The first school in which we enroll, and the most important in shaping our future, is our home. A casual view of modern TV shows might lead us to believe that parents don’t matter. I contend that nothing matters more.
When Benjamin West was a boy, his mother left him in charge of his younger sister, Sally. Benjamin found bottles of colored ink and painted Sally’s portrait. When his mother arrived home, she discovered spilled ink and ruined paper. But before she had the chance to scold Benjamin, she saw the picture. Then she planted an encouraging kiss on his cheek. He would grow up to become of the greatest painters of historic and religious artworks, a teacher of many other famous artists, and a major force in launching Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts, for which he served as president. Benjamin West would later say, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”
Every child’s life is like a book of blank pages waiting to be written on. Something is written each day. A parent who exposes a child of hours of television, video games, unsupervised time on the Internet, and an occasional trip to church is not likely to raise a child whose value system will mirror that of the parent. The child will probably reflect the value system of the entertainment industry.
While researching for a book I co-wrote on juvenile delinquency (“Kids Who Kill”), I became aware that children need parents who are informed, involved and (yes) invasive in their children’s lives. There is no single fact that will explain why a child as young as eleven would commit mass murder, but one thing seems certain: the likelihood of this taking place decreases drastically when children have a stable home, good role models and parents who are clearly more afraid for their children than afraid of their children.
Too many parents fear angering or alienating their children. They convince themselves that love means avoiding asking their children questions about how their time is spent and who their friends are. They fool themselves into thinking they’re being good parents when they don’t hold their children accountable for their schoolwork and other activities. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be “helicopter parents” who are so overprotective that our children turn into a generation of “snowflakes” who cannot learn through their failures or develop a healthy maturity and independence.
The requirement of parents summed up in Ephesians 6:4 is simple yet profound: “Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Children should not be driven to exasperation by parents who make demands that are so difficult to achieve that the children are prevented from succeeding. There’s a vast difference between breaking a child’s rebellious will and breaking his or her spirit.
As parents, our goal should be to channel the energy of our children, rather than destroy their creative and curious natures given by God that motivate them to discover their unique purposes. We are further admonished to bring up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” By both example and exhortation, parents are to nourish their children. Most values are caught and then taught. Our children are more likely to imitate what they see us do than what they hear us say.
We live in a world where a meal can be microwaved in seconds, and an Internet message can be transmitted around the world almost instantly (another reason why it would be nice if they were fact-checked before hitting “Send.”) But part of the legacy we must leave is raising children who understand that some things can’t be rushed. Patience is a virtue as well as a pathway to victory. Things of great value take time.
If the thing to which you ascribe the greatest value in your life is your children, then don’t they deserve the greatest amount of time, nurturing and guidance you can possible give?
(Adapted from the book, “Rare, Medium or Done Well: Make the Most of your Life.” )