Giving our Children their Destiny

October 22, 2011

Parents spend a couple of decades shaping their children and the variety of situations we face is endless. Health, maturity, and our children’s futures hang in the balance, and so we search for strategies to help our children really have the life that we envision for them. Sometimes the search is an intentional quest for strategy, sadly, more often than not,

this search takes the form of a gut reaction in a moment. Too often the reaction is more the fruit of our own childhood journey than any real intentionality about being a good parent. Nevertheless, I would like to weigh in on a few of the intentions that can help our kids become who they were made to be.

Train up a child in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). This Biblical admonition has been used to validate all manner of parenting, but let’s settle something here. The way most people interpret that passage hangs on our English, Western, Judeo-Christian interpretation of the word “Should”. We read that word, and our mind fills with a path strewn with prohibitions and expectations. The “should”  here echoes in our mind with our own sense of what we “should and should not do”, and the lifelong effort of will to conform ourselves.

The phrase in Hebrew really is much better understood in this way. “Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path.” When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose…” (Taken from Clarke’s Commentary on the the Bible.)

Let me give you my turn on this wording. Help a child become who he was made to be, not your idea of who he ought to be. Even in English, if we consider the word should in this way. “…if you plant corn in the ground, it should grow up to be corn… “. This usage of the word “should” is not describing a mandate to be followed it is describing the natural unfolding of a seedling reality.  Our job as parents is not to impose our insecurities, our unrealized past, our fears, or our inner vows on our children. Our job is to discover alongside them who God made them to be and help equip them to fight the inherent battle to become that person. Train up a child to become the man or woman they were created to be and they will not turn from it. Try to make them something else, it will be an ongoing struggle for you and for them.

My four children are all so different, and part of the fun of parenting them has been learning from them who they are. But these differences also demand that each one of them be parented in a

different way. To take a “method” and apply it to all my children, (or every child on the face of the earth for that matter) would really make parenting about me and not about my children. In fact, too often our parenting is really about us. This is the root of all legalism. When we do this it’s about our insecurities and trying to get our children to not make us look bad. It’s about our fears and trying to get our children to comply so that we don’t experience fear. It’s about our own emotional needs, and trying to get our children and their standing to make us feel better about ourselves.

Any time parenting becomes about us, we have actually reversed the flow of life that parenting was designed to provide. We as parents are to give life to our children, not to get them to give life or comfort to us. Which brings us to the next thought.

Our kids will carry what we give them much more than what we say to them. Say nice things but give them anger, the anger embeds in their soul. Tell them good Bible, but give them fear, perfect fear will cast out love every time. Tell them you love them, but give them judgment, they will grow up with performance issues. Jesus said it this way, “freely you have received, freely give…”. We give away what is in us, regardless of what language we wrap around it.

And finally this issue of the will must be addressed. We are going to shape our children’s will. The “train up” portion of proverbs 22:6 refers to passing on skills based on repetition. The dilemma here is that our own wills are so poorly taught that we often pass on to our children the lowest common denominator, obedience.

In the same way that I fear most schools are teaching our children how to pass tests, and not how to think, I fear most of us, as parents, are teaching our children how to obey, but not teaching them how to choose well.

We have learned that we use our will to choose good things and to avoid evil things. What if that is not the highest design? As odd as it sounds, we must realize that this particular use of our will is built directly on the foundation of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (you know, the tree that killed us all…). Training our kids that first time obedience is the highest value, we fail to teach them how to do things like surrender (a key to salvation and freedom by the way). We fail to teach them how to choose wisely. In fact, I believe that choosing between self-reliance, and the active voice of God is the original purpose of the will, and we seldom practcie this ourselves, much less pass it on to our children.

When we focus on obedience, when inadvertently teach our children that relationship is based on behavior. When we focus on surrender we teach them that behavior grows from relationship.

When we teach our children how to obey, what will they do when they move out from our homes? (and yes, Virginia, contrary to today’s culture, our children are supposed to leave our homes.)

Let me summarize.

Discover who your children are, do not try to force them into a mold that you wish you had followed. Your motive shapes them more than your strategies. Love them where they are and you will earn entrance into their hearts. When you do this, they can receive life from you the same way that Adam received Life from His Father. Finally train them how to choose, not just what to choose. Help them respond to relationship with you not just a negotiation of rules and consequences.

We can force scripture on our children, while we treat them the way the devil does (trust me, I have counseled that family…), or we can learn to relate to them the way God relates to us, and they will be drawn to the Source of this kind of love.

 


  • Leigh-Ann Jones

    Good stuff Bob! Would you PLEASE give a parenting class/seminar on this topic!!

  • http://www.theiansterscorner.wordpress.com theianster

    IS VERY RADICAL

  • http://www.sunnybrookfarmdesigns.blogspot.com Rebekah

    good gracious, Bob, I needed to read this so very much! I can’t even begin to think of where to go from here, though, how on earth to I teach them to respond to their relationship with me?? In that moment, when they are being totally selfish or stubborn, the last thing they care about is their relationship with anyone else.

  • http://www.brokenchildministry.com Kim Wolfe

    This is a great post! I worked with children for 26 years and it is not that the children are broken, it is the parenting being in need of a tune up. We as humans are falling short due to how we were parented ourselves in some cases. A trip to Kairos changed EVERYTHING in my case. I held on to what was good my parent gave me and forgave the rest. I am taking the lessons and being transparent with my three daughters to help heal the wounds I have caused them while they were young. All I can do is surrender my mistakes as a parent to God and ask Him to heal our family and He is certainly doing a wonderful job in that arena! We are closer than ever and living in prayer together! I love your site and read your blogs often! I appreciate your writings and the dose of reality we all need to have in check. God’s Blessings to you …

  • Becky Maresciuc

    What refreshing insight! And what a different perspective on parenting (even though I’m not yet a parent)! I love it! I’m continually learning to think differently! Thank-you so much, pastor Bob!

  • http://chejackson.tumblr.com Che’ Jackson

    This is a very in depth and thought provoking topic. My hope is that we as parents can be the change our kids need, which will inevitably be the change our world needs.

  • Melody

    This is great! I have a 3 year old so the word “obey” comes up a lot in my day. Thanks for the reminder that my relationship with her is more important than her behavior. And good timing too, as I has a rough day with her today.

  • Aja Schiewe

    Great Stuff! I can see it already- a “Think Differently, Parent Differently” Conference……

  • http://www.lorieaton.com lori

    what do you do when they are 20 and you have messed them up?

  • Magdalena

    Thank you for this. I have a very independent high-spirited preschooler just like ME of course and I have focused so much on obedience because everything I’ve read dealt with this one issue pretty exclusively. I was raised in Communist Romania for 14 years in very harsh environments with little love and no encouragement and now I see that patenting style in me. I’m so sad, really grieved to know that I could have damaged my child. Often she is rejecting of me even resentful and now I see why.

  • Amy Miller

    WOW, that’s powerful good stuff!! I’m trying to figure out how to really apply focusing on surrender in my approach to parenting. How do you do that? By giving clear boundaries and consequences for choosing unwisely? Like God with the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

    Totally agree – please do a parenting class! And a follow up to your Penetrating the Darkness Equip session. And…I could go on and on.

    Thank you for your insights!

  • http://newlifedoulacare.com Audrey Whitesides

    I am thinking about this exact thing right now with my 3 month old, Finn. God’s will, not mine for his life. It’s funny how almost instantly I thought I knew better for him than God…

  • Tina Pugh

    I would appreciate a session or seminar on parenting too! My girls are 10 and 14.

  • Derrick

    I too would appreciate more of your insights on Christian parenting! Thanks, brother!

  • Karen

    This is great! Keep it coming!!!

  • Kim Foster

    I started my parenting days so young, with an inner vow. I would never be the kind of parent mine were.(not proud of that) After falling in-love with each of my children for the different ways they are, God showed me what He wanted for them. Not me!
    Inner vow broken…healed in time. Some mistakes if course… Quick to say I’m sorry. Quick to show the one source for true love. Quick to appreciate each one for their individuality. All different…each perfectly made! Thank ya Lord for your gifts to me.
    Thanks Bob for sharing the significance of children finding out who they are in Christ VS us.
    What’s that date on your class?!

  • Crista

    Dang. That’s just good.

  • Bonnie

    MORE…I am curious though, isn’t there a way to show them how they should (must) choose to obey? Aren’t we as adults supposed to obey God, even if we don’t understand the reasonings? The desire to please Him, Even though it is not by works, should be our first choice. Isn’t obedience an act of surrendering our will to His? I want them to learn how to choose, yet at very young ages, I feel like obedience needs to happen first. Once they can see the choice of obedience then they can see how to make that choice and how, why they will want to choose well. The choice of obeying Mommy and Daddy are because they love us, and can trust that we love them. Ie. “Don’t run into the street” isn’t a choice a 2 year old makes, but “obey Mommy and don’t run into the street” is a must.
    Help me out here Bob, Am I completely off? Is there an age stage of maturity that we as parents begin to really help our kids to see that surrender shows love? Ahhhh……I don’t know now I’m rambling.

  • http://www.bobhamp.com Bob Hamp

    Bonnie…of course safety and all those things are crucial…the issue here is exactly what you said: Trust, and other heart issues. The main point I try to make is that compliance behaviorally without heart surrender can actually damage relationship and in the long run will not sustain true growth or maturity. You’re not rambling…you are trying to apply this in your circumstance/thought process. Sometimes we just grab them before they jump in front of a car…but always we pursue their hearts. Thanks BB

  • tim s.

    well said Bob. thx for the correct perspective!

  • Wendy Hardin

    What’s so difficult for me is the vulnerability perhaps to win them with THEM in mind. When I do this without consulting the Holy Spirit, it involves leaving my dreams and goals for the new day and learning another’s dreams or desires. However, when I submit to HIS holy promptings, which I long for, then the promptings HE reveals are so much more fun than my own original agenda anyhow. And, the blessing flows very naturally. Thanks Bob Hamp for teaching us in a unique fashion.