I have three grown sons working to make their way in this world. They each have a job, a place to live and can provide for their own needs. My wife and I feel good about what they have achieved and their prospects. This does not mean that we have stopped worrying about them because life can throw a curveball when you least expect it. However, we expect them to do the right things and to deal well with the unforeseen.
I can still vividly remember the anxious nights when they were teenagers out on a date or with their friends. We tried to teach them right from wrong but when kids go on their own you never know for sure what they will do. About the best you can do is to teach them while they are young and before they get into a difficult position. If you want your children to remain sexually pure before marriage, talk to them early and often about the virtue of chastity. You do not want them to use alcohol or drugs then teach them about the dangers. If you hope they will be honest, truthful, and dependable then encourage these qualities in them as they grow.
There are two approaches one may use to teach their children about goodness. First, you may tackle the issue from a human perspective. In other words, talk to them about the virtues and dangers in this life of doing something. For example, you can point out the risks of drinking and driving or using illicit drugs. The health toll, families destroyed, or the financial burden these vices can inflict on people. You can remind them of the hazards of fornication; like sexually transmitted diseases or unintended pregnancies. This method has value and is even biblically supported, but there is so much more to the story. (Prov. 4:1-20)
Godly parents begin their teaching based on a higher standard than themselves or society. (Deut. 6:1-9) We want our children to know about God and the merit of doing what He says. So we need to lay the foundation of faith in our kids by educating them early and often from the Bible. (Eph. 6:1-4) This should start in the cradle because it serves as the building blocks for their conviction to come.
Dad and Mom need to approach every lesson, decision, and discipline on what is spiritually best for their children. Question your own motives and reasons for how you are dealing with them. Be careful not to send conflicting messages by saying “love the Lord” and then compromising with your kids on matters of right and wrong. While it is sometimes easier to give in, it is never a positive influence on their faith. (1 Samuel 3:13)
We do not want to see our sons and daughters ostracized by their peers and it hurts them and us when it happens. But they cannot do everything their classmates do and still please God. When your child wants to go to the prom or a school dance what do you say? How do you handle their dating or party interests? What about their worship, do you allow them to miss because they are too tired, have too much homework, or want to spend Saturday night with a friend? Every time you give in to your son or daughter’s nagging plea to do wrong you chip away at their faith.
A young child’s faith is usually not much more than their parents’ faith. They believe and trust what dad and mom tell them about God, salvation, the Bible, and so on. However, at some point most young people begin to question what they believe, and thus their parent’s faith as well. This can be disconcerting for any father or mother. Yet this is usually a part of their natural growth and can help a child develop his own faith. For example, a three year old may accept mom’s word about the walls of Jericho falling down, but a twelve year old may ask “how is that possible.” Don’t allow their good and honest questions to alarm you. Instead, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
The mid-teens to early twenties launch a new challenge for our children. They have more freedom and rights than ever before. Dad and mom’s control drop as kids get their driver’s license and spend less time at home. When they go away to college or get their own apartment parents see them even less. This is a dangerous time for our youth because now parents are not there to look over their shoulder and keep them in line. They must now face the temptations and decide what to do.
The sad reality is we lose too many of children after they leave home. They stop going to services, start doing what dad and mom would not let them do, or turn to a false theology. There may be many reasons for this, but near the top of the list has to be a lack of their own faith. Too often they only have dad and mom’s faith because they were not encouraged to think, reason, and study for themselves. They have heard about baptism, the one church, and moral issues but they do not have any real depth of conviction or understanding themselves. I believe we need to do a better job of helping our children develop their own faith. (2 Tim. 3:14-17 & 1 Tim. 4:13-16) Whose faith does your child have?