My son, if your heart be wise, then my heart will be glad. Pr 23:15
She came downstairs on Christmas morning with purple hair, just as we were headed over to the family gathering. It was not the hair so much as the influence that her new set of friends was having on her. They would get together and watch horror movies and talk about witchcraft. Janice’s personality was changing, becoming more selfish and belligerent. She had wonderful high school girlfriends at church but was drifting more and more toward her school friends and their strange ways.
We all want our kids to be happy with who they are and how they connect with others. Most of the brokenness in the world today, outside of not knowing the Lord, is the broken down state of family and friends. Think of all the people you know who are hurting. It is often because they do not feel loved or because they are suffocating from anger over being hurt. It is critical that we pay attention to the way our kids relate to us and to others. Here are some suggestions:
•Love your spouse. The best gift you can give your kids besides faith in Christ is a healthy marital relationship. When a marriage is solid and the husband and wife treat each other with respect and show love for each other, their kids feel secure and loved also. Most well-adjusted kids come from families with strong marriages. So work on your marriage!
•Model forgiveness. In your asking and receiving forgiveness, your children will see their own sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness (“…forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” Matt. 6:12). They need to see that when we make mistakes toward them and our spouses we know how to apologize humbly, once we’ve admitted we’re wrong.
•Spend time with your children’s friends. As you do this over the years, you gain a sense of how they are choosing them. As the saying goes, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
•Establish sound rules and consequences. Be ahead of the game and not back-pedaling. Start when they are young establishing that mom and dad are the boss. Gather the data and listen carefully for their perspective before you pass judgment. Your anger can triple the consequences for your kids if you do not listen for a reasonable explanation that can bring you to a reasonable consequence.
•Hold the standard of sexual purity. Sex education starts in the home when children are preschoolers. The conversations should continue throughout grade school, middle school, high school, and young adulthood. What you say according to God’s standard will go against the world your child lives in, but if one of your goals is for your child to have a healthy marriage, then it starts with waiting until marriage for sexual intimacy. And you are the most important person they need to hear that from! Lots of data support parental influence on a teen’s sexual decisions. There is also research to support the relationship between cohabitation, sex before marriage, and lack of marital survival and happiness. Take every opportunity to turn off the TV, restrict the movies, veto skimpy clothing and set boundaries for dating. Make sex worth waiting for. It is the best gift to give your child’s future spouse – the gift of sexual purity. Take each child out at age eight and tell them how beautiful sex is in the context of marriage. You want to get there before anyone else and therefore be the authority on this subject. A great resource is Teaching Your Children Values by Richard and Lynda Eyre.
•Most importantly, love your kids unconditionally. Think about what your child’s love languages are, as described above. Usually by grade school, you will have a sense of how your child feels loved. Spend one-on-one time with each child and listen to their own goals and dreams. If they sense your complete love, when you disapprove of their behavior, it won’t jeopardize their relationship with you. When they reach the teen years and want nothing to do with you, don’t let them push you out. Connect with them on their level. Invite them to do something with you that they want to do. If you don’t go away, they’ll see that unconditional love shining through.
Please help us as we seek to raise our children to be wise in their relationships, so that they will be nurtured by your children even as we let them go. Amen