“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26)
Which is more important in relating to your children—to act lovingly or to talk lovingly? That’s a trick question, of course. One without the other is counterfeit. Constantly show and tell. If you’re the strong and silent type, you need to get over it! Your children need to hear of your love, or they might not see it clearly, especially when it’s time to discipline.
The writer of Proverbs captured the essence of modeling God’s ways for our children. By watching you, your children should be able to open their hearts to Jesus as you express His character and teach His ways to them. By following your example, your children will be following Jesus. What greater gift could you give them?
Of course, most parents provide for their children’s physical needs. Let’s look at some ways Mary and Joseph provided for Jesus. Read Luke 2:52 and we see that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people. Jesus’ parents helped Him grow spiritually, physically, socially, and intellectually.
Parents today need to facilitate multidimensional growth in their children’s lives as well. If there is an area of greatest neglect in the home, it is in spiritual training. Paul admonished parents to bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). That means parents must take responsibility for spiritual instruction and be intentional about it. Deuteronomy 11:18-20 says: “Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Imprint them on your heart and mind. Bind them on your hands. Teach them. Talk about them. These are deliberate, concrete actions designed to convey God’s Word to the next generation.
In general, Christian parents want to accept and discharge their responsibility to rear their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Yet environmental determinism has so influenced our thinking that many parents become burdened by the assumption that it’s all up to them. Some are afraid to have children and are nervous about them when they come.
Many who want to be parents are plagued by questions like these: If it’s possible to determine the outcome of a person’s life by creating the perfect environment, what parents are smart enough or good enough to create such an environment? If the children don’t turn out as hoped, how can the parents bear such a burden of guilt? If early environment determines what someone will be forever, what hope is there to become something else, to be free from the results of parental failure? Or, if the children turn out according to parental hopes, who gets the credit?
Though many preachers and counselors teach that it all depends on the parents, the doctrine is thoroughly humanistic. If it were true, God Himself would be the greatest failure; He had two children with unflawed genes and placed them in the perfect environment, paradise, and both failed miserably. So other factors besides environment must play a role in successful parenting. Take a few moments to name a number of ways you express love to your children. What indications do you have that your children are confident of your love for them?