At the beginning of a new year, we often think about the things we want to do well for the next three hundred sixty-five days. We often prove ourselves to be great at applying ourselves to our resolutions for a season, but we struggle to persevere in doing these things for the long haul.
There are few areas of our lives in which we struggle more than we do with perseverance in parenting. For a while, we spend quality time with our kids, and then we get into a busy season where our kids start getting the short end of the stick. We have consistent family devotions, then suddenly cannot remember when the last one was. We discipline them consistently, taking the time to talk to them about their behavior and not letting offenses slide. Then, we go through a period where we overlook misbehavior and then lash out in frustration because they aren’t listening to what we say.
The hardest part of parenting is not knowing what to do. Knowing how to teach and pray for your kids is not as hard as you think it is. Often, our instincts about the best way to discipline our children are usually correct, and most parents want to spend quality time with their children.
The hardest aspect of parenting is often not our lack of understanding, but our failure to persevere. As parents, what we need the most is go continue doing the little things every single day.
There are three particular areas in which we need to persevere.
Persevere in Quality Time
Our children want us more than they want stuff from us, but how often do we give our children things so they will occupy themselves so we can have time alone? We need time to recharge and spend with our spouses. Our children must know how to entertain themselves, but we also have to recognize how much our children crave time with us. Fishing, hiking, reading, playing a game, throwing a ball, or sitting around a fire to roast marshmallows provide great opportunities for us to connect with our children each day.
Our children will be more receptive to our discipline and teaching when we spend regular time with them because it flows from our relationship with them. As Ted Tripp points out in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, we parent mainly from authority when our children are young. If we find them touching something they shouldn’t, we can take it away from them or pick them up and move them somewhere else. As they grow older, we still parent from our God-given authority, but our relationship with them becomes a much larger aspect of our parenting. They tend to listen more and be more receptive to our parenting when we spend consistent time with them.
We often find that this is a joy to us as well. Our children are a gift from God. Spending time with them often leads to fun, laughter, joy, and lasting memories. Each of our children has unique personalities and are fun and funny in their own way. Spending time together brings this out, so stop thinking that you will magically “find time” to spend with them and make the time.
Persevere in Teaching and Discipline
The Bible calls parents to teach and discipline our children. Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 6:7 provide insight into how we do this. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Much of our parenting takes place in the context of ordinary life. We teach, correct, instruct, and discipline our children while we are doing the things we usually do every day.
In addition to teaching as we walk through life, we need to set aside time for teaching through family devotions. When we hear about family devotions, we shouldn’t picture Dad preaching a twenty-minute sermon to the kids. (If your kids are small, it can’t and won’t be this.) In his book Family Worship, Don Whitney offers a simple method for family devotion anyone can do whether they know the Bible well or not- read, pray, sing. Read a portion of the Bible. If your kids are small, this can be from a children’s Bible like The Big Picture Story Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible. When they get older, progress into reading a section from your favorite translation. Depending on where your children are, you can work on memory verses or a catechism together. Then spend some time in prayer together and sing a song. These can be children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” or simple hymns like “Come Thou Fount” or “Be Thou My Vision.”
We must also discipline our children. Truthfully, I find it difficult to separate discipline from teaching because they go together hand in hand. We do not discipline our children to punish them for what they have done, but to instruct their hearts so they will be different in the future. Discipline should not look the same all the time, but we should tailor it to the situation and the bent of our children. While how we discipline is a matter of wisdom at the moment, disciplining our children is not up