Parenting Tips from TGC West Conference 2018

In October 2018 The Gospel Coalition hosted a West Coast conference in Fullerton, California. One of the breakout sessions was led by Erik Thoennes and his wife, Donna. They shared the challenges of parenting in the 21st century. Their discussion focused on our culture that a. places too much emphasis on peers b. centers on blaming others instead of taking responsibility c. promotes rampant promiscuity and sexual confusion d. fosters relational shallowness due to the influence of technology and social media e. creates stress, anxiety and depression f. promotes an extended adolescence g. idolizes instead of prioritizes parenting.

By way of counsel the Thoennes’s offer the following for parents to consider:

  1. Give parenting its proper priority in your life but don’t make it an idol. Parenting is an important calling of parents but it is not the only calling. Some parents gain all of their identity from being a parent. They give all their energies to their children. They wrapped their lives around their children. They strongly desire to be a “successful” parent. The problem with this or with any idol is that it is not weighty enough to provide parents with a sense of identity or fullness in life. Only a vital walk with Christ is substantial enough to do that.
  2. Weave God into all of life. Our relationship with God and worship of Him can’t just be a Sunday thing. Children see right through that. This is why Deuteronomy 6 encourages parents to weave God into all of life. Talk about Him along the way. Show that the Lord Jesus is a guiding force in all of your life. Demonstrate to your children that Jesus is worthy of ruling over every minute of every day; that we can not live without Him any more than a branch can live apart from the tree.
  3. Tend to your souls and your marriages. The fact is it will be exceedingly difficult for parents to guide their children in the ways of the Lord if they are not tending their own souls. It will be equally difficult to convince your children of the truthfulness of God’s way if your marriage is a mess. Time spent on cultivating soul and marriage is never time wasted and will produce dividends in the parenting arena.
  4. Pray for your children at least as much as you preach to them. It is easy for parents to teach and preach and scold and lecture. That is all very easy. But to draw near to the the Lord and petition the Lord on behalf of your children, that is the hard work of a parent; a work that in the end will make those “teaching” times more in line with what the Lord desires for you as a parent.
  5. Have a local church family you can love together. Some parents get very wrapped up in the nuclear family at times to the exclusion of the church family. Some families at times choose “family time” over going to church together. (Oh we haven’t had much time together….I think we will skip church today.) Such an attitude fails to understand how as Christians we have been united together as a family. In fact, we don’t just go to church, we ARE the church. The connection we make when we are among God’s people is vital to the spiritual health of us parents as well as our children.
  6. Enjoy your children. Some parents have high aspirations for their children. As a result they run them from sporting event to sporting event, then on to piano and dance lessons. In any spare moment the child is being directed to new activities that will help them get into a top college. Now all of these things may not be bad, but sometimes, with all their prodding of the children, parents forget to enjoy them. How important it is to have fun together…go get ice cream, throw a ball, watch a movie with popcorn. These activities establish relational capital which is critical to the parenting task.
  7. Take your children on dates asking them the same set of questions each time. Another way to build relational capital is to take your children on a date. It might work for you to let your child determine what activity or what restaurant to eat at. During your time together get your child used you being asked several questions: How can I be a better parent? Is there anything you are learning in the Word that would help our family be more what God intends it to be? Is there anything you need to tell me? Are there any questions you have? After having asked these questions over many dates parents may find that the children will already have given thought to them, helping the conversations be more fruitful.
  8. Have clarity with the gospel. Too many parents are seeking to produce “good” children by focusing on controlling behavior. So they resort to lots of warnings, threats and punishment. Some parents are so good at this that for a time their children “seem” to be on the right track. But the sad reality is that parenting that focuses on controlling behavior isn’t parenting that stands the test of time and its not rooted in the gospel. When the controlling agent (the parent) is gone the child will live out of their hearts. If parents haven’t focused on the heart, if they haven’t shown the child how much we all need the Lord – His presence in our hearts – they will have missed sharing the true life-transforming gospel with their children.
  9. Parent with the long view. All parents have their moments when they feel like a failure. The child misbehaves, at times in a big way, and the parent feels that all is lost. During those times the parent needs a reminder that we parent over the long haul. There will be those days that seem disastrous, but if you persevere, always trusting in the Lord’s ability to capture your child’s heart, you may well see your young ones grow into “mighty oaks” for the Lord.
  10. Keep eternity before your children.  It is so easy to live for the present, pursuing the things of this earth. But, for the believer, this earth is not our home. We are “just passing through”. We are aliens away from our home which is in heaven with our Lord. If this truly is our belief, this world will seem uncomfortable for us and our children. We will find ourselves at odds with others who are living for the present because this is all they have, and it is swiftly passing away. Our children need to understand this reality, enjoying God’s gift that are abundant on this earth, but never forgetting that something far better, far more satisfying awaits those who love the appearing of our Lord Jesus.

