Let’s face it, parenting is hard work. You never really will know if you are doing things right until you have finished the job of raising your kids and they are adults (although as any parent of an adult will tell you, it never really stops, it just changes!).
We want to raise our children in a Biblical way in a secular world, so already there is a clash set up within our family. We are resisting the influence of the world as we seek to raise our children to love and serve the Lord. We have to help them how to love their enemies, Matthew 5:43-48, whilst also teaching them to hate the world, 1 John 2:15.
Christian parenting can easily feel like an insurmountable task, even if had endless hours spare in the day to devote to the discipling of our children. This conflict means we cannot relax and leave society to raise our children with their values. In the words of many in the home education community – if you send your children to Caesar to be educated, don’t be surprised when they come back as Romans. We have to take the responsibility for our children.
So what is the easy way to parent our children? The short answer is do the hard work in the early years. And that is hard work! But if we are willing to put the hard work in up front, the rewards will be children who are secure in themselves, in their faith and in their future.
Here are four principles that are easy to write but harder to execute.
1. Be consistent in your example.
When you are tired after a busy week, make the effort to still go to church on Sunday because your children are watching and learning from you. When you are frustrated take it to the Lord, rather than taking it out on your children. When no one is watching, remain faithful to God because your children may be watching you even when you think they are not.
As I said this is not easy to do, but the more we do this the easier it is for our children to walk with integrity in their lives too. The more they see our faithfulness in serving the Lord, the more they will know that God is not simply an add on to our lives, He is both the source and the purpose for living.
When our children see our consistent example as they grow, it is easier for them to respect and follow us as we follow God.
2. Be consistent in discipline
Over the years we have helped many parents who have struggled with their toddlers to maintain firm boundaries. 'No means no,' (not keep nagging and I'll change it to a yes eventually). That is easy to do when it is your focus, it is much harder in the every day. If you have a rule that there are no biscuits to be eaten before dinner, it’s easier to keep to that when you are well rested. It is harder when your child is tired and winging and you are drained. But if you are willing to put in the hard work at those moments to remain consistent in your boundaries, then the fruits will pay off in later years.
That’s why this is the easy way to parent. Not because it is easy (if anyone tells you parenting is easy you have permission to doubt them!) but because it is easier than the alternative. We have watched a couple of parents give moving boundaries to their children and as their children grow they become more insecure, rebellious or anxious. Where parents thought they were choosing the easy option by giving in, years down the line they discover it was actually the harder option in the long run.
As the parent you get to set the boundaries. When your children grow the boundaries can change with them, but the boundaries must be kept consistently and discipline must be consistent regardless of where you are, who is watching, which child is playing up or how you are feeling. It’s hard to do this in the moment, but it leads to children who will listen. That’s why the Bible exhorts us to disciple our children promptly, Proverbs 13:24. Deal with issues in the moment to bring correction and our children will learn quickly giving us rest in the long run.
When our children were young we worked hard to enforce the bed time routine. As they grew older (age 5+) they practically put themselves to bed, whilst others would tell us it takes them over two hours to put their children to bed. As Proverbs 29:17 says, ‘Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.’ Hard work early on pays off.
It’s never too late to start, but the longer you leave the more of an uphill battle it will be. Begin today.
3. Be consistent in expressing love
It’s easy to look at the negatives as we raise our children. The reality is there are good days and there are bad days. There are days where your children make your cry because of their thoughtfulness and days when you feel like crying. Parenting is a privilege where we get to enjoy watching our children grow.
One key to this is to be consistent in how we express love to our children. Hugs, kisses and words all matter. Time playing with them (and letting them sometimes lead the play) builds our relationship. We are not talking about needing another 7 hours in the day, we are talking about showing love to our children every single day.
4. Be consistent in prayer
If I could find one common thread in children who grow to love the Lord it is the unseen prayers that go on behind the scenes. Make a point of praying for your children every day. I set a target to pray for each of my children for two minutes a day (with 5 children it takes a little while). When I first started I would find I had a lot to pray for, for some of them, for others I had prayed all I could think of in the first 10 seconds.
This led to me praying for their future, for their future spouses, for their children, their heart attitude, their friendships and many other areas that I would not have thought to pray into unless there was a crises looming. Praying Scripture over their lives and preparing the way in the spirit for their future consistently is a great way to see them flourish.
In short the easy way to parent is to put in the work early on, even when we are tired. This is all part of training our children in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it. Don’t look at other families and see their glossy public version and allow that to depress you, instead start with the Biblical foundation of consistent love and discipline and you will see the fruit of your work in the home.
You’ve got this!