Forty percent of United States marriages end in divorce. Ninety percent of cohabitating parents in the United Kingdom split up before their children reach age 16. While such worldwide trends severely limit potential futures of sons and daughters, your family does not have to be a statistic.
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When a mother first gazes into the sweet face of her newborn daughter, she does not imagine a life of chaos, anger or violence. She pictures giggles, sticky fingers and pink tutus. A father envisions teaching his son to build a tree house or watching him score his first touchdown.
Parents do not aspire for their little ones to lead lives filled with failure, poor decisions and drug use. But such circumstances are common. Modern parents must navigate a minefield of seemingly impossible situations: living in unhappy marriages, coping with the stress of being a single mom or dad, holding down multiple jobs to provide for a family…the list could go on.
Amid it all, children are often the first casualty.
The United States Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families reported that fathers play a significant role in their children’s well-being: “One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior.”
“This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self-esteem. In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.”
Regarding mothers, researchers found that a mom’s affection “physically changes the brain.” According to LiveScience, “Brain images have now revealed that a mother’s love physically affects the volume of her child’s hippocampus [an area of the brain important for emotional recognition and coping with stress]. In the study, children of nurturing mothers had hippocampal volumes 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing.”
When both a mother and father are in the home, “Children…are better off emotionally, socially and economically, according to a review of marriage research…” (USA Today).
Most savvy parents who want to help their sons and daughters be successful have read the statistics. They agree that effective parenting is a key to securing a positive future for their children. But what does this mean? In a world that is constantly bombarded with stresses that did not exist 50 years ago, how can parents rear truly balanced children?
Even though proper parenting may seem impossible in the 21st century, there are certain time-tested principles that can help you beat the odds.
Consider for a moment. What is the foundation of your knowledge on parenting? How your mother and father reared you? Books by psychologists? Past experience?
Each of these can have some merit, but you must be certain that the parenting advice is based on fact. You want to use a sure-fire instruction manual that clearly breaks down the basic principles.
Science has proven that a stable home with both a mother and father provides the best chance of success for children. Although this research has been done by modern scientists, all they really have done is catch up to what was written about parenting thousands of years ago.
While it often sits collecting dust on bookshelves, the Bible contains everything needed to guide parents—and their children—to have happy and fulfilling lives. This Book—which can be likened to an Instruction Manual for mankind—is brimming with crucial principles that every parent should know.
As already established, mankind knows that a strong marriage produces children that “are better off emotionally, socially and economically.” A big reason for this is that a husband-and-wife team is better at taking on problems life throws at them. The Bible book of Ecclesiastes summarizes this principle: “Two are better than one…though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him…” (4:9, 12, Revised Standard Version). (To learn about this principle, read our booklet You Can Build a Happy Marriage).
A couple becomes even stronger when children are added. The last part of verse 12 makes this clear: “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
In society today, there are times when single parenting is a necessity due to circumstances. In such a situation, your child is not doomed. As a parent, though, you will need to work harder than ever to raise your child correctly. Focus on your strengths and accept your weaknesses. Tap your social circle to fill in where you may fall short. If you are a single mother to a son, seek out good examples of uncles, grandfathers, male teachers and coaches who can teach your son what it means to be a man. Single fathers of girls can do the same. Aunts, grandmothers and the mothers of classmates can all help you guide your daughter on the path to womanhood.
The key word here is train. Mothers and fathers must constantly and consistently teach their children everything they need to know, starting with right principles found in the Bible.
The following are seven training points to equip your child for success.
Parents, teach your children that they represent the family name. They should understand that their actions can bring either praise or disgrace to their parents, siblings and extended family.
Honoring the family name is part of the Fifth Commandment, which requires everyone, regardless of age, to honor his or her father and mother. Proverbs 19:26 expounds on this all-important command: “He that wastes his father, and chases away his mother, is a son that causes shame, and brings reproach.”
A child and young adult can “waste” his father’s name by not being conscientious, diligent and responsible. Likewise, a son or daughter can “chase away” his or her mother by rejecting her counsel and advice. The ensuing results bring both shame and reproach to the family name.
One way to have your children invested in their family name is to teach them their ancestral history. Tell them about the accomplishments of your parents, grandparents and so on. As always, focus on examples of good character. Communicate to them the importance of responsibility and honor. Research your genealogy together and give your children the gift of knowing their roots.
