Parenting: The Goals of Parenting

After finishing an 18 week series last week – this week we start the opposite; a short three-week topical series about parenting.

The last time we preached a series on parenting was 7 years ago.  And it is going to be very similar to what we spoke about then.  Although parenting styles might have slightly changed – the bible hasn’t changed.  And – those who were here seven years ago – your kids are in different stages now than then.  Parenting a 6 year old is different than parenting a 13 year old.

But the deal is that at ever stage – Parenting is a challenge.  And here’s the deal – it’s not the easiest of things to preach about.  I’m not unaware of the variety of parenting styles in this room.  The goal of this series is not to be a critique parenting styles as much as presenting biblical principles that can be applied to most parenting styles.

My wife Jody and I have three kids.  Our oldest, Becca, is now 24.  And then Tim is 23 and Josh is 19 and a college freshman.  Although I will obviously offer stories and examples from my own family – my goal is not to get you to parent like me and Jody.

Jody and I are not parenting experts by any means. We did some things right and we did some things wrong.  We’ll be honest about those things.

So I’m going to try to present the biblical principles that can work for you in however style you choose.

Now – here’s a hard truth – you can do all the right things and still have a son or daughter who turns into a rebel or a prodigal –  Your son or daughter has a free will.  This series is not a recipe for raising a child.  There is no magical formula.   

But – There are goals.  There are standards.  There are principles.  And these standards and principles will be helpful and useful.

Good parenting is not accidental.  You are not born a good parent anymore than someone is born a plumber or a computer programmer.  You learn and develop those kinds of skill over the years.

Proverbs 24:3 says…

3A house is built by wisdom
and becomes strong through good sense.

Parenting is something we can learn.  Wisdom is acquired.  If you hear something from up here that sounds like a good idea – we probably learned it from someone – they taught us.  We are passing it along to you.

Sometimes you learn by making mistakes, right?  Experience is a great teacher.

And I imagine that there might be people in here who are feeling like they aren’t doing a great job.  Maybe you feel like you are failing.    Let me ask how many of you parents in this room have ever felt like a bad parent?  Raise your hand high.  Come on.  You wish you were more patient.  You wish you hadn’t of blown a gasket?  You wish you could go back and do something different.

Parents – can we be ministered to right now by this fellowship of the folly?  There is no such thing as a perfect parent.

But there IS such a thing as an intentional parent.  There is such a thing as an improving parent.  Good families don’t just happen.  It’s a result of parents who are intentional and teachable and humble.  It’s a result of parents leaning on the Lord for godly wisdom and knowledge.

This morning we are going to look at three aspects of parenting.  We are going to look at the Priorities of a parent.  Then the purpose of a parent.  And lastly, the game plan of a parent.

My son Tim has recently won me over into rooting for a sport I never thought I’d enjoy.  And that is Formula 1 racing.  There’s a race going on right now and so please don’t tell me – Max Verstappen is my boy!

In formula 1 – twenty racers risk their life for the chance to make it to the podium.  Grown men cry when they get a chance to be awarded first, second or third place.

Now I wanted to show a picture of my boy Verstappen on the top of the podium but it would have cost us $99 to purchase the license show it online – so instead – I had to find a free image I could use instead – and so we get what we pay for. 

Every parent has an internal podium – upon which they honor the first second and third place winners of the race.  And every parent has to put the objects of affections in their heart in order.

So who gets first place?  If a house is built on wisdom and wisdom comes from God, then it makes sense that the first priority of a parent is God.

Deuteronomy 6 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. One time someone asked Jesus which is the most important commandments – and Jesus quotes Deut. 6:5.

Let’s be very honest – it’s very easy for well-intentioned parents to put their children on top step of the podium.  But it would be a mistake.  that spot is reserved for God alone – the God who created both you and the child you so dearly love.

Children are wonderful, but they make lousy gods.  Children are wonderful but they make terrible ultimate things.  God should be our ultimate thing.

Okay – so who comes in second?   If you are married – then your spouse comes in second place.

Here’s the deal – you and your spouse were a family before you had your children.  Husbands, wives.  You were a family before you had a child.  And you will be a family after the kids leave your house.  No human being on earth should occupy second place in your heart other than your spouse.   Not even your children.

I know there are single parents in the room- and in that sense you may give your children second place – but only temporarily. Because – if you get married in the future – your children will be bumped into third spot by a fraction of an inch.

That means – if you in a blended family – you remarry a spouse and maybe your spouse has kids as well – all of the kids come in third behind your marriage.

This will be an adjustment for your son or daughter who has occupied that slot for many years – but you are doing them a favor by teaching them godly priorities –  God first, my spouse second – and the children a very close third.  These f1 races are decided often by 1/1000 of a second.  It’s very close.  But at the end of the day, good biblical parenting begins by getting these in the right order.

Ask my kids and they will tell you – that I have many times explained to them that I love them less than their mom.  I say, “I love you just a smidge less than I love you mom.”  Does that sound mean?  It’s actually the most loving thing I can do.

That’s how I explain it.  I loved your mom before you were a thought in our head.  And I will love your mom long after they are out of the house.

