No matter how old I get or what age our children are, I still feel uncomfortable when young parents ask us for advice.
The best I can offer is to encourage them to lean into the Holy Spirit and hear His voice. Each family and each experience is so very different that any attempt at a cookie-cutter approach will prove futile.
However, I do understand that gleaning from someone else’s experience helps us grow in our own wisdom. I used to sit at the feet of anyone who was willing to teach me how to be a better parent. With that in mind, the other night, as my husband and I sat across from a beautiful couple with a two-year-old and a ten-month-old, we were honored when they began the conversation with a question.
“So tell us how you do it. How do you parent children who grow up to love the Lord?”
We assured them that the good they see has come through the Lord Himself and that there aren’t any easy answers to that question. But as parents of teenagers, there have been a few things the Lord has shared with us along the way.
- Model Forgiveness –
Extending grace to our children is a powerful example of how the Lord forgives, but what is just as powerful is showing them what it looks like when we are the ones asking for forgiveness.
Our children need to see us confess when we’ve been too harsh, too quick to snap or too tired to dig beyond our assumptions.
For the record, saying “sorry” isn’t enough.
As parents, we had to model the posture of humility and repeat the phrase, “I am so sorry for…” and then fill in the blank with our transgressions towards them. Likewise, when our children have wronged someone, we expect them to be specific and empathetic in their apology.
2. Show them the Lord every day
In the early years, we intentionally looked for and discussed the Lord’s “fingerprints” in our day. If we had something – anything – that gave us pause to recognize God’s kindness, thoughtfulness or even correction, we brought it to the surface as a family so that we never missed Him.
Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (NIV)
Continually pointing out the truths of scripture and our very intimate Savior, even in the ordinary, might have been the easiest thing we ever did.
3. Help them to own their faith
Praying for our children is a no-brainer, but encouraging them to pray for us, or the things on their hearts, may feel a bit foreign at first. Rest assured, it is never too early to involve them in prayer time, Bible reading and evangelism. The sooner they can see their relationship with the Lord as personal and real, the faster they can begin to trust Him for themselves.
The power of their prayers and the wisdom found in their own times with Him need space to grow. Children’s reflections and petitions to their Heavenly Father deserve an opportunity to be exalted as worthy to be heard.
Simple questions like – “What did the Lord say to you today?” – can help a child build their confidence that God will speak to them if they are willing to slow down and hear Him.
Not a bad word for us grown-ups either.
Ultimately, I circle back around to my original advice. Press into the Holy Spirit. His voice will lead impeccably.
Pressing in and listening myself,
Denise C. McDowell