Word on Wednesday – by John Mason
‘Parenting…’ – May 9, 2018
Parenting is not for the faint-hearted. A paediatrician responded to a mother’s question concerning the best time to put the children to bed with, “While you still have the strength”.
Parenting requires patience, wisdom and time. In our rapidly changing society, parents can never be sure what new challenges will arise for their children – starting school, adolescence, success or failure, moral questions and relationships.
In Colossians 3:20-21 we read: Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Parents (literally, fathers) do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.
Decisions. Growing up involves learning to make decisions. We have desires, wills and minds. We can choose. Some decisions are personal preference – ‘What clothes will I wear?’ Others are a matter of habit – ‘I prefer coffee’. But there are some decisions that present us with a sense of obligation, ‘I ought to …’ or ‘I ought not to …’ This is where many today are confused, for our secular society has not equipped us to make sense of the word ‘ought’.
When our children are young we may guide them on the basis of, ‘Because Mum and Dad say so’. But as all parents know, it’s not long before our authority is questioned. Children want to know if there is a better reason. This is where many parents run out of responses. And this is often because they have rejected God and with that, God’s moral authority in our lives.
Today ethics have become purely subjective. So, many do what they feel is right or politically correct. It’s one reason why there’s confusion about attitudes and behavior, about human sexuality and relationships.
Education. To make sense of Paul’s call for children to obey their parents we need to start by educating parents. The 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy 5) together with God’s commands to his people (Deuteronomy 6) are clear.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-8 we read: Here, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Deuteronomy tells us that parents have a special responsibility to instruct their children – not just by words, but also by the example of their lives. Children don’t stop learning when they get home from school. They are learning every waking moment of the day.
Parents. While parents may be handing over more and more of their children’s education and training to schools, they are still the best people to instil fundamental attitudes and form children’s moral lives. This role is built into the very nature of a parent’s relationship with their children. Yes, it’s hard work, requiring sacrifice, but it’s our duty and the rewards are great.
Deuteronomy is telling parents never to give up talking about their convictions. We are to create a natural atmosphere of learning – at home, going to the mall, heading to the beach or at bedtime. We need to use the precious conversations at bedtime and around the dinner table, or when we’re out. These are crucial times. Family educational experiences will live in our children’s memories for a lifetime – far more than what they learn at school.
And, let me say to parents that there is no point in telling your child to pray and read the Bible if you don’t so yourself. There’s no point in telling your child not to tell lies or swear if you do so yourself. We all need to think about the books we read, the magazines we buy, movies and websites we look at.
Not just for parents. These words are not just for parents; they are for grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends, and for the church. In the Anglican Baptism service for children congregations are called upon to pray for children being baptized and to welcome them as fellow-members of Christ’s Church. We all have this responsibility.
And we need to answer children’s questions. They will ask us about God, about right and wrong, about death. And when they ask us why we go to church, why we believe in Jesus Christ, we need to be ready to tell them our story of faith in age-appropriate ways, of what Jesus, his death and his resurrection mean.
Deuteronomy 5 and 6 lay the foundation for God’s curriculum of personal awareness and moral certainty. It is in the home and at church where we are to nurture our children’s spiritual development. It is here that they learn their own value and self-worth as children of God. It is in the home that they learn to get on with other people and to respect authority and discipline. It is in the home that children develop as individuals and find their individuality accepted, appreciated and affirmed. This may not happen in the wider community, but it can happen in the home.
Families are well placed to blend the demands of society and the needs of children in ways that fully affirm their dignity and yet also make that them ready for society and not just to be a self-centered little island. That is what families are for. It’s what churches and their children’s programs are for. In God’s plan, families are indispensable: they are God’s classroom.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com