Continue reading Parenting Tips from TGC West Conference 2018

A Perspective on Parenting

Over the years I have taught many parenting classes and although I love teaching parents “what to do” I often say the best counsel I may have for you is to offer perspective on mistakes I’ve made so that you don’t have to make them too. Below is a quote from a dad who is looking back at his parenting years. He notes many things he would have done differently. I think this is valuable counsel and wanted to share it with you. It’s important to learn from those who have gone before us. To so learn is a sign of wisdom.

Quoted from Brave Dad by John MacArthur

One father, looking at the parenting process in retrospect, said this: “If I were starting my family again, I would love my wife more in front of my children. I would laugh with my children more at our mistakes and our joys. I would listen to my children more, even to the littlest one. I would be more honest about my weaknesses and not pretend perfection. I would pray differently for my family. Rather than focusing on them, I’d focus on me. I would do more things with my children. I would do more encouraging. I would bestow more praise. I would pay more attention to little things. I would speak about God more intimately. Out of every ordinary thing of every ordinary day I would point them to Christ.”

May God help us all to reflect about our parenting and seek His grace to live for the important rather than the urgent.

Always by His grace,

Pastor Ron

Book Review: Parenting by Paul David Tripp

Paul David Tripp writes, “If someone were to ask you what the ultimate job of a parent is, what would you answer? Well, your answer is here. Your job is to do everything within your power, as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer who has employed you, to woo, encourage, call, and train your children to willingly and joyfully live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is more important than how they do in school, or how positively they contribute to the reputation of your family, or how well they set themselves up for a future career, or how well they do in sports and the arts, or how well they are liked by adults and peers.”

From the above quote you can see that Tripp’s book isn’t about the latest strategies and methodologies to use with your children (though some instruction on this can be helpful). His focus is more fundamental. He wants to draw our attention once again to the heart of parenting. To do this he lays out 14 gospel-saturated principles that will revolutionize first how you think about this highest of callings, and once convinced will dramatically affect how you work it out in practice. Continue reading Book Review: Parenting by Paul David Tripp

Affirming your child

As parents we want the best for our children. We want to see them flourish and experience life at its best. But sometimes we approach the attaining of this fine goal in the wrong way. We excessively correct or critique our child(ren) doing this in the name of helping them be their God-given best. We push them to achieve raising the bar higher and higher wanting them to reach their full potential. And these are not bad things in and of themselves, but many times a steady diet of only these things can lead to discouragement in our child(ren), even wanting to give up and not try because they never seem to meet the standard.

An important antidote or balance to the above measures is to practice biblical affirmation with our child(ren). Biblical affirmation is like praise, but with one very important difference. It ties the praise to the originator of the gift. It looks at what is commendable in the child, and offers commendation, but does so in a way that honors the source of the commendable trait, namely the Lord Jesus.

So, as you consider how the Lord has blessed your child, you see that He has endowed him with a great mind. You recognize that that great mind is a mere reflection of the Lord who has complete understanding of all things. You recognize that it is a gift of the Lord’s grace. So, when your child brings home a paper with an “A” grade, or a report card full of good grades, it is important to commend this, but in doing so to acknowledge the source of this wonderful gift. “It is so neat to see you using the wonderful mind God has given to you. It must bring you great joy to know how He has blessed you in this way. Well done!” Such affirmations should be coming from you, the parent, far more times than your corrections.

In his book, Practicing Affirmations, Sam Crabtree, shares a personal story within his family. He noted that his 11 year old daughter was growing increasingly distant, becoming less and less communicative. He recognized that he was loosing the battle for his daughter’s heart and this grieved him because he knew little girls need input from their dad. So what could he do? He states, “I determined that this eleven-year-old daughter whom I loved would receive more praise from me than from anyone else on the face of the globe. I became a student of her. I thought, if I have to stay up nights thinking of ways to commend her, then I will, because she is going to need to hear from her father.” The story ends well as Crabtree saw a transformation in his daughter that the Lord brought about by the means of his intentional and biblical affirmations.

Now lest you think this is only a psychological technique, take a look at 1 Thessalonians 1. There you will see Paul giving biblical affirmation. He commends their labor of love, work of faith, and perseverance of hope. He affirms their becoming imitators of Paul to such an extent that their witness is known all around. And does he just leave it there? No, he unites this wonderful commendation to the work of God in their hearts: How they turned from idols to serve the living God. How this amazing transformation is due to the Lord having loved them and chosen them.

Parents, as you seek your child’s best interest, sprinkle in large doses of biblical affirmation. It may be the ingredient the Lord uses to bring your child to flourish in His life.

Myths of Modern Parenting, Part VI

Myth #7: The main role of a parent is to protect their children from the influences of our evil world.

