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When our children were small, L. A. Stauffer gave us this advice about raising children: "Just keep thinking and you'll be all right." This oversimplifies, but it shows that being a good parent requires thought and planning.
If we wish to succeed in any important, difficult endeavor, first we must determine our goal. Then we must develop a plan for reaching our goal.
* If a business is to succeed, it must have a goal and a plan for reaching that goal.
* In building a house, one must have a blueprint to follow.
* Consider the years of planning needed to send a spaceship to the moon.
Often we fail to reach our goals because we fail to develop a clear plan for reaching them.
* God planned His work:
Hebrews 8:5 - God had a plan for the tabernacle.
1 Peter 1:18-20 - God had a plan for our redemption before the world began. [Eph. 1:7-9]
Ephesians 3:10,11 - The church was part of God's eternal purpose.
Romans 8:28 - God purposed to call us to salvation (through the gospel - 2 Thess. 2:13,14).
* Our service to God requires planning and forethought.
Proverbs 14:22 - We receive mercy and truth if we devise (plan) good.
Luke 14:26-33 - We must count the cost of discipleship before we begin.
Psalms 17:3 - David purposed not to transgress with his mouth. This was no accident. He planned it that way.
Acts 11:23 - Barnabas urged new converts to continue with the Lord with purpose of heart. We will continue to be faithful only if we plan to do so.
2 Cor. 9:7 - We should even plan the amount we give to the church.
Yet amazingly, hosts of parents, including members of the church, enter into marriage and parenthood with very little thought, study, or discussion about how they plan to succeed in raising their children. How much time and effort have you and your spouse spent in determining exactly what rules and principles you will follow in raising your children?
Satan is battling us for the control of our children.
Ephesians 6:12 - We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
When the children of Christians go astray, often the parents say, "I just don't understand what happened." Often what happens is that powerful forces are working against us that we either are not aware of or do not deal with effectively.
1 Timothy 6:12 - Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. Satan is determined to lead our children away from God. Parents must realize, "it's war out there." To raise godly children, we must fight evil.
What army can win without a battle plan? We often lose our children because we don't recognize we are at war, so we have no plan for the fight!
2 Corinthians 2:11 - Satan will take advantage of us, if we are ignorant of his devices. We must be aware of the means he uses to destroy our children's faithfulness, then we must have a plan for combating those influences.
Other than family and church, what are the greatest influences in your children's life?
The desire to conform and be accepted is one of the strongest influences teenagers face. The way other children act, dress, and talk becomes a powerful force that Satan uses to get our children to accept the world's values.
Parade magazine asked teens what influences affected their value systems. In 1960 the greatest influence was parents, then teachers, then friends, then clergy, then counselors, and then popular heroes. In 1980 the same study determined that teens were influenced by: first friends, then parents, then the media (TV, music, and movies). (Why Knock Rock? Peters, p. 96)
Note these Scriptures:
1 Corinthians 15:33 - Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." But the fact is that many parents, including Christians, are deceived. We let our children have close friends that are worldly, irreligious, immoral, or rebellious, yet somehow think our children will escape harm.
Proverbs 13:20 - He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. If our children run with "the wrong crowd," inevitably they and we will suffer the consequences.
Exodus 34:15,16 - One of the strongest areas of peer pressure young people face relates to dating and choosing a marriage companion. Marriage is the closest companionship there is, and dating leads to marriage.
Children of Christians often become too intimate in the dating relationship. They face powerful temptations and soon fall into sin. Or they "fall in love" or develop a close relationship with someone who is not a Christian, and soon they compromise truth to please their friend/spouse.
Time and again Christians have lost their children to Satan through the influence of friends. Will you succeed in dealing with such pressures, if you simply allow your children to do as they please?
How can you as a parent possibly train your children to be godly unless you have a specific, effective plan for dealing with peer pressure?
