Parenting is not for the faint of heart. And I’m not just referring to the hazards of stepping on legos in the middle of the night. (Although legos do qualify as a parenting hazard.) But primarily I’m referring to the responsibility parents have to shepherd their children’s hearts toward God.
In Deuteronomy 6, God not only instructs adults to personally love God and others, but He instructs them to passionately teach their children to do the same:
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.—Deuteronomy 6:5–7
Did you catch that word diligently? Parents are to diligently teach their children His truth and His ways.
In a recent message, I shared with our church family five ways parents can do this:
1. Establish Authority in the Home
This is not accomplished by yelling, “You have to obey me because I’m the dad!” but by giving direction and expecting children to respond. God instructs children to obey their parents, and that means that parents must be providing guidance and setting parameters. Authority is not something to be claimed as much as it is something to be provided.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.—Ephesians 6:1
2. Be a Disciplined Person
Sometimes as parents, when we think of discipline, we think first of training our children. But if we are to effectively teach our children, we must be disciplined ourselves. If you’re sitting on the couch watching your child color on the wall or pour soda into his sister’s shoes, and you just say “Don’t do that,” but he continues and you do nothing, you are abdicating your parental responsibility.
This really goes to the heart of being diligent in teaching our children. Rather than laughing at disobedience or being reactive only when our children cross a line in frustrating us, we must be proactive in our love and in providing leadership.
Be the disciplined one to think ahead, What can I read to my preschoolers? When can I take my daughter out for a hamburger? How am I going to help my teenager with this issue he’s struggling with? All of this requires forethought, prayer, time, and the personal discipline to follow through.
3. Be Consistent
There is nothing like inconsistency to discourage the heart of a child. Be the same person at home that you are at church. And be consistent and predictable in your responses to your children’s needs.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.—Ephesians 6:4
4. Establish Times and Traditions
Have a daily time when you gather around God’s Word as a family. Establish traditions around holidays, birthdays, and moments that are special to your family. These kinds of times can knit hearts together in a special way.
5. Look for Teaching Moments
Children don’t necessarily learn the most at the moments when you say, “Okay, now it is time for me to teach you….” They learn from watching, and they learn when you seize a moment to give a nugget of truth.
So look for moments when you can point out God’s greatness, a prayer He answered, a way He honored His Word. Explain to your children why you honor their mother, give to the Lord, or serve others. Help your children connect the everyday moments of life to knowing God and His Word.
Once again, this goes back to the instruction in Deuteronomy 6 to teach your children diligently all day long and in every scenario throughout the day.
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.—Deuteronomy 6:7
Our children are now grown and raising their families, but it is a blessing to Terrie and me to see them now diligently investing in the lives of our grandchildren.
Whether you have children or grandchildren or even the opportunity to invest in children through other venues, do everything you can to diligently pour God’s Word into their lives and, especially, to direct their hearts toward God Himself.