by Betty Young
My children recently asked me for my best parenting advice. I have no expertise, advice or revelations to share regarding parenting and raising children. When I look back to my years of child rearing, it was really hit or miss. Parenting is not an easy assignment and when done well, is physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally laborious, to say the least. Now that I am at the latter end of my life, let me say to those who are looking for advice—die to self and pray without ceasing.
By no means was I a parent worthy of any praise. I am only too aware of my faults and shortcomings. The praise belongs to God whose love, mercy and grace covered my many oversights. His plan for each child occurs despite negligence and/or dereliction (intentional or not) of responsibility on the part of a parent. For this, I am grateful.
The process of raising children is a joyful experience, yes, but it is also often emotionally distressful. Certainly, there are times of uncertainties and sorrows. The Bible is a deep well of comfort, wisdom and advice for how to unconditionally love and care for another human being. Indeed, how often have I mined Scripture for just such needs. I have no advice but let me share some principles and then some priorities.
Principle One: Psalm 127:3-4 – “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” I have always believed, and I continue to believe, that each child is a miracle from God and therefore always a blessing. God’s intention is for children to be a source of great blessing in and for the family.
Principle Two: Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I believe this verse is not exclusively about moral or spiritual direction. It is also about finding purpose and a child’s path in life. Parents have the unique role of helping children discover how God has equipped them and how they can use their gifts in a positive way as adults.
Principle Three: Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” God entrusted us with our four children. I often joke that they were all accidents—but I know in my heart of hearts that there is no such thing as accidents; that each one was given to us intentionally as gifts and each one has a purpose in God’s Kingdom. As each child took more and more steps toward independence, we prayed more and more for God to show each one His purposes and His will for his/her life. We always knew that our children were not ours. They belong to God, and they were just entrusted to us by God for a short time.
You’ve heard the expression, “the hill you want to die on.” It means that there is something so important to you that you are willing to fight to the death to accomplish it. Since I couldn’t die on every hill, I chose to put my energies on a certain few. You might call these my priorities. They are listed below, not in any particular order.
- Build good memories – I wanted my children to have an abundance of good memories. When my father died, I realized that all I had of him were my memories of our good times together. When challenges in my life occurred, memories of my father were a source of comfort, encouragement, strength and inspiration. We wanted our children to have an abundance of good memories from their home of origin to help them endure and overcome hardships.
- Build good character – My parents stressed good grades. As is the case with most Asian immigrant parents, they saw it as an avenue to a better life. But Christians believe that the way to a better life is the new life we have in Christ. We stressed the biblical values of generosity and service to others. Perhaps, good character is more “caught” than “taught.” We tried to model these behaviors and traits.
- Know your gifts and talents and know that they are God-given – Whenever it was possible, we explored individual interests, talents and passions. School, homework and academics were important, but we didn’t major exclusively on scholarship. Life was more than just good grades. We wanted our children to leave our home knowing what they were good at and what needed improvement. This knowledge might not only lead them to God’s will for them but also to their life’s work.
- Spiritual growth – We wanted our children to begin their own authentic spiritual journey with God. As Christian parents, we tried to plant seeds that would bloom and grow into spiritual fruit in the lives of our children. We participated fully in a community of faith that encouraged our presence and leadership as well as that of our children so that they could grow in understanding of what it means to be in a relationship with God. We read and told stories of God and biblical characters. We also provided opportunities for our children to express their faith through missions, service projects and various retreats where they were able to spend concentrated time pondering spiritual matters.
We as parents cannot take any credit for all the good things God has done in our children’s lives. We are thankful that God entrusted us, as imperfect as we are, to love and to care for our children. Today they bring us much joy and satisfaction. In caring for them, we have grown closer in our walk with God.