Most of us realize that schools face serious problems. But how serious? I once asked a group of teens, who had been raised by Christian parents, to list the problems they faced at school. Here is substance of their list:
* Profanity, dirty jokes, etc. (students and teachers)
* Violence and fighting (students with students or with teachers)
* Immodesty, lack of dress codes
* Coed gym - immodest uniforms
* Peer pressure/bad crowds
* Drugs (7 of 8 students personally knew children who used drugs).
* Ridicule and making fun of children who are good or different
* Gossip, slander
* Stealing and vandalism
* Disrespect for teachers and parents
* False goals (popularity, wealth)
* Classes that justify evolution, abortion, homosexuality, situation ethics, contraceptives, divorce, premarital sex, disrespect for parents, etc.
* Reading assignments with immorality, violence, etc.
* Sexual promiscuity - petting at school, pregnant girls, children talking openly about sexual relations, everyone expected to do it, etc.
* Schedule conflicts with church activities
Do you honestly believe that your children can face this environment 8 or 9 hours a day for half the days of the year for 13 or more of the most impressionable years of their lives without consequence? Can you succeed if you just send your children off with no plan for dealing with these problems?
If "evil companions corrupt good morals," how can impressionable children face such an environment and maintain godliness unless you have a plan for fighting these evils?
Suppose your child had three good friends who continually attempted to persuade your child to accept all the following practices:
* Drug and alcohol abuse
* The occult - witchcraft, Satanism, astrology, sorcery, etc.
* Oriental religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, reincarnation, etc.
* Violence, murder, suicide
* Sexual promiscuity - fornication, adultery, homosexuality, immodesty and even nudity
* Profanity, cursing, obscenity
* Rebellion against parents, government, God and the Bible
Suppose your child was spending several hours every day visiting these friends and listening to them justify these ideas. Would you want your child to continue that relationship or would you try to break it off? If "running with a bad crowd" can corrupt your child's good morals, how can they not be influenced by close relationships with such evils?
Yet many children of Christians have three friends who are just like we have described. Those friends are named television, movies, and music.
The average American watches TV 50 hours per week - ten hours more than the average workweek. (Bennett, p. 20)
A study of 58 hours of prime-time TV revealed: 5 rapes, 7 homosexual acts, 28 acts of prostitution, 41 examples of sexual relations between unmarried people. But this study was in 1983! (Christian Inquirer, 7 and 8/83)
It has been estimated that, by the time the average child reaches age 18, he will have witnessed more than 15,000 murders on TV or in movies. ( Bennett, p. 20)
In 1991 the National Coalition On Television Violence estimated that, if TV violence had never been introduced, each year the US would have 10,000 fewer murders, 70,000 fewer rapes, 1,000,000 fewer motor vehicle thefts, 2,500,000 fewer burglaries, and 10,000,000 fewer acts of larceny. Crime rates would be half what they are now. (Via Gospel Anchor, 8/91, p. 17)
Many Christians think nothing of letting children attend PG or PG-13 movies. Here is a survey of the contents of PG and PG-13 movies in 1988:
Nearly 1/4 have the "f-word."
61% take God's name in vain.
71% contain vulgar references to excretion, intercourse, or genitals.
50% imply sexual intercourse.
13% show intercourse.
30% show explicit nudity.
75% include moderate or severe violence.
74% depict alcohol or drug abuse (via Citizen, 1/89)
On the average, "teens listen to 10,500 hours of rock between 7-12 grades ... just 500 hours less than the total time they spend in school over 12 years" (US News and World Report, 10/28/85, pp. 46-49; via. Gary Fiscus).
Consider the problems in modern music:
"...the rock scene is permeated by the values and practices of the drug culture. Many rock stars have become cult heroes, and many of them take drugs. Children can often identify the current rock stars, and may identify with their lifestyles ... Since the [mid-sixties] many rock lyrics have had drug overtones.
"Rock concerts pose an additional problem ... In many cities, drugs are sold and used openly at these concerts; no real attempt is made to enforce either the drug or the alcohol laws. Rest rooms in public concert halls are often cluttered with children as young as 11 who are getting high, vomiting, or shaking from unpredictable drug and alcohol effects. Most parents are unaware of all this" (Parents, Peers, and Pot, Marsha Manatt, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, pp. 24,25).
