Practical Christian Parenting – 1 – The End Goal

As with any endeavor, good parenting requires an end goal. Christians can find their end goal all ready created for them by God in the Bible. Do you know where it is? Do you use it? If you do, you know it works.

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Today we’re going to embark on a new series on Parenting. We have twelve presentations planned for this series. We’re going to call it Practical Parenting. Not only are we going to show skills and strategies, but also cover sticky issues that can derail parenting efforts and go under the hood, so to speak, and think about what our fundamental goals are, and then how to achieve them. So this first presentation is called The End Goal of Parenting. This is probably the most important part of the whole thing. If you don’t start out in the right place, you’ll end up somewhere else.

In his book, The Seven Habits of Successful People, Stephen Covey tells us, “Consider the end in your mind.” In other words, “Let’s have a goal for our parenting.” To be successful with any endeavor, it’s important to know what the finished product should look like – what we want to accomplish. This is certainly true of parenting, too. Well, most people with whom I interact seem to be helter-skelter about their parenting. They seem to be noodling their way through with no plan at all – just trying to survive the experience.

I was talking with some parents some time ago. The father called me up. He said, “We’re so upset about our oldest son. We think, maybe, we should take him to Caseman for an assessment, but we’re not sure. We just don’t know what to do with him.” Have you been there with your kids? Just don’t know what to do? Well, I was there with my kids and sometimes I’m there with my people that I work with as well. But I’ve learned a way to think about confusing situations related to family. It’s called “the baby in the crib.”

If you watched or listened to many of my presentations, you’ve probably heard me talk about it. It goes back to a baby in a crib who cries, and then parents either come and take care of the baby’s needs or they don’t. Whichever of those happens, and how much of each one, has a lot to do with why children, teens and adults react to the world around them the way they do. So, that’s where I can start understanding what’s happening when I come to a complicated situation. It automatically raises questions for which I can seek answers. It’s a framework in my mind to hang all the information on so I can make sense of it.

So let’s start building a framework for Godly parenting in our heads so we know what to do. Let’s ask this question first. What are you trying to accomplish in your parenting? What is the end goal? If you’re a Christian, where should your goal come from? Well, that’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? We want to have a Godly goal, don’t we? So what is a Godly goal? Well, okay, what do you think? A lot of people tell me, “I want them to become Christians,” or “I want them to be in the Kingdom of God.” But, you see, those things are hopes. We don’t get to decide whether they’re going become Christians or be in the Kingdom of God. They get to decide if they’re going to be Christians, and God gets to decide if they’re going to be in the Kingdom of God. A goal is something you can actually accomplish. A lot of us try to parent on hope. I mean, hope is important, and it’s good to have a hope, but that isn’t going to get us where we need to go.

If we set a goal we can’t achieve, then, in the end, two things are going to happen. We’re going to be disappointed and we’re going to be ineffective. Why is that? Because, if we don’t set the right goal, we won’t achieve it. So let’s think about a scriptural approach to parenting with the right goal and a right foundation. Let’s look at two biblical principles and connect them in our minds with parenting.

Here’s the first one. It’s in John 6:44.

John 6:44 – No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. So what’s the Father’s and Jesus’ goal, then, related to us? Well, it’s to draw us into relationship so that we can be raised up at the last day. Right? To draw us into relationship – that’s what They’re trying to do.

Here’s the second principle I wanted to bring up – Hebrews 12:9:

Hebrews 12:9 – Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time, as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

So now, the point I want to make from this scripture is not Paul’s point. It’s not about discipline. We’re going to talk a lot about discipline later, but right now I want to talk about this: God is a family. He’s the Father. And He’s also decreed that there will be earthly fathers and earthly families. So God’s a Father. He’s creating a Family. And He’s built, within that structure, earthly fathers with earthly families. And when we are an earthly father, our job is play the same role with our children that God plays with us. Right? Both are fathers.

So how does God father us? How does He parent us? Well, He disciplines us, He teaches us, He guides us, and He loves us with the same goal we saw up above – to draw us into relationship, so that we can be resurrected into God’s eternal family. So following God’s model, we’re to parent the way God parents us. That’s the second principle.

So the first one is our goal to draw our children into relationship, like God is drawing us, and the second one is our foundation – to parent the way God parents us. So what are we trying to do again? We’re trying to draw our children into Godly relationship.

You might say, “But that’s not enough. I want my kids to become Christians.” Well, I want mine to become Christians, too, but I can’t accomplish that. That’s their choice. So what goal should I set? Well, I want to draw my children into Godly relationship. And that is enough. We’ll talk about that. It’s all about the relationship. It’s always all about the relationship. So how do we go about doing that? Can we pay them fifty bucks and say, “Like me,” or can we kind of walk around behind them with a Taser and zap them every time they do something we don’t like? No, neither one of those things work. Some have tried both of those techniques. They think buying their kids stuff or taking them places will do it – or over-controlling them will do it – but those things don’t work.

