Johnny dreams of playing baseball in the Big League someday and his little sister, Julie, wants to grow up to be a veterinarian. What great ambitions our children imagine themselves doing! One day they want to be this and the next day that. Most of us encourage our children to dream big because we want them to see what is possible.
This is not to suggest we should encourage false hope or lie to our children about their future. Not every little boy or girl can grow up to become what they first dreamed about. However, it may be better for them to find out what they can and cannot do rather than us telling them they can’t. We should be in the business of teaching them to choose wise goals and helping them to build behavior for success.
Young minds do not know what is good for them on their own. (Prov. 22:15) Think about the children who grow up wanting to be a part of a gang or who believe drugs are the way to happiness. Look at kids who drop out of school because they feel education is a bother. Some teenagers spend the week waiting for Friday and Saturday so they can drink and party. Many date with a corrupt view of sex and marriage. To them, loyalty and good manners may just get in the way of a “good time.”
How and where do our young people get these destructive views? They learn them early in life by what they see and hear. These first years do a lot to shape who they become later in life. This is why parents should teach their children right from wrong and then set the example for them to see. It helps give a solid base for the choices kids must make as they get older. (Prov. 22:6)
Our boys and girls need help learning what is best for them. Parents do this when they teach them about God and how to choose between right and wrong. This will then give them the ability to figure out the details of life. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) It is up to them to choose a godly mate or to decide what they will do for a living. They will not take a job that conflicts with Scripture or that calls for acts of sin. Neither will they marry someone hostile to God or their efforts to serve Him.
When children grow up to have and use the right tools for life, they will put God first. You might disagree with this statement and say many successful young adults do not serve God. (Jeremiah 12:1) I would counter if they do not please the Creator then they are not successful and do not use the right tools. What we have here are two points of view about success. One focuses on earthly feats and the other says the only point that matters is if we serve God faithfully. Which position do most people believe is right? If you look at the evidence of how people live it is clearly the first. Most parents spend more time teaching and talking about earthly goals than they do about spiritual ambitions. We want our kids to flourish socially, get a good job, have a big house, and a great family. Nothing is wrong with any of these, but they do not define success by themselves.
Jesus said there is nothing more important to man than his soul. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26) No matter how much money our children make or how far they go in life they are failures without God. Parents have one job; teach their children to love and obey God. If we carry out this task then everything about our kids’ lives will take care of themselves.
What are the right tools for life? What should every parent focus on when teaching and training a child? Paul said “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) Raise your children with training and education that comes from God’s Word. Cultivate their thoughts, feelings and actions to want to please God. Remind them of why they are here and all that God has done for them. (Eccl. 12:13-14) Correct any wrongs in thought or action and use appropriate punishment when needed.
I am reminded of what the Lord said to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Take every opportunity to talk to your children about God’s love and grace. They should come to know God has done more for them than you ever can or will as a parent. Whatever love and respect they have for you ought to be magnified many times for God.