1. Be a Man. While this may seem trite to say, there are several ways in which I mean this statement: If you are a single mom, you have a very hard job! You can be a great Mom, a great parent – but you can’t be a Dad. You can’t demonstrate how to be a man, and you will only frustrate yourself and your child by trying to be one. If you have a son, seek other groups/organization of good men that he can get involved in and with (e.g., check out your local church). I also mean that being a male is not sufficient for the job – you also have to be a man! We are about to go through a list of nine things that will require dedication, hard work and sacrifice…Man up! “Put your man-pants on” as I am fond of saying. Be the type of man that you want your sons to grow up to be and your daughters to grow up and marry.
2. Get Married. See #1. For a whole host of reasons, marriage is the best place for a child to be raised. Remember, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.” God even indicates that one of his primary purposes for intact and healthy marriages is that he desires godly offspring. (Malachi 2:14-16) If you cannot commit your whole life to a woman, you shouldn’t be interested in having kids with her either. Marriage provides amongst other things: 1. a sense of permanence 2. a partner in life (including raising of kids e.g., you can get a break when you need one) 3. an example for both genders of children to pattern life after 4. financial benefit 5. someone to balance out our extremes with.
3. Love Your Wife. The healthiest example for your children to grow up considering to be normal is that they come third in your life: 1. God 2. Your Wife and 3. Your Children. This keeps them from becoming spoiled rotten brats who not only drive your relationships, but also drive you crazy, and it also models for them the kind of marriage they should seek to replicate. Your daughters will inherently understand what a loving relationship looks, acts and feels like (and so won’t settle for anything less in their relationships), and your sons will grow up knowing how to appropriately love a woman. This cannot simply be something that is assumed, it must be demonstrated in front of your children on a regular basis. Buy her flowers, take her out on dates, hold the chair out for her, get the door for her. Don’t speak slightintly of her to your children, etc.
4. Raise Adults. As Stephen R. Covey put it, “Begin with the end in mind”. We are not raising children, we are raising adults. What kind of adults do you want them to become? Once that is answered, do everything in your power to make sure you are that kind of adult, then set out milestones of achievement for them to conquer throughout their childhood. (e.g., They should be able to cook a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners – so start teaching them to cook, and requiring it of them well before they are out of the house) When the Scriptures tell us fathers that we are to “train up our child in the way they should go” it’s more than just teaching them to read the Bible and pray every day. Think of them as apprentice adults. Train them, resource them, encourage them but don’t just yell at them for not being and doing what you want them to be/do; esp. if you haven’t trained them any better.
5. Discipline Consistently. This is the first half of the two basic rules for discipline no matter your style of parenting. Wrong is wrong. Consequences should follow for what they have done. This teaches them that life rewards good, and punishes evil. That there is a sanity to their lives because they can count on cause and effect. If they are punished more severely when you have had a bad day at work, you are teaching them that the world doesn’t make sense, that consequences are out of their control and that their actions have little to do with what they will realize in the future. The same is true of a lack of discipline. If you shelter them from all of the natural consequences of their actions they will grow up to be either a horrible miscreant that few people will ever enjoy, or a depressed puddle of a person who has a very low self-esteem. Please note that I said “all of the natural consequences”. There should be a gradual increase of natural consequences as they mature, just as their should be a gradual increase of responsibilities.
6. Follow Through. If you do not have a backbone, you should not procreate! This is the second half of the two basic rules for discipline. Your word must be something your children respect. You must speak the truth. Your words must come true. This means that you need to be in control of your words so as to never utter a threat that you are unwilling (or perhaps shouldn’t) follow through on. If you tell them they will not be allowed to play with their friends for a week if they do X and they then do X, you had better not let them play with their friends for seven days. This builds trust, respect and keeps you from blowing through 10 on the richter scale in anger. Your children will not cause you nearly the stomach ulcers or headaches if they know that they know that they know tha you mean what you say, and that you only say what you truly mean.
7. Believe in Them. If you believe in your kids, then you will set goals for them and anticipate their achievement of them, you will invest your time in their training, you will hold them accountable for failure, you will expect more and more from them as they mature, you will praise them publicly, you will be proud of them. I love the passage in the Scriptures where Jesus is baptized, and God the Father says, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, NIV) Note that this was public praise prior to Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Low expectations mean little belief.
8. Freedom and Responsibility. These are two sides of the same exact coin. You cannot hold someone responsible for something that they were not free in, and you cannot give freedom to someone without them being responsible for their use of said liberties. As has been mentioned earlier, there should be a gradual increasing of these paralleling their maturation. As they get older, they should become more responsible for more areas of personal freedom. This is the age old battle of wills between parents and children. Child screams, “You treat me like a child!” and Parent retorts, “If you want to be treated like an adult, then act like one!” Where freedom and responsibilitiy are not increased together, resentment or irresponsibility will result.
9. Bless Them. The Apostle Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians 12:14, “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” Find ways to bless them beyond what they have earned. Our heavenly Father has certainly done this for us. Once you decide to have kids, you decide that your life will no longer be about you anymore. If this means giving up that new four-wheeler you have been dreaming about, or that Lie-Nielsen bronze #4 smoothing plane for them – then do so; but don’t keep it secret! They need to know that you are blessing them because you love them more than you love yourself. And they need to know that being a parent means sacrificing for their kids. This will teach them humility, gratitude and giving.
10. Lead Them to Jesus. While I do mean that you should make their eternal salvation your top priority, I also mean that you should be the one who leads them to read their Bible, to pray earnestly to give charitably, to live a Christian life. You should make godliness attractive and synonymous with being an adult. If the father is active in his faith, 87% of his children will also be active in their faith throughout their adult lives. There is no other corellary so strong in the entire world for predicting the spiritual life of an individual. You are the spiritual leader of your house, whether you are leading them toward Jesus or away from him. Lead well.