Which is- by the way – why date nights for me and Jody were important.  We hired babysitters in order to provide a regular night out.  And we didn’t have much money – and one of the best things we did was arrange for babysitters with friends of ours – we took their kids once a month – and three other parents got a free date night.  And then three other nights a month- we got a free date night.  But the four of us were dedicated to making our marriages healthy – and that included date nights.

After my wife, my kids come in a respectable third place.  They are still getting a medal, right?  It’s a good showing.

Next – So let’s talk about the purpose of parenting.  The purpose of parenting – the goal is – to raise kids who will eventually get out of your house.  Right?  The goal is to get them out of your house.  We only have them for about 20 years – and then they leave, right?

I think of raising kids like this box. 

This first section is when kids are straight up kids.  But there comes a time when your child begins to transition into becoming an adult.  And our job is to guide them through the process from being a child, to being an adult.

And it’s not an easy job because sometimes the transition isn’t as neat as a straight line.  Sometimes it looks like this… (MAZE)

Whatever it looks like, the goal of parenting is to help your son or daughter move from childhood to adulthood. So what do we want them to look like when they come out of the other side of this process?  How do we develop them?

And for the answer to this I’d like to point out the only verses in the Bible that talk about Jesus as a child.  Do we have any 6th graders in the room?  These verses are going to describe the development of Jesus as a 12 year old.

Luke chapter 2:52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.

Now it appears to me there are four areas where Jesus was developing.

He grew in wisdom.  He was growing intellectually. 

What a joy it is to educate our children.  If your child attends a traditional school it’s easy to think your son or daughter is being educated in the school system – but far and away, you mom and YOU dad are the most influential individuals when it comes to educating your child.

Your son or daughter will learn to love reading if they have a mom or dad who imparts a love for reading.  Your son or daughter will grow in wisdom when you take advantage of teachable moments.  When you learn about lady bugs together, or build lego ships together.  My son Josh was obsessed with Tarantula’s once so I took him to a store in Omaha that had a pet tarantula – and I considered buying it – but I knew that if it ever got loose – I’d have to burn the house to the ground.

Parents are the primary educators of their children.  Listen, I want to encourage you to take your kids interests seriously.  And take them seriously.  Ask their views – listen tot heir responses.  Most teenagers are looking for someone to take them seriously.  That is respect.

Some of the best conversations around our dinner table deal with processing current events.  What do you think about issues of race.  What about the masks?  What about the kids at the border coming from other countries.

By the way – I think that one thing we did okay was to protect family dinner time.  We never allowed the TV to be on during dinner.  No phones. No hurry up and eat.  We slowed every night for a little bit.  Jody bought a deck fof cards with questions and we’d ask the questions and talk a bit.

And sometimes, not every night – we found the conversation drifting to matters that really do matter.  And when we got into these kinds of discussions we tried to guide but not necessarily correct every thought.

We tried to challenge at times – and always we tried to think about these things through the lens of our faith.   Give them some freedom to form thoughts and opinions.

We don’t sit down with an agenda.  But we try to have a dialogue around the dinner table other than, “close your mouth when you chew”, dad.   It doesn’t take much work, but it does take intentionality.

Speaking of which, not only did Jesus grow intellectually, it says Jesus grew in  stature.  He grew physically sound and verse 40 says Jesus was strong.  And of course all parents want to keep their kids healthy and strong.  And so parents – if you keep your kids well fed and watered God takes care of the growth.  There’s not much you can do about this.  Matt Powell!  I’m hungry!

But the verse goes on to say that Jesus also grew in favor with both God and man.  So here we see Jesus growing He grew spiritually .

Remember where we turned for the first point – that we have to get our priorities right?  Love the Lord your God with all your soul strength and mind?  Check out the next verse…

Deuteronomy 6 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 

Now – listen to the intentionality of the commands that are given to us parents.   Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So Love the Lord your God with all your heart and teach your kids to love God too!

It’s our job to invest in our kids spiritually.  They will have a harder time learning how to pray, if they never hear mom and dad pray out loud.

Don’t know how to pray out loud?  Let me teach you.  You start by saying, Dear Father.  Optional choices include just a simple “Father” with the ‘dear’ being implied.

The most important part of a prayer is to start.  Now we’ll jump to the ending.  Amen.  Some of you think I’m joking or making fun, I’m seriously not.  Start by saying Dear Father, and then at the end say amen.  And in between those two parts, use whatever words seem right at the time.

But parents, it is God’s desire that we become the kinds of parents who help our kids develop spiritually.  And I know a lot of you are like, “That’s why we’re here in church.”  And that’s part of it for sure, but your kids are going to learn far more from you than they will from their Sunday School lesson.

I want to highly encourage that you pray with your kids every night when you put them to bed.  Every night.

Now if you have younger kids – when you pray for them, what do you pray?  I’ll give you an idea.  I always pray for pleasant if any dreams.  That they would sleep well.  I often but not always pray one of our Degees on our bulletin.  Help my son Joshua to grow up to display grace.  And do good with his life.  Help him to depend on you God and be someone who declares the good news of Jesus.

