Our children are sponges taking in information all the time. The latest technology, the right clothes, sexual encounters, drugs and alcohol, and the money to have it all – wherever our kids turn, they feel pressured to conform. No wonder we often feel afraid. When what they learn contradicts godly principles, what is the best way to protect our kids?
Jenny and Ryan’s story of their college-age son intrigued me. At eight, they became concerned about changes in Eric’s character. He seemed distracted. Doing anything new made him anxious. He had always enjoyed attending church with his parents; now, he resisted. Family time went out the door. Social media took over.
Jenny and Ryan saw they needed great wisdom. With such strong cultural winds blowing, how could they help Eric’s faith flourish instead of fail? They prayed like never before! Do the same concerns drive you to prayer?
Three principles to safeguard our children
Our world is changing so quickly. But our generation is not unique. Temptations may look different, but human nature has not changed. Here’s good news! God does not change (Numbers 23:19). Thousands of years ago, God’s people faced a rapidly changing world. How could they guide and protect their children? As Israel set out into the unknown, God gave them principles to safeguard their children and their children’s children.
1. Love God wholeheartedly
Moses shows parents the way to find strength. He says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Deuteronomy.6:5). And Deuteronomy 6:6 tells us, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on YOUR hearts.”
The flight attendant says, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself before putting a mask on your child.” God’s love is a parent’s oxygen. The line through which God’s love flows is His Word. Filled with God’s Word, parents can share this life-giving love with their children. God says His Word is life – does your schedule say that you agree? If not, ask God to increase your desire for Him and His Word. As you breathe in God’s Word deeply, you will have what is needed to share with your child.
2. Talk about God
God gives parents opportunities every day to unveil the invisible God to their children. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 admonishes wise parents to be prepared for the unexpected times to speak about God. A sunrise on the drive to school, a peculiar insect in the backyard, or an impending storm–all declare the glory of the Lord. Spilled milk and broken toys become opportunities to share that no circumstance is too small for God’s concern. Every joy and sorrow can be a time to help our child know God’s beautiful character. As families, God lifts our thoughts above the hard circumstances as we think together of His attributes. Ask God to impress His truth on your heart to make you ready to impress your children.
3. Engage in Conversation about God
Kids learn by what they see in their parent’s lives. We must be open about our struggles to grow and be transparent about how repentance works in our lives. Do you feel defeated when you lose your temper with your child? Parents and children can obey Jesus only because of His love and power in us. Choose to believe God can use even your sin to impress your child with His unfailing love. Your children can see God’s love is real and powerful when you humbly ask their forgiveness. How is God changing you through His Word? Parents transformed by God’s Word model God’s love.
An open communication policy in the home lets your children know they can bring any question to you without fear. Asking hard questions builds a resilient faith. The family is the training field to clarify what we believe, why we believe it, and how to talk about what we believe. Kids thrive when parents spend regular unhurried time with them. This goal is impossible without God’s help (Hebrews 4:16).
As nutritious food builds up the body, biblical truth builds up the soul. The truths of God’s Word build a durable foundation in a child’s mind and heart. God’s Word realigns their thoughts and desires to what is true. God’s grace through His Word transforms a child’s heart for eternal impact.
Jenny and Ryan’s story continued as they talked about how God opened their eyes. They saw the busyness of their family life. Work and daily after-school activities had pushed aside family time. Meals together, times to talk and read the Bible together became rare.
God guided Jenny and Ryan to make changes. They rearranged activities and scaled back on work hours. Some days were still crazy, but regular family time became a priority. They made wise restrictions on the use of social media and cell phones. But reading the Bible together became the change with the greatest impact. With only a little preparation, they read and discussed the Bible. Prayer for one another became more meaningful.
Eric was in college at the time Jenny and Ryan shared their story. Eric remembered the time before his parents rearranged their priorities as years of drowning in a sea of peer pressure. When his parents made God central in their home, they had thrown him a life preserver. He considered their rearranged priorities as having saved his life.
There are no simple formulas for safeguarding our children from cultural pressures. But God in His goodness provides what we need. Scripture reshapes our goals for our children. Prayer reminds us of God’s vision for our children. As we act on the principles – love God wholeheartedly, talk about God and engage in conversation about God – we free our children to flourish no matter what challenges they may face.
As Joshua prepared to cross the Jordan into a whole new world, God told him, “Be strong and courageous – do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). His Word speaks with the same power to us today.
Barbara Reaoch, author of A Better Than Anything Christmas (available October 19, 2020) is the former Director of the Children’s Division at Bible Study Fellowship International. They now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attend Bethlehem Baptist Church. You can connect with her at www.barbarareaoch.com.