Here is how we draw our children into Godly relationship: by parenting them the way God parents us. Can you see how that clears away the confusion, the chaos, the scrambling around, the uncertainty? Is it a scriptural goal? Yes, it is. Is the foundation scriptural? Yes, it is. So we can go forward, confident that God will be with us in our efforts. Now that we know what we want to do and have a foundational strategy, we can go forward.

How about you? Do you have the right goal? We like to think we do, but, you know, in our culture, we talk a lot about hoping our kids will grow up to be Christians. Unfortunately, most of us are a part of Western culture, which, for the most part, is shedding Christianity.

When we are young and get married – and this is an example – we want to have children. Why? Well, because it’s the thing to do to make us happy. That’s how Western people think. It’s about us. It’s the thing to do. We want to have kids. It will make us happy. And there is a biological imperative there, so it is natural, but where is God is that desire. Do you know why young Eastern Europeans Christians have children? Well, what’s foremost in their mind is not because they want to, or because they think kids will make them more fulfilled, or whatever. They do it to glorify God – to raise up another member of His body, the church – to share eternal life with Him. They plan from the very beginning to teach, train, model and love their children the way God teaches, trains, models and loves them. They have the right goal and the right plan from the start, whereas, for us, to get that, we have to shed cultural norms to find it. Maybe you’ve never detected that difference until now. That’s what culture does to us. It’s a set of unwritten rules we follow without being aware of them.

Next question: Do you have the right foundation – parenting them the way God parents us? Or do we parent the way we were parented? Or do we parent the way we think we should parent? Or do we set a Godly tone in our relationship with our children? Or, on the other side of that, are we just reacting to our own pain, frustrations and deficits in our relationships with our children?

There’s a lot to think about here, if we want to get to the end goal – which is what again? To draw our children into Godly relationship. Why is that enough? Because that’s what God does with us. He draws us rather than forcing us. And why does He do that? Well, because He’s given us free will. And why did He give us free will? So that we would decide whether we wanted to be with Him or not. He doesn’t want automatons in His Kingdom. He wants independents that can function on their own. And to do that, He had to give us free will so that we could learn how to use it. So God doesn’t force us into His Kingdom, He makes us want to be there. He draws into Godly relationship. And with our kids, we’re stand-ins for God – to draw them into Godly relationship.

Now, how are you going to do that drawing in? Well, that’s what this series is about. Let’s look at some of the things God says about how He parents us. Jeremiah 29:11:

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Are your kids hopeful? Are they encouraged? Are they positive about how you feel about them?

So, did you take that in, by the way? It’s not how you feel about them that does it. It’s how they feel about you. Do you love them or not? Well, of course you love them, but do they know that? You see, it’s that we have to communicate how we feel about them in a way that they can take it in and understand it. So, why do I say that? Well, because I see lots of parents who love their kids, and when I meet their children and talk to them, they don’t know that their parents love them. And because of that, they’re resistant, angry and discouraged. They are fighting the relationship.

So how do we communicate our love to our children? Most cultures do that naturally, but Western culture has lost the ability to do that, and because we’ve lost the ability to communicate love to children, we’ve also lost the ability to transmit our values to the next generation. Now I know that’s a powerful statement, and I’m just Bill talking to you, but one of the greatest brain researchers in the world, Bruce Perry, made that statement in my hearing some years ago. “Western culture has lost the ability to transmit its values to the next generation and it’s all about a loving relationship.”

So how do we encourage our kids and give them hope? Well, we’re going to talk about that a lot more in this series. Let’s look at another scripture. We read this already, but I want to read it again.

Hebrews 12:9 – Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time, as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

We read this already, like I mentioned, but we were not focusing on discipline that time. We were thinking about the family piece. Now we are focusing on discipline. God says He disciplines us in a way that’s good for us. I see teens that are furious with their parents, or depressed, because of the kind of discipline their parents use. Their mood is not going to improve later either, because the method of punishment is not Godly. How does one discipline in a way that works? Well, more on that later.
Let’s look at one more scripture – Ephesians 6:4.

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Avoid the one thing and accomplish the other. And the point here is, if your kids are angry, you will not be able to discipline and instruct them properly – in a Godly way. So avoid making them angry, and teach them through Godly discipline and instruction. But how do we do that? Well, it all goes back to the goal and the foundation. You know, there’s an old saying: “Rules without relationship equals rebellion and rules with relationship equals respect.” So everything comes back to relationship.

So, when God tells us to build a Godly relationship with our kids, He’s giving us the key to accomplishing everything else we need to do. Teaching and discipline work when there’s foundational healthy relationship in place. And nothing works when it’s not there. So drawing our children into relationship is the goal. The foundational strategy is to parent them the way God parents us. That’s how you draw them in. The way God parents us is designed to draw us and, if we do that, it will work for us, too – and we’re not relying on our own inclinations; we’re relying on God’s.

Okay, that’s a wrap for today. Next time – and that will be in two weeks – we’re going to continue on and deliver the answer to the question: How do you communicate love to children? That’s core, so what we’re going to be calling that – Communicating Love to Children – makes sense, doesn’t it? There are four behaviors parents can adopt, and, if you do adopt your behaviors with your child, you will communicate love to them and they will know that you love them. So don’t miss it.