Observation: Many parents operate from a protective mindset. Fearful of how the world might influence their child they seek to control everything the child does. They try to keep them from bad companions, bad movies, evil music, liberal families,…

Problem: Now seeking to protect your child is not an evil thing – in fact, it is part of the parental mandate – but the fact is this kind of parenting has several downsides.

First, by itself it is incomplete. Psalm 127:1 is instructive here. It says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”

From this verse we can see a dual role – both protection, guarding, watching over, and also building up. Continue reading Myths of Modern Parenting, Part VI

Myths of Modern Parenting, Part V

Children thrive when church and home work together
Children thrive when church and home work together

Myth #6: The church is providing my child’s spiritual education so I can focus on other things at home.

Observation: Some parents put all their “eggs” in the proverbial “church basket”. They reason that it is the church’s job to provide a spiritual education for their children.

Problem: The problem with this reasoning is manifold. First, the Scriptures are clear that “parents are to bring up their children in the nurture and instruction of the Lord”. It is the calling of parents to pass on the faith to their children. It is their primary role. Now that is not to say that the church has no role in educating children. I firmly believe that God has given gifts to the church, and that we need to expose our children to all of those gifts including the teaching gifts of others.

A second problem is the usual result of this approach. I have found that the children least equipped to handle the pressures of our ungodly world system Continue reading Myths of Modern Parenting, Part V

Myths of Modern Parenting, Part IV

 Teen CommunityMyth #4: If I home school my child or send him to a Christian school, there is less of a need to plug him into church sponsored ministries.

Observation: Both home school parents and parents who send their children to Christian schools often elect to keep their children out of church sponsored ministries. They reason that their children are getting enough input from the home and/or the school. Some say that the children aren’t challenged from what they learn at church. Some say their child is already learning memory verses and to add more is a strain for them. Some say spiritual training is the role of parents and not of the church.

Problem: The problem with this kind of an approach is that many of these children are growing up disconnected from their church family to whom they are to be intimately connected. When these children are entering Jr. & Sr. High parents are coming with great concern stating that their child doesn’t want to come to church. They aren’t connecting with anybody. What’s worse is when they go off to college, they are leaving the church altogether. Continue reading Myths of Modern Parenting, Part IV

Myths of Modern Parenting, Part III

Myth #3: The goal of good parents is to make their children happy.

Observation: Many parents today work very hard to make their children happy. The principle way they attempt to do this is often by giving in to their children’s desires. They shower their children with possessions and experiences all designed to put a smile on their faces. They order their lives around the child’s whims and wishes.

Problem: Now it is not a bad thing to seek your child’s happiness, but an approach that focuses solely on the child’s desires is sure to backfire. Children who have been reared by such well-intentioned parents often grow up to be demanding, always wanting more, having a sense of entitlement, ungrateful, often unwilling to give of themselves for the good of others. Ultimately, the happiness such parents desired for their children ends up being extremely illusive. Continue reading Myths of Modern Parenting, Part III

Myths of Modern Parenting, Part II

Myth #2: I am too busy to serve in my church

Observation: A lot of parents who get sucked up in myth #1 (believing they have to have their children in every imaginable activity to be a good parent) often get sucked into myth #2. Because they are running around from activity to activity they feel the one area that they can cut back on is their involvement in their local church. And I have observed many parents make this choice.

Problem: The problem with this is that it contradicts the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. Ephesians 4, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4 all make it clear that to be a Christian is to be a member of the Body. Christianity is not an individualistic enterprise – it is very much about community. That is why our God has described Himself as a Tri-unity – as God in community – 3 persons in one. To make a decision to forego service in the body is to make a decision to live contrary to what God has made us to be. Continue reading Myths of Modern Parenting, Part II

Myths of Modern Parenting, Part I

Myths of Modern Parenting
Myths of Modern Parenting

Myth #1: To be a good parent I have to get my child involved in many outside activities.

Observation: We live in a consumer economy. That means there are always a lot of options for our children’s time. There is the plethora of sporting activities: baseball (spring, winter, fall), basketball (spring, winter, fall), football, gymnastics,… vying for their participation. There are dance lessons, music lessons. There are summer camps of great variety. There are even advanced academic classes (often in the summer) that are designed to give their children a jump start.

Observation: Today’s parents feel pressure to have their children in many of these activities. They think, “What good parent wouldn’t give their children every opportunity to better themselves and perhaps give them a jump start in life.

Problem: Now it must be said that the activities in themselves are not bad, nor is a parent’s desire to encourage their child’s development an evil. But the problem comes with what price we have to pay. Many of the activities today ask for a lot. The coach of the little league says you have to be present at every practice and every game or you’re out. He wants commitment and so parents who want to be good parents make that happen. But consider the costs. I’ve watched families run from activity to activity not even having time to eat a meal together. Is that really what God calls us to?  Continue reading Myths of Modern Parenting, Part I