In a culture preoccupied with entertaining and having fun, how do we as Christians ensure that our children grow up equipped to handle adulthood with success?
Yesterday in my post, Are We Having Fun Yet, we talked about the growing trend of irresponsibility and immaturity evidenced in many young adults.
And why shouldn’t they value pleasure over purpose? We reinforce this wrong attitude by encouraging our kids to enjoy their childhood, by giving them every electronic toy and media available, by planning the best vacations, sending them to the best sports camps; in short, telling them that life is all about doing whatever it takes to be happy.
Childhood should have its carefree moments, but childhood is also the time to cultivate the good habits and godly character that prepare one to value a life lived with direction and purpose.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Qualities we want to strive toward:
- financial and emotional security
- great relationship skills
- steady and reliable, vs bowing out when the going gets tough
- contentment and thankfulness
And most importantly:
- having a “Holy Ambition” (as described by John Piper, follow the link)
Financial and Emotional Security
How do you spend your time and money? This speaks loudly to your children… Try to guide them early on in a Biblical mindset on hard work and giving. Teach them an empathy for others, rather than focusing on themselves.
A couple ways we’ve done this is by being up front and conversational about such things as Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunamis and children at risk. Children’s hearts go out to other hurting children, maximize on this empathy while they’re young, and encourage them to give money to help others.
At the same time, teach them responsibility with the money they have. Give them daily chores, and on top of that, occasionally create opportunities for them to earn money from doing jobs outside their required ones. Crown Financial has a great piggy bank designed to teach the Biblical concepts of giving, saving and spending.
Chores make your child feel a vital and needed part of the family. They also teach them that if everyone does their job everyone benefits. (It’s not fun to pick up a room that’s been neglected for two weeks, vs keeping up with it on a daily basis)
Affirm to them that they are needed and loved. Thank them for all they do for you. Occasionally, point out areas in which they could do better (but only in times of non-conflict).
Great Relationship Skills
Imagine how many marriages and boss/employee relationships would be furthered if adults knew the basics of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Anything you can do to teach selflessness to your child will reap gi-normously (as my nine yo would say) in their future relationships.
Steady and Reliable
These qualities are the pluses of responsible people. There are many ways to reinforce them in your children:
- be steady and reliable yourself! Volunteer your time and do it joyfully giving 100% effort (bring your kids into it as well–family bonding)
- expect them to do what you tell them when you tell them to do it!
- if they fail to accomplish what you’ve required, let there be a consequence. For instance, if they forget their homework at home as a 5th grader, don’t rush it to school for them. If you told them they could watch a movie if they fulfill “such and such” don’t remind them, and harp at them to get it done or else. Just leave it up to them and simply remind them that they didn’t get the end result because they didn’t prove up in the allotted time frame.
- don’t let them get in the habit of giving you excuses
- if they can’t keep up with one responsibility (like keeping their toys picked up) then they’re not ready for another responsibility (like owning a pet). They need to deserve those steps up the responsibility ladder…
- point out the consequences others are paying for their bad choices, do this without being judgmental, and only if you trust your child not to act rudely or pridefully with the information
- in the same way, point out the benefits of wise choices
Some of these may seem harsh, but they can be carried out in a loving and firm manner. Your child can have another chance on brand new day. Also, you implement these in baby steps. The older the child, the greater the responsibility that is required. If you start young, you’ll have less resistance as you increase the expectations.
Teaching Contentment and Thankfulness
This is an amazing quality that once learned will serve your child forever.
I’ll never forget talking to my middle child about her “glass half empty” outlook. She’d entered a whiny, complaining stage that frustrated me to no end. This amazing little talk really struck her and as a result, she now strives to view her circumstances with a “glass half full” optimism and thankfulness. Things, after all, could be much worse. And in our relative affluence to all those dying of hunger and poverty, we really need to underscore to our children the importance of contentment.
Having a Holy Ambition
If I do nothing else, I pray that my children grow up with a heart for God. Teaching responsibility in the above ways is a major inroad helping this goal of mine along. There’s no room for spiritual or physical laziness in a culture such as ours.
Consider what John Piper said to the children in his sermon entitled, Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named:
“But some day you won’t be a little boy any more. And one of the differences between being a little boy and growing up is that growing up as a Christian means you get a holy ambition. And that means the fun of guns and trucks and balls gets small and the joy of fighting for justice and salvation gets big. Growing up means getting a holy ambition to wield the sword of the Spirit mightily and drive a truckload of love to the needy and kick Satan’s rear end in the name of Jesus.” John Piper, August 27, 2006
Parents, raising your children to be responsible adults is your godly privilege. It’s your main contribution to a lost world.
Let’s take this one seriously.