I heard a person once say, “Kids are like fine wine. Expensive, and get better with age. Also, they’re best kept in the basement.” Haha. (Just kidding.) Ask any parent (past or present) and they’ll tell you: raising kids is not easy.
That’s true no matter the age or stage. When they’re babies, you’ve got diapers. When they’re toddlers, you’ve got tantrums. When they’re in elementary school, you’ve got pettiness. When they’re in middle school, you’ve got attitude. When they’re in high school, you’ve got drama. And when they’re older than that…well, let me know. Like winter, spring, summer, and fall – each season of parenting has things you enjoy and things you don’t. And that makes it difficult.
My wife and I have not mastered parenting by any stretch. In fact, we still feel like novices most days. But over the years, we’ve done a lot of reading, talking, listening, learning, and collecting wisdom – both biblical and practical. After sixteen years, we’re still in the trenches, but we now have a better sense of what’s happening on the battlefield.
For those who are parents (future or present), here are some practical parenting pointers that have helped us. Do with it what you will.
With money, we teach: God, Give, Save, and Spend – in that order.
Kids don’t need money. But they do need to learn stewardship. In Prov 3, Solomon tells his son, “Honor the Lord from your wealth.” As a parent, he took the initiative to teach money management. Trust me, Dave Ramsey would be out of a job if there were more dads like Solomon.
Once our kids were old enough to identify money and do basic math, we gave each one a small allowance. We also gave them four buckets with GOD, GIVE, SAVE, and SPEND written on them. Each week, we would help them “budget” their quarters and dollars. The “GOD” bucket received at least 10%. We helped them decide on the others too.
Over the years, it seemed like a tedious, weekly chore. But now that some of them are old enough to work, we’ve been amazed! We’ve seen them save up their own money for big purchases (i.e., electronics and mission trips). But even more, we’ve proudly watched them give their offering to church without hesitation and be generous without being told. Teaching stewardship early is now paying off…literally.
With sex education, we think “too much too early is better than too little too late.”
From the moment our kids asked, “Where do babies come from?” we’ve answered them honestly. No metaphors. No poetry. No fluff. We explained it all, on their age level, with theology, biology, and sincerity. When they did ask a follow-up question, we didn’t shriek or freak, blush or hush. We explained God’s amazing creation!
We’ve tried to teach them that our bodies are a gift – and that includes hormones, endorphins, and serotonin. And we are made to glorify God in it all. We have encouraged them to come to ask any questions about anything sex-related anytime. (Would you rather your kids ask Google?) If you start when they’re young, it makes it easier as they get older.
Like dynamite, sex is powerful – and ignorance can be disastrous. Maybe you disagree, but we’d rather our kids get good information from us too early than bad information from others too late.
With priorities, we say “do what you’ve got to do so you can do what you want to do.”
For most kids, their work is school and chores. In our home, everyone has chores each day and school most days. Let’s remember that work was part of God’s good creation (prior to the fall.) We may not “tend and keep” a literal garden like Adam did, but we should learn to care for what God has entrusted to us. That starts with education, rooms, clothes, toys, etc.
Most kids don’t like chores or homework. But they do need them to inhabit and enjoy the good world that God has made. Freeloading children become lazy teenagers who grow into aimless adults. (There’s a great book called Make Your Bed by Admiral William McRaven on being disciplined in small areas of life. It’s not a Christian work, but I highly recommend it!)
There is nothing more foolish than playing when you should be working and nothing more satisfying than playing because you’re all done working. We have tried to thwart procrastination and laziness by challenging them daily to work hard so they can then play hard.
With sin, mistakes are corrected, disobedience is disciplined, lying is punished severely, and forgiveness is verbalized.
Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Sometimes that foolishness shows up in accidents but often in wrongdoing. Every kid will make mistakes and commit-first time offenses. Those moments are handled with compassion and clarity. But ignoring defiance or overlooking rebellion is asking for trouble down the road. Learning to triage misbehavior helps you respond as a parent. (Also, lying should never be ignored. Why? Lying is always a pregnant sin that covers others. In our home, disobedience is punished; lying is punished three times worse.)
Making light of a child’s disrespect or disobedience says more about the parent than it does the child. When our kids do sin, we encourage them to confess their wrong by name, ask for forgiveness and receive a hug. It’s a small way for us to demonstrate God’s gracious love in the gospel each time.