Parenting as God does: Lessons from the ultimate role model
There are diverse types of parents - biological, adoptive, foster, and guardians who care for and bring up children. No doubt, if you are one of these, you will agree that you wish the role of parenting came with a manual! However, we do have the manual for life, the Bible. We will look at that a little later.
The evolving role of parenting
Parenting is a huge responsibility. There are different dynamics and scenarios involved in parenting. Firstly, children are different, and you realise this from the word go. Your second baby may scream their head off like your first child; they may not. They may prefer mashed butternuts or pap and not potatoes, like your neighbour’s baby. Fast track too much later in life, and they may not want to be an academic and go to university. They may want to be a professional dancer or a pilot. They may be outspoken or quiet. There are so many different combinations and possibilities.
It is wise to not paint children with the same brush and rather view each one as a unique individual.
Add to their individuality, emerging issues as they grow. They go from being in the womb (for biological parents), to becoming a baby, toddler, primary school child, tween, high school child and teenager, adolescent, and then young adult. Here you see the parenting roles evolve. You start with setting rules and then later you negotiate and pursue their buy-in. Then, when a child becomes an adult, you realise that you will always be a parent. You remain their intercessor and support system, and transition into more of an advisor, and hopefully a friend.
Parenting goal as a Christian
As a Christian, the primary goal of parenting is to bring up godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). This includes guiding them to love above all God, with everything within them (Matthew 22:37-38); secondly to love others (Matthew 22:39).
Parents are to help children to discover their gifting. They are to assist in their search for their God-given purpose, all the while understanding God has good things in store (Jeremiah 29:11). They are to nurture and promote godly attributes within them (Galatians 5:22-23). Letting them know who they are in Christ will help children have self-worth, a healthy self-esteem and confidence (Psalms 139:13-16).
I believe the following are central to parenting children in the Lord:
From as early as possible, you need to dedicate your child to the Lord (1 Samuel 1: 27-28). This is entrusting them to God and admitting that you cannot look after them on your own. We hear interesting and often godly names during baby/child dedications at church.
Just a word of caution here, for those given the responsibility to name (it is not always the parents; some cultures give the honour to grandparents, for example). What is in a name? A lot! It is always good to pray about it and produce godly names that will positively impact a child’s life. If someone else is naming the child, make sure they understand this. Be wary of naming a child after someone. Do not succumb to outside pressure or traditions. We see this scenario played out when people are debating the name John should be given (Luke 1:59-66).
As a parent, you should pray and intercede for those you are parenting, more than anything else - for your entire life! This is one of your most significant gifts to your child. It starts from when they are in the womb where you need to start creating a healthy spiritual atmosphere. You may want to go a step further and set aside a specific day each week to pray and fast for your children.
It is essential to train up a child in God’s ways (Proverbs 22:6). One keyway is by studying the word of God together, explaining its relevance. A family setting is crucial (for example daily evening devotions), aside from Sunday school and school.
Children copy what you do and not always what you say. Parents must be good role models. Inevitably mistakes are made, and sins committed. Parents must be vulnerable and show children how to deal with these.
The perfect role model to learn parenting from is God
God is our Father and shows us how to parent. Here are several examples:
God loves us (1 John 4:9; John 3:16). He showed His love by sending Jesus to die for us and reunite us with Him. This was love in action. We ought to love our children and show it in our actions, which at times may require sacrifice. In fact, God’s type of love is agape or unconditional.
Love is not letting a child do as they please. In fact, it is the opposite. There must be an element of correction and punishment and an appreciation of consequences. It is clear God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-12). We should do likewise.
We are to provide for our children, just as our heavenly Father does for us (Matthew 6:26).
Children need the assurance that we will always forgive them, just as our Father in heaven forgives us all (1 John 1:9). However, as parents we also need to teach our children to genuinely repent when they have done wrong, and to seek forgiveness. They also need to forgive, as shown in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:12)
Presence and protection
The Lord is our shepherd, and as he tends to us as sheep, we ought to also shepherd our children (Psalms 23). This includes being present in their lives, guiding, and protecting them from harm.
The Holy Spirit is our Helper (John 14:26). We need help in parenting. We need to pray and ask Him, and He will direct, counsel, encourage and assist us as we raise our children.
It is comforting that God is with us in our parenting role. He has blessed us with children and entrusted them to us, and so we look to Him.