Editor’s Note: Jennifer Flanders credits her husband, Dr. Doug Flanders, for penning this column while she was ill.
Children may not be born with an instruction manual, but there’s still lots of good guidance available, beginning with the Bible.
Here are seven simple but scriptural principles my wife and I have found useful in raising our 12 children, five of whom are now adults.
Never underestimate the power of prayer in the life of your children. Pray for and with them. Prayer is a great way to let your kids know who is in charge. (Colossians 4:2)
We actually begin praying for our children before they are even conceived. Our foremost prayer is that each one comes to know Christ. It would be better never to be conceived than to spend eternity separated from God.
Children spell quality time: Q-U-A-N-T-I-T-Y. Be intentional about establishing everyday routines with your kids, as well as creating special memories with them. If we’ll tend to the hours and days, the years will take care of themselves. (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 90:12)
We are always surprised by what our children consider the most significant moments in their lives. Often our best talks are ones on the way to the grocery store to grab some milk, and our best “vacations” are the unplanned ones arranged for us courtesy of the U.S. Army Reserves.
Many of life’s oldest lessons are brand new to your children. Treat your kids the way you’d treat a technologically illiterate employer that you’re teaching to use the latest computer software update — treat them with humility, respect and genuine gratitude for the opportunity to invest in their life. (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Proverbs 14:29)
Patience has two varieties: The first is in dealing with the day-to-day stuff that can really get on your nerves. The second type is more in the category of perseverance and involves hanging in there for years at a time while your child slowly finds his or her place in the world.
All children long for their parents’ approval. They want to please you — so be sure to let them know when they do! While it’s important that we deal swiftly and consistently with our children’s wrongful behavior, it’s equally important to acknowledge and encourage their good behavior with sincere and appropriate praise. (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 31:30-31; Romans 14:18-19; Philippians 4:8)
My wife and I were both blessed with parents who always told us we could do anything we set our minds to. Because we believed them, neither of us have ever been afraid to try anything new or challenging. We’ve been determined to pass that same blessing on to our own children.
Life is full of dangers — both physical and spiritual. Ask the Lord to help you recognize and stand guard against anything that would pose a threat to your children’s well-being. Develop a culture of safety and common sense with your kids and pray that God would grant wisdom and discernment, both to you and to them. (John 17:15; Psalm 127:1; James 1:5)
The internet didn’t even exist when my wife and I started our family. Now we have a 9-year-old who knows how to access learning videos on her mother’s smartphone. Likewise, a hundred years ago you were more likely to be thrown from a horse than run over by a car. New dangers are constantly appearing on the horizon, and your child’s best tool for dealing with them will be the one resting between her two ears, assuming you train her to use it well.
Providing for your children’s material needs is important, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “More money” does not automatically mean “more happiness.” Provide for your children in all aspects of life, through your example and encouragement, as well as their education. Use areas of personal strength to compensate for areas of financial need. (1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 20:7; Psalm 37:25)
Money is of limited usefulness when it comes to having a happy and fulfilling life. Too little, and life is a struggle. Too much, and life quickly becomes materialistic and vain. The optimal window is actually quite small. Learning to be content with what we have, so we can focus on weightier things, is a challenge for us all.
Three of the most important decisions our children will make are choosing Christ, choosing a career and choosing their companions. Prepare them to make wise choices in all three areas by setting the example, setting standards, and then setting them free. (Proverbs 3:1-6; Romans 10:9; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 13:20; John 13:15; John 8:36)
God has no grandchildren, only children. Your children’s life and relationship to God is ultimately their own. We are privileged to participate in what God is doing in their lives. To think that we own them is like thinking that we own the earth or the sky or the sea. To quote Kahlil Gibran, “(Your children’s) souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
Jennifer Flanders has been happily married to her husband, Dr. Doug Flanders, for 32 years. In addition to practicing anesthesia and spending time with his family, Doug enjoys reading and writing. For more from this author, please visit https://alltruthisgodstruth.com.