What else can you pray?  At the very least, your kids should hear you say, “Father, thank you for my beautiful daughter.  I love her so much.  And I want to say thank you.”  If you don’t use any other words between Dear Father, and Amen – it’s okay, but you have to use those words.  Thank you for my son.  Thank you for my daughter.

Parenting is something you learn.  And it’s okay to start learning how to pray for your kids before they go to bed.   If you don’t do anything else we talk about – you are blessing your children by allowing them to hear you thank God for them.

Good parenting is not accidental.  It’s intentional.

Fourth – in this verse it says Jesus grew in favor not only with God but also with people.  Jesus grew socially too.

If you read the story here at the end of Luke chapter 2 you find a rather amazing story of Jesus the twelve year old conversing with a bunch of Rabbi’s about scripture.  Jesus learned how to converse with adults.  To look people in the eye when speaking to them.

He learned manners.  He learned his social skills from his parents who took the time to say to Jesus – This is how you shake a person’s hand.  This is how you say thank you.  And please.

Our Priority – God first – spouse second – kids third.

Our Purpose is to get our kids out of the house – as grown ups.  Grown up in wisdom, and stature and in favor with God and people.  Our goal is to raise our kids to become mature – physically, intellectually, spiritually, and socially.

So how do we go about this?  What is the Game plan for a parent?

I’d like to propose that the job description of parents – and the job description is a long one, right?  But I’d say that it is the role of a parent to provide biblical standards and a secure environment.

Your kids need to be able to discern what is right from what is wrong.  Your son or daughter is going to be bombarded with competing claims for the truth.  They are going to have to be able to measure these claims against a standard.

One of the unsung heroes of baseball is the person who paints the foul lines on the field.  Think about it – if you had no lines – how is one to decide what is fair and what is foul?  You know what’s a hit or whether it’s a strike based upon which side of the line it lands.   In football someone paints the sidelines.  It’s the only way to know if it’s out of bounds or not.

The Bible paints those lines for us.  It’s the standard by which we judge that inbounds and out of bounds.  Fair ball or foul.  Right and wrong.  So the job of the parent is to teach the standards and model what life looks like by following those standards.

So therefore a lie is not just wrong because of Mom’s rules.  Lying is wrong because it’s a sin against God and so it’s never a good thing.  Knowing the biblical standards helps mom and dad know what things to say yes to and what things to say no to.  It establishes the conduct and expectations for a house.

Along with biblical standards, we are going to work hard to provide a secure environment.

Proverbs 14:6

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.

Parents, do you ever feel like the world is constantly trying to break into your house?  And phones have made it especially difficult for you parents to secure your home from a world that does not care one bit about biblical values.

It is my belief that it has never been more difficult than now to provide biblical standards and a secure environment.  No generation of parents have had it more difficult than you.

The world has it’s shoulder against the front door of your house trying to get in and gain influence over your kids.  And we must take seriously your job to guard the door of my home.

When the kids were young we monitored screen time very carefully.  Timer.  Ding.  You’re done.  Read a book.

We didn’t let our kids have a phone until the went to high school – except for a cricket phone they could call us on in middle school.  Unpopular – yes.

When we did give our kids a phone – we lock down phones in an effort to guard the door from the evil of this world that wants to overtake our home.  At night the phone went on the kitchen counter.  We knew the passcodes and told them we have the right to look at their phones.  No computers – no televisions in their bedrooms.

No snapchat. No apps that we didn’t approve.  We were strict.  And we have no regrets.  Students – are you mortified?  Why? All of these decisions were agonizing decisions that Jody and I constantly asked ourselves – are we making the right call?  Parenting is so hard.

And we have all of this stuff – not because I don’t trust our kids – but because I want the alarm to sound when evil slips past so I might quickly bash into head in with God’s help.

We made the best decision we thought needed to be made to protect our kids. We wanted our home to be a secure place.

Here’s another example of a secure environment – we found it necessary from time to time to make sure that our children treated one another respectfully.

We don’t let our children treat one another poorly.  There is a certain level where they work things out but if it crosses the line and one starts mis-treating the other we step in right away.

And I have had conversations with my kids and they have all heard it – where I will say – you may not talk to my son that way.  I wouldn’t let a stranger on the street talk to my son that way, least of all one my other kids.  We treat each other with kindness and respect here or you are going to hate life quickly.

My kids knew I would stand up for them even if it meant standing in between them and a temporarily unkind sibling.

We are providing a secure fortress for our kids.  We are doing our best to hold the world at bay. And we aren’t naive.  We know our kids will have to battle the evils and the temptations of this world someday…

But there is no rush.  Let kids be kids.  Allow our children to grow and learn – and make mistakes in a safe place where they are loved.

We live in a world that is not a friend of our children.  The harder sides of life will one day be a reality in our kids life.  They will have to face the harshness and cynicism of life.  But there is no rush.  And in the meantime I will provide biblical standards and I will work hard to make our home a safe environment for them as they grow in wisdom and stature with people and with God.