helping our children to grow in faith
My wife and I believe the key to effective parenting is to look to God for the confidence and the wisdom to make the right decisions. We also believe that it is by God’s grace that we are parents. All these years, we thank God for the privilege of parenting our children; they are really His children after all.
Children are a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3). As parents, it is our responsibility to let them know that they are loved, that they are worthwhile and that their lives count for something. If children grow up in a loving environment, they will feel secure and confident later in life. When our children were young, my wife and I tried to give them a sense of security, assuring them of our love as we believed this is critical in their development.
When we first got married, we had no idea how to bring up children. We also could not ask our parents for help as they were unavailable due to certain circumstances. When the children came, we were left to discover child-raising for ourselves and our main reference was the Bible. We were also thankful for the Christian books that taught us God’s perspectives on nurturing children. Two of our favorites were Dr James Dobson’s “Dare to Discipline” and Gregory Johnson and Mike Yorkey’s “Faithful Parents, Faithful Kids”.
For my wife and I, parenting is an awesome task which God has entrusted to us and we need to take it seriously. We believe that the most important factor in raising children is to build a strong parent-child relationship, as this will lead to our children having a healthy view of life.
Building Good Relationships with our Children
In order to build good relationships with our children, we taught and exemplified to them graciousness in speech. We taught our children to express themselves respectfully to people around them. Both my wife and I were brought up in families where polite and kind words did not seem necessary. We were told what to do and all we had to do was to obey. Saying “Please”, “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” was not natural for us because of our upbringing. Hence, it was not only hard to verbalize these words; to mean what we said was even harder. Though difficult, we wanted our children to grow up in an environment where everyone in the family speaks graciously and respectfully to each other.
We taught our children also to watch their tone when they speak; yelling and shouting are not encouraged at home. We believe that speaking to our children in a moderate and even tone binds us together better than yelling and shouting. The home will also be more peaceful this way. We do, however, make exceptions for this. When children are frustrated, it is natural for them to raise their voices at home. In such times, instead of scolding them, we would try to find out what was wrong and helped them to overcome their difficulties. This further strengthened the parent-child relationship.
Ours is also a family that spends a lot of time playing with each other. The children are now grown up but we still enjoy playing cards and board games together. We also travelled as a family and on these holidays we would share jokes and family stories. As the atmosphere is relaxed, the children would open up and share with us what is happening in their lives. For us, holidays are excellent opportunities for the family to bond.
My wife and I are learning also to let go. Now that our children are grown up, they need their own space to make decisions, to go out with their friends and to do their own things. We cannot be hovering over them all the time to get them to talk or to do things with us. We have learned to respect their need for privacy and come to accept that when they don’t talk to us, it does not mean that they are rejecting us. They will talk when they are ready.
Setting Clear Routines at Home
As an educator, I believe in setting routines and expectations at home to educate our children on self-discipline. Setting clear expectations with clear consistent consequences, coupled with recognition for positive behavior have definitely worked for our children at home.
In our children’s growing up years, having a routine helped them to feel more secure, giving them control over their own time. We set for them a daily routine for studying, playing, watching TV and going to bed, just to name a few. As they grew older we also added a regular prayer time. As they got used to the routine, we found that we need not nag them to do their homework or to go to bed. They knew what needed to be done. Having a routine also gives us time for each other and time for ourselves as we can plan what we want to do in sync with the children’s activities.
The Foundation of Faith
Finally, it is the responsibility of Christian parents to help their children grow in faith. When our children were young, we would talk to them about what they had learnt in Sunday school, helped them apply the Lord’s teaching in their lives and pray for them. Now the four of us would come together and pray with and for each other. Being able to talk about God and faith truly binds us together as a family. Deuteronomy 6: 5-10 has taught my wife and me an important lesson on parenting. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
There have been many times in our lives when we feel we have failed to be the kind of parents God wants us to be. We worry about the wrong decisions we have made that may affect our children’s lives adversely. However, we have learned to entrust our children to God. God has also assured us that when we are helpless, “My (God’s) grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12: 9). Amen.
Authors: Teoh Teik Hoe & Lee Siew-Min
(Teik Hoe is a secondary school principal and Siew-Min is a homemaker. They have two children, Jeanette and Jonah.)
First published in The Courier, July 2011.