Surveys by the National Coalition on Television Violence reveal that over 50% of rock videos feature or suggest violence. ("Violent Videos: a Close Look at MTV," Miller, Christianity, 4/85, p. 24). One coalition survey revealed that MTV (music video channel) showed an average of 18 violent incidents per hour (Peters, p. 40).
* Sexual immorality
Rolling Stone Magazine: "The surest shortcut to memorable videos seems to be a liberal dose of sex, violence, or both" (12/8/83, p. 76; via Peters, p. 40).
Chris Stein (Blondie) said: "Everyone takes it for granted rock and roll is synonymous with sex" (People, 5/21/79, p. 53; via Peters, p. 107).
John Oates: rock and roll is "99 percent sex" (Circus, 1/31/76, p. 39; via Peters, p. 108).
Elvis Costello: "Rock and Roll is about sex, and I'm here to corrupt the youth of America" (AFA Journal, 11&12/88, p. 20).
* Alienation from parents
A Jefferson Starship member said, "our music is intended to broaden the generation gap [and] alienate children from their parents" (Peters, p. 105).
Malcom McClaren: "Rock N' Roll is pagan and primitive and very jungle and that's how it should be. The moment it stops being those things it's dead. ... The true meaning of rock ... is sex, subversion and style" (Rock magazine, 8/83, p 60; via Peters, p. 107).
I'm not saying Rock is the only music that can be corrupt. But do you honestly believe you can raise godly children without a plan for fighting such influences as this? If you would not just allow your children to run with any peer group of their choosing, then why allow them to watch TV or movies or listen to music without a plan for supervising it?
The point is not that raising godly children is impossible. It can be done, but no parent will succeed without an effective plan for dealing with these influences.
How do we develop a good plan? Where do we go for guidance? Many people think it is impossible to know the best way to raise children. Is there a sure guide? Can we know the best way?
Many sources profess to offer parents advice, and many parents accept this advice: psychologists, sociologists, government officials, social agencies, and other child-raising experts.
Other parents just raise their children the way their own parents raised them. This may be done knowingly, but often it is done without thinking. We just naturally treat our children according to what we are familiar with - we act the way we saw our parents act. This amounts to accepting their own parents as the best authority for how to raise children.
Notice that these are all human authorities. Humans are fallible and often make mistakes, so it is reasonable that many of their theories do not work. This is especially true if our goal is to raise godly children.
Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Jeremiah 10:23 - The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. No man is as wise as God, so no one by human wisdom alone can know how to please God. This includes all child-raising experts. If they don't follow God's guidance, they cannot tell us how to raise godly children.
1 Corinthians 1:19-21; 2:4,5 - In matters of godliness and righteousness, we must follow divine wisdom, not human wisdom. This does not mean human advice is always wrong. Sometimes people give advice that agrees with the Bible. But it is always wrong whenever it disagrees with the Bible.
Christians generally know we must not depart from God's pattern to follow human theories for worship, salvation, the church, etc. But raising children is a God-given command and obligation just as surely as are these other areas. When human ideas differ from God's word, we have no more right to follow them in raising children than in any of these other areas.
We are at war with forces of evil that lead people astray from God's will both in the church and in the home. We can no more defeat the forces of evil by following human wisdom in the home than we can in the church!
[Matthew 15:9,13; Galatians 1:8,9; 2 John 9-11; Colossians 3:17; Proverbs 3:5,6; Revelation 22:18,19; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:13]
2 Timothy 3:16,17 - Raising godly children is a good work, and the Scriptures instruct us in righteousness and equip us for good works.
Joshua 1:8 - Joshua prospered in the work God gave Him when he followed God's word, not departing from it to the right or left. Likewise we will prosper in the work God gives us if we follow His word.
