Bringing up our children is so much more than making sure they score straight As or being the top of the pack—here’s what the Bible says.
By Carol Loi
Last week, the government announced a beefed-up package to encourage couples to have more children. Economic reasons aside, let us examine what the Bible says about parenthood.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40.
This is a common verse that many of us are familiar with. Let us now take a look at what the Old Testament says.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:5-7.
The above Scriptures show that God has entrusted the teaching of the greatest commandment not to grandparents, school teachers, tuition teachers, or domestic helpers. He entrusted the important task to parents; we are to talk to our children about it when we are at home, on the road, before bedtime and when we wake up. That is almost all the time!
Demands in our everyday life seem to have made this difficult; parents and children seldom get to spend enough time with one another. Even when they are together, there are constant distractions such as smartphones, television shows and myriad other modern-day forms of non-stop entertainment.
A God-given Assignment
Our children are not just our children; they are His, brought to the world through parents. We are but stewards of the souls He has put in our families.
Parents have many roles:
- Leaders – we set the family rules and boundaries and maintain order in the home. We seek to inspire our children instead of having them obey us for the sake of obedience.
- Teachers – from the day our babies arrived, we teach them about day and night. As they grow up, we nurture them in the various spheres of their lives: their character, thoughts, physical health and socialisation skills, not forgetting the arts—appreciation of aesthetics.
- Preachers –we are to teach our children the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God, as the Scripture above shows; the first souls we should work on saving are those of our children.
- Cell group leaders – our family is our first cell group! We need to teach our children what a Christian lifestyle is, such as how to pray, why tithe, how to love God and love people, and how to stay pure. We also need to teach our children how to remain a Christian, for example, in overcoming temptations, and taking care of our bodies—God’s temple, through having a healthy lifestyle.
An Overwhelming Responsibility?
Parenting is a never-ending learning journey; just when we think we have our baby figured out, she turns into a toddler. Just when we sort that out, she enters the outside world for the first time, learning about herself and others at pre-school. Before long, she has grown into a tween and in the blink of an eye, a teenager who wants to be with her friends more than us.
But parenting need not be a lonely or overwhelming journey. First and foremost, we need to commit our parenting journey to the Lord. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Additionally, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It does not say, “Parents, train up a child in the way he should go,” unlike other verses that are addressed to a specific group such as, “Children, obey your parents.” (Col 3:20)
While parenting is the sole responsibility of a child’s mother and father, He has built around each child a team; parents as the leaders of the team, comprising aunts, uncles, grandparents, childcare teachers, school teachers, children’s church teachers, domestic helpers and neighbours, among others. Each team member has an influence on a child’s life.
As an effective team leader, we should leverage on the strength of each team member and pray for them, so that the team’s outcome can be maximised. Do we pray for our children’s teachers? Do we pray for our domestic helpers? Pray for them; help them to help our child in the capacity God has given them.
God knows our children before they were born, and He knows their future. He made each child unique, and gave them different gifts and talents.
Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you—a prophet to the nations— that’s what I had in mind for you.”
So since God already knows our children, and we know that He has given our children different gifts and talents, what is our key role in the education of our children? Is it to push them for excellence through various enrichment classes, pile assessment books on them or sign them up for tuition until they ace every paper?
There is a fine line between being aspirational and being unrealistic; raise the bar too high for a child, and he will not be motivated or even discouraged from trying because he does not want to disappoint himself. Set it too low and he may not reach his full potential.
Romans 12:4-8 reminds us that we are different parts of the same body in Christ, and hence we each have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. In order to discern the right expectations to place on our children, keep the focus on what his needs are and not our needs, what his strengths are and not what we want him to be, and what tends to make him enthusiastic and not unmotivated (hopefully we are not the cause!).
It is like flying a kite; if we want the kite to soar high, we keep our eyes on the kite, pulling the string tight at times, but letting it go when necessary. It does not help the kite if we keep comparing our kite with that of others, trying to “out-fly” or soar higher than them. Kite-flying can be enjoyable if we just focus on our own kite.
A CD teaching titled “Adopting A Positive Approach to Life” by Dr AR Bernard reminds us that we need to develop our strengths and manage our weaknesses. However, we often tend to focus on the weaknesses and spend a lot of time overcoming them, instead of focusing on developing the strengths that are already in us.
So what is the parenthood package? Remember the 3 T’s:
- Trust – lean not on your own understanding, but commit your parenting journey to Him.
- Team – build up the team that He has placed around your child. Pray for each member of the team, including their teachers, caregivers, children’s church teachers and domestic helpers. Support them so that they can support your child.
- Talent – our key job as parents is to help our children find their gifts and talents. Expose them to various opportunities and observe them; see which ones they naturally gravitate to. When our children can truly make use of the gifts and talents that God has given them, their lives will glorify God.
Enjoy the parenthood package!
Carol Loi is a mother to two daughters ages 11 and 8. She works in the field of education and seeks to make the world a better place, one parent at a time. She is also a trained facilitator of parent programs, and has conducted programs at City Harvest Church to empower couples who are planning to have a family or already expecting a child.