his dogs. He loved on them, worked with them and taught them. If Sheba had been his dog, my guess is she would have been a show dog.
Now, while our children are not dogs, in some ways, training is training. It requires a lot of time and effort on the part of the trainer. If the trainer is inexperienced, it takes even more of her time and effort. For you to train your child to become an active Christian who dedicates his life to God, you will have to put in a lot of time and effort. Make that an extraordinary amount of time and effort.
Jesus spent untold hours training the Apostles to become leaders in what would soon be the church. Let’s face it, even after all of those hours, they were still a little rough around the edges by the time he ascended back to heaven. Even though Jesus was the perfect trainer, his job as a trainer was not finished until his trainees “got it”. As inexperienced spiritual trainers working with children, we will need to put even more time and effort into training them than Jesus did with the Apostles.
Probably one of the things Moms are most motivated to teach young children is how to use the potty. Not having to use diapers opens up a whole new and exciting world (at least after the phase where they need to check out every public restroom “Right now!”). In that one week or so period, how much time and effort did you put into potty training? In most houses, potty training becomes the household’s primary focus for at least a few days. If you are like most moms, there were talks and cheering and maybe even charts and rewards.
As you try to train up your child Proverbs style, think back to those potty training days. Have you put as much effort today into teaching, loving and coaching your child into how to become a child of God? How can you carve the time out to focus on your child’s spiritual training each day? It is hard work to train a child Proverbs style, but the rewards are heavenly.
Unfortunately, training a child means we have to be grown-up enough to sacrifice things that are fun for us in order to free up time to train our child. That sacrifice is going to mean different things for different parents. For some, it may mean giving up some things in order to be able to afford to be a stay-at-home parent. For others, it may mean putting down the telephone and spending less time talking with adults and more time talking with your own children. You may even have to sacrifice a hobby, sports or television and computer time in order to spend the amount of time your children need each day for you to work with them, love them and coach them properly. Your child needs a parent who is a grown-up and will sacrifice her own pleasures in order to help train him to become an active child of God.
My favorite parenting scripture is in Deuteronomy 11:19. The people are told to teach their children God’s Words while they were sitting at home, walking on the road, when they were lying down and when they were getting up. My guess is that pretty much covered most of the day back then.
How much does the topic of God and His Words come up in your house? Other than at mealtime prayers, how often is God even mentioned in your house? God knows children learn by repetition. He knows that long after we are gone, our children will hear our voice in their head repeating whatever we said over and over again, good or bad. What pet phrases do you have that your children have heard a million times? Are any of them scripture? Do any of them teach godly principles?
Let’s face it, being a godly grown-up parent is going to take a lot of work on our part. We need to know the scriptures well for ourselves and find ways to talk about them with our children every day. In fact, if we believe this scripture, God wants us to talk about them and Him multiple times each and every day. This is evidently very important to God as he actually mentions this same type of command several times in different ways in Deuteronomy!
When your child is not with you and is faced with a moral dilemma, wouldn’t it be wonderful if they heard the voice in their heads quoting a Biblical answer? You can help make that happen, but once again it is going to require hard work, time, effort and in this case proactive planning. A Peter Pan adult, will not want to sacrifice all of the fun or rest for the amount of hard work this will require. After all, isn’t that why we take our children to Sunday School? God knew that the daily repeated parental voice was more powerful than any class could ever be. Your child needs you to be the grown-up parent who is constantly teaching her God’s Words.
Disciplining children is difficult if you are Peter Pan. It is difficult to discipline someone else when you have no self-discipline. Biblical discipline is not easy. You have to balance the command in Proverbs 23:13 to not withhold discipline from your child with the command in Ephesians 6:4 to not exasperate your children.
That balance requires a true grown-up. One who understands that the heart matters behind the behavior are more important than the behavior itself. You need to know how to deliver consistent consequences for rebellion against your commands (which hopefully reflect God’s commands and principles). If you cannot teach your child to obey you consistently, it is highly unlikely she will obey God either.
In addition to His specific commands for parents and their children, God has some general commands for everyone’s relationships. Perhaps one of the most difficult is found in James 1:19. It requires the most grown-up person of all to be slow to speak, slow to anger and quick to listen. If we could practice that with everyone, our relationships would be so much more healthy. If we applied it to our children, our words would also just maybe be heard and heeded a little more often.
In the last few years, I have had too many conversations with crying and upset children and teens. Children who had something to say to an adult that was important to them, but the adult refused to listen. I am not sure if it would be a child’s number one complaint, but nothing exasperates a child more than not feeling like they are being heard. In an effort to save time and energy, parents often discipline first and ask questions later, if at all.
I understand there are some very manipulative people in the world. My experience is that few children are very competent at being manipulative. Often if parents would sacrifice a little time and energy and ask some thoughtful questions, a very different story emerges. It may be better or worse, but it often requires a totally different handling than the one that would automatically be given.
Well asked questions require you and your child to analyze situations. You will have to examine motives and heart issues as well as behaviors. You will have to learn forgiveness and empathy. You may even have to learn some top negotiating skills. All of these skills require a grown-up who is willing to put others’ needs before her own in a meaningful way. Not a doormat who exists to keep everyone perfectly happy, but a servant leader who is sacrificing some of the “fluff’ in her own life to improve her relationship with her child. Hopefully, you are also helping your child improve his relationship with God.
The Bible is full of so many of God’s commands that will make us better, more godly parents. The truth is that only a grown-up will heed them. They all require study, prayer, faith, time and effort. Peter Pan would rather play or rest. My prayer is that you are willing to grow up if you haven’t already. Make some adult sacrifices and be the grown-up parent your child so desperately needs and wants. I promise you, you won’t regret it. You may even discover the biggest secret of all. It is actually more fun and rewarding to be a real grown-up than it ever was to be Peter Pan!