The word parenting brings up a variety of images in our minds. Many of those images are based on how your parents raised you. If your parents beat you, you have an internal reaction to parenting based on those beatings. If your parents were loving, you may have an entirely different reaction to the word “parent” than the person whose parents were harsh and cold. Unfortunately, when anyone begins to coach us on Christian parenting, most of us immediately disappear into our own memories of childhood and what a parent should or shouldn’t be.
In many ways, beyond providing love and the necessities of life, much of parenting more closely resembles teaching and coaching. Unfortunately, there are enough bad teachers and coaches to distract from any parenting messages. So what is the solution? How can Christians approach parenting so people hear the messages of what their children need without filtering it through their own experiences quite as much? How should we view our role as Christian parents so we are focusing on the important things God wants for our children?
In Proverbs 11:14, we read, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety” (ESV). We, as Christian parents, need to think of ourselves as guides and counselors. It sounds like word play on the surface, but think about it with me for a minute.
What if the next time your child disobeyed, instead of thinking about how to punish or that you don’t want to stifle your child with correction, you thought, “How can I take this event and guide my child’s heart to be more godly in making these types of decisions?” Sometimes, what you decide to do may be the same either way, but I think there are many times having the guide mindset may drastically change what you do to, with and for your child.
We don’t have many true guides anymore. Oh, sure, there are those sweet little old ladies who tell us about historic homes, but guides used to be much more than that. Often a guide was hired to take explorers through life-threatening territory to a destination no one else in the group knew how to find. For these groups of people, guides often meant the difference between life and death.
A good guide was invaluable. He or she knew where there were the essentials of life like food, water and shelter. Guides knew how to get people from point a to point b without getting lost. There are stories of guides risking their own lives to get the people they were guiding safely through a dangerous encounter. You see, a guide was considered truly successful if he got everyone to the intended destination.
You are the guide for your children. You may never guide them to the Pacific Ocean, but you should focus all of your energies on guiding your children to Heaven. I doubt many successful guides would stop and say, “I’m going to leave you here for awhile while I go do something else. I’m sure you will be fine in the blizzard. Just head that way for awhile.”
In the same way, Christian parents need to stop thinking that generally pointing their kids to Heaven by taking them to Church and praying at meals is going to guarantee their safe arrival in Heaven. You will need to walk side by side with them. Just like a guide taught those they were guiding, you will need to teach your children how to feed themselves and grow spiritually. You will need to teach them to differentiate between healthy spiritual food and worldly food that looks spiritual and healthy, but will ultimately poison them – leading them away from God.
You need to show your children how to recognize the spiritual dangers in life and how to stay strong for the voyage. You need to give them the tools they need to continue on the journey successfully as they grow into adults and go ahead more independently. When your children make mistakes and begin heading down a wrong and very dangerous path, you need to what is necessary to get them back on the path God has laid.
I encourage you to rethink your role as a Christian parent. Begin thinking of yourself as a guide leading your children on a godly path, where they become spiritually healthy, productive Christians who reach the ultimate destination of Heaven in the end. Then listen and read all of that Christian parenting advice and the Bible as your textbooks so you can become a successful guide for your children. It may just make your journey a lot easier.