The oldest son has a special place in the family and should set an example of upholding the family name. In ancient Israel, the eldest son received a double portion of a family’s inheritance (Deut. 21:17; Gen. 48:22; I Chron. 5:1). This did not mean that other siblings were of lesser value. Rather, for a firstborn son to earn his “double portion,” he had to work doubly hard!
Fathers should expect the oldest boy to set the standard among the children. They must prepare them to bear responsibility as soon as they are sufficiently mature. An eldest son can have a tremendously positive impact upon a family—or he can cause much harm! Teach him to make right decisions and to protect his sisters and younger brothers. Teach him the importance of honor and upholding high standards. His brothers and sisters will naturally want to follow him.
Society today is nothing like 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago. For example, 49 percent of boys and 47 percent of girls between the ages of 15 to 19 years old have engaged in oral sex, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Generations ago, most teens did not even know what that term meant!
Fathers and mothers must understand their children. Listen to them when they come to you. “Be swift to hear, slow to speak” (Jms. 1:19). Heed the lesson of Proverbs 18:13: “He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Applying these verses will pay immeasurable dividends in your relationships with your children.
Fathers should empathize and feel compassion for their children. Such empathy usually comes more naturally to mothers, but fathers should strive to develop these qualities if they want to connect with their children.
A man’s compassion toward his son should be genuine, with care taken not to overreact and coddle him. For example, a good father will feel the pain of his child’s cut or skinned knee and wish in his mind that he could put himself in his son’s place. Yet he should be an example of self-control and show his son how to manage his emotions.
Listening to and understanding your children will yield positive results and help them build character.
Young people should strive for high moral standards. God always blesses virtuous behavior, though it may not be immediately evident. Conversely, sin may seem “fun” for the moment, but it always leads to pain, misery and death (Prov. 16:25).
Children today battle tremendous pressures that encourage them to take shortcuts—to take the “easy way.” The expression “take it easy” sums up the current generation’s attitude toward hard work and honesty.
For example, many students of all ages believe cheating is acceptable. According to The New York Times, “Eric Anderman, a professor of educational psychology at Ohio State University, has been studying cheating in schools for decades. He says research shows that close to 85 percent of all kids have cheated at least once in some way by the time they leave high school (boys tend to cheat a bit more than girls, although they might just be more likely to admit the transgression; otherwise, cheating is fairly uniform across demographic groups).”
Sexual activity among teenagers today is common, with those abstaining prior to marriage a shrinking minority.
Many think that teenagers use recreational drugs as a quick fix to cure unhappiness and depression. But a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed conclusively that teenage sex and drug use increased depression. This report confirms God’s Word that sin both causes and spreads misery.
While teenagers are under tremendous pressure from their peers and society to act immorally, the responsibility lies with parents to teach their children right from wrong, good from evil. This education must start when they are young and should continue until adulthood.
Guard your children—especially when they are still younger—from evil influences. In I Corinthians 15:33, Paul clearly states that association with poorly behaved children will corrupt your own: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (New American Standard Bible).
While they should strive to be well-rounded, do not allow them to socialize with those who may have a negative influence on them. Teach your sons and daughters to associate with peers who strive for excellence in how they speak and behave.
Make your children aware of the evil around them through life’s daily lessons and the news. Instruct them to avoid destructive activities. Guide them and encourage them.
Ephesians 6:4 exhorts fathers to be balanced: “…fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Some interpret this to mean that a father should never be stern or resolute with his children. But that is not what this verse is stating!
“Admonition” means discipline, yet always tempered with mercy. “Nurture” refers to teaching. A father’s habitual hostility toward his children will “provoke a child to wrath.” A bitter father who continually heaps unreasonable demands and punishment upon his children can be 100 percent assured that they will be provoked to wrath—if not broken in spirit! A father who does not listen to his children and empathize with them is unwise. He is sure to bring misery upon his family and himself.
Fathers and mothers must work together to rear children, which includes teaching them and disciplining them when necessary. Parents must share this responsibility.
There can be a tendency for mothers to overly rely on fathers when it comes to administering discipline. While a father should not shirk this responsibility, it is best if a mother is also involved to create one “parental voice” in the household.
Children should never witness arguing or intense disagreement between parents. Such disagreements should be handled privately. Psalm 133:1 states, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” While this exhortation speaks of unity between Christians, it certainly should be practiced at home.
There are (or should be) distinct differences in how males and females think. Parents should work to develop and nurture the characteristics and strengths that naturally apply to males and females.
Teach boys to be strong—mentally and physically. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 20:29, “The glory of young men is their strength.” At the earliest age possible, insist that your sons perform heavy work such as cutting and hauling wood for burning, helping with landscaping, painting a house, working on automobiles, or other activities that will cause them to sweat! Do not be afraid to push them—expect them to perform. However, be keenly aware of their real limits (not just when they say they are tired). Also, recognize that some boys need more coaxing and supervision than others.
Along with strength and determination, teach boys to have a gentle nature and that “gentleness” is a part of godly character (Gal. 5:22). Some events and circumstances in life should be met with muscle and a square jaw, but toughness must be tempered with gentleness, especially when interacting with girls and women.
Girls should also be taught to be strong, but not to dominate. I Peter 3:7 reveals that women are physically weaker: “Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
This does not mean that women are inferior to men. This verse shows that boys and young men must never “bully” or manhandle women, but rather be gentle and treat them with respect.
Girls must be taught to be emotionally and mentally strong. They need to understand that, though a wife’s role is to work under her husband’s authority, she should never allow herself to be abused—emotionally, physically or otherwise.
Regarding sexuality, Song of Solomon in the Bible addresses the difference between a young girl who is a “wall”—a virgin—and one who is a “door”—sexually promiscuous.
Parents should ask themselves: “Have we sat down with our daughter and taught her to save herself for marriage? Have we explained what Solomon meant and how she should be a wall and not a door? Or, have we made the mistake of assuming that she already knows?”
Teach your sons the same principles, and that being sexually active before marriage is not a sign of manhood. Both sons and daughters should be taught to save themselves for their future spouses. How tragic that we live in a world that views traditional family values as antiquated and old-fashioned!
Teach your daughters to be strong and self-motivated like the highly valued woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31 as a “virtuous woman.” This woman, whose value is placed above rubies, knows how to properly handle money and organize and manage her household—not to mention her own business. She also nurtures her children, so much so that they call her blessed.
Help your daughters understand the importance of modest yet elegant clothing choices, and to not flaunt herself with what she wears. In this way, a mother should be an example and not wear clothing that is too tight or revealing.
Expect femininity from your daughter. A father should especially be aware of his daughter’s appearance and regularly compliment her. If properly trained and encouraged, daughters will naturally desire to be beautiful. They will understand what real beauty is as opposed to how Hollywood and the fashion industry define it.
Boys should also be encouraged to keep themselves well-groomed and to seek out classic fashions rather than modern trends that include pants that sag past the hips or are too tight.
If you teach your children their proper roles and responsibilities early in life, you will save them—and yourself—grief later.
The Bible commands all children to honor their parents (Deut. 5:16) and you should teach your children to do just that. Make sure to lead by example. Your sons and daughters should see you honoring your own parents and others in positions of authority. Teach them that even though leaders make mistakes, they still deserve respect.
Be approachable. Your children should feel comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns. If and when your children confide in you—even if there is some criticism in the message—listen!
The phrase “I hate you,” spoken at any age and directed at any family member, should be dealt with swiftly by parents. Such words should not be allowed in any home. Modern psychology encourages parents to tolerate outbursts of anger from their children—but God does not!
Honoring parents is not optional.
Crises, which are sure to come, should bring parents and children together as one resolute unit. Notice: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). Even if your childhood was filled with bad conduct and unpleasant experiences—determine to make your children’s experiences better. Rearing them into adulthood can be difficult at times, but it can also bring some of the greatest blessings.
Prepare your family to meet and overcome difficulties by implementing these seven points into your daily lives. Constantly teach them to your children!
That said, parents must recognize when it is time to begin letting go. Children do grow up to become adults and must eventually make their own decisions. Prepare your children for life, but do not meddle in their affairs after they leave the nest. You can be sure that, if your relationship with them has been good, they will want your advice often and will come to you no matter how old they are.
As society continues to fall to pieces morally, all who desire to protect and strengthen their families must maintain biblical standards. No matter the circumstances, God always helps those who seek to obey Him.
Even in an unhappy world, happy families can still be built and maintained. To learn more about how you can bring up your child “in the way he should go” according to the standards outlined in the Bible, read David C. Pack’s Train Your Children God’s Way. This fact-filled book breaks down the complexities of 21st-century parenting and clearly outlines how to arm your child for success!