What is it? Rather, who is it?
The answer: Our children and grandchildren. No, it’s not about pampering and spoiling them. It’s not about giving in to them on everything. Instead, it is about recognizing them as the Priority Number One of our time, our love, our nurture, our attention, our teaching, our guidance, and our discipline (which means “to teach them,” not to punish them). It is about conveying to them our morals and values, and our faith.
Even without the recent examples of parenting failure with children who grow up to be monster killers, we have plenty of other red flags rising that should give us a real wake-up call. As a society, we’d better re-dedicate ourselves to doing right by our children and better equipping them to be solid citizens and adults with morals, values, and faith in God. If we fail them now, their chances of success and even survival will definitely be in question.
So what do we do? Think “C-H-U-R-C-H.”
“C-hurch them.” Yes, I’m using that as an action verb. “Church” your kids. And it’s first on my list of priorities. If you already actively belong to a church, then keep it up with a renewed emphasis on your kids. If not, then find a church with your children as soon as possible. Worship with them. Sing songs of the faith with them. Pray with them. Read Scripture to them and with them. Read children’s books about God, Jesus, and faith with them. Join the children’s ministry of your church. Yes, join as children and parents together. Make these events and opportunities your highest priorities of the week. Yes, the highest. Tell their coaches that “church comes first.” Talk about “church and God stuff” as often as possible. Listen to faith music and faith stories in your car or van with your children. Say bedtime prayers with them. “Church them.”
“H-ug them.” That’s so obvious but so necessary to say again and again. Give them the security of your physical embrace as often as possible. There are never too many hugs. And give your children the security of your emotional and spiritual embrace. Tell them you love them. Tell them they are children of God and that God loves them. Tell them God created them. They are not here by accident. Tell them they have a Savior in Jesus and that He loves them even more than you do, which almost seems impossible.
“U-nite around them.” That is “be united around them.” Be united. Parents, stay together as husband and wife, mom and dad under one roof. Stay together. Stay together. Unless there is physical abuse or criminal activity, stay together. Even though young love is easy, being and staying married can come with considerable difficulty. But remain faithful. It’s not about you. It’s about your children. It’s about your commitment to God to give the best care and protection to these children He has entrusted into your care. The first question is always, “What is best for my children?” If your situation has already become a split family or you are a single parent, the question remains the same, “What is best for my children?”
“R-estrict them.” That’s right. Put them “on restriction.” No, not the short-term-you’re-grounded-for-the-rest-of-your-life restriction. But the kind that starts when your child’s behavior first becomes dangerous to herself. You do this already, don’t you? You restrict your young child from running into the street to protect her. Well, don’t stop that good preventative procedure no matter what the age and no matter what the danger may be – dangerous computer activity, dangerous music, dangerous electronic games, dangerous friends, dangerous movies, dangerous behaviors. That’s right, restrict them. Make rules. Stick to consequences. Say, “No.” Tough love. Remember, it is for them.
“C-hallenge them.” Child developmental psychologists tell us that children who are expected and challenged to succeed and be hard-working contributors to society will much more likely attain that success and fulfill that contribution. This is not the undue negative pressure forced by an over-zealous parent. It is the positive affirmation of lofty yet realistic expectations. “You can do it. I know you can. Stick with it. We’re behind you. Set your standard high. Go for it. God’s given you the ability.”
“H-ang in there” with and for your children. No, it’s not easy. Even the best-behaved children can give even the best parents a formidable challenge. No wonder they say, “Insanity is hereditary…you can get it from your children.” But by the grace of God, with trust in God, constant prayer, and the support and encouragement of one another, this marvelous experience of raising children into respectable and responsible adulthood can be the most rewarding joy of our human existence. And remember, you are not alone.
Justin Kollmeyer is Pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Hwy. 314 in Fayetteville. He invites parents and grandparents to bring your children and grandchildren to Sunday school at 10:20, to Wednesday Kids’ Company at 6:30, and to worship together Sundays at either 9:15 (Contemporary) or 11:15 (Traditional). Find out more at www.princeofpeacefayette.org