The Scriptures often compare God's relationship to His children to a father's relationship to his earthly children (Matt. 7:9-11; Heb. 12:5-11). This is why the term "father" is used both for God and for an earthly parent. It follows that parents can learn many things about our role by observing the example of God our Father in His dealings with us. We will often use His example as a source of guidance in these studies.
Makers of cars and appliances provide their customers with operator's manuals to show how to use the equipment successfully. So the Maker of the family has given us a book of instructions for the family. Does it make sense to follow the ideas of fallible humans, rather than the wisdom of the all-wise God who created both us and families?
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We do not need to be constantly confused about how to raise children. We can have the strength and guidance we need, but not through human wisdom. We must turn to Jesus.
[Deuteronomy 18:18-22; Psalm 19:7-9; 33:4; 119:128,142,160; John 17:17; Titus 1:2,3; Revelation 19:9; 21:5]
While the Bible is the standard, other people who know and follow that standard can help us learn it.
Hebrews 6:12 - Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Titus 2:3-5 - Older women should teach the younger women how to love their children and be homemakers.
Years ago Karen and I observed that many parents were glad to advise us how to raise our children. But we saw very few - even very few Christians - who themselves were doing a really good job with their own children. Many will say that you are too strict, that spanking won't work, that you should conform to the choices others make about how to educate children, etc.
So before you accept advice, evaluate it by God's standard. And then ask how successful these givers of advice have been with their own children. Are their children obedient and respectful? Do their children know God's will, become Christians when they become accountable, and live faithful Christian lives? In short, do you see evidence that their children are turning out the way you want yours to?
The parents to imitate are those who are successful, not those who fail!
Both the father and the mother must be involved in raising the children.
Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers are told to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1 - Children should be obedient to both parents.
Proverbs 1:8 - Mothers also have authority over their children.
To achieve their goal as parents and to avoid provoking children to discouragement, the father and mother must work together. Family rules must be consistent. This requires discussion and agreement.
The best time to make these plans is before problems arise. A couple should discuss their principles and beliefs about child raising even before they marry. Then they should continue to talk about what their rules will be and how they will handle problems. Then when specific problems arise, they can handle them quickly and confidently.
It is not enough just to recognize that the Bible is God's will. We must study and use its teachings as the basis for our plan for raising children. And we must pray diligently for wisdom and for God's blessings on our plans.
James 1:5 - We need to pray for wisdom. This wisdom will come as we study God's word. But we must diligently pray that we will be able to apply His word properly for the good of our children. [Heb. 5:14]
1 Chronicles 29:19 - David prayed for God to give his son Solomon a loyal heart to keep God's commandments. We should imitate this practice: Pray for each of your children each day by name, and ask God to strengthen them.
A young man who had gotten into serious trouble was asked about his upbringing. One thing he said was, "I can't remember ever hearing my parents pray for me."
You can learn from my mistake here. All my married life I have prayed every day for my wife and each of my children by name, but I never named them when I led a prayer in their presence. Your children need and deserve your prayers, and they need to know you name them in prayer.
Paul prayed diligently for other Christians and told them he was praying for them. Surely our children deserve at least that much from us.
Do you have a plan for raising your children, a plan based on God's word and prayer?
Too many parents let their own children manipulate them. "I just don't know what to do with them." We need to learn to out-think our children. Our duty as parents requires us to study God's word and apply it so we know how to raise godly children.
The Devil often defeats us, not because it is impossible for us to defeat him, but because we are not fighting him effectively. We either are not aware of the danger, or else we are simply too indifferent to fight. By the time we realize our mistake, it is often too late. But we can win the battle, if we follow God's will and prayerfully develop a plan based on the principles it teaches.
For each child, you only have one chance to raise him/her properly, and that opportunity will so quickly be gone. When one is almost grown, it is too late to go back and start over if you haven't done it right. To succeed, we need a plan based, not on human wisdom, but on prayerful study and application of God's will.
Do you have a plan for raising your children? Is your plan based on God's word? How often do you discuss with your spouse the principles on which you act? How diligent are you in your effort to fight Satan and his evil influences on your children?
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Copyright 2004, David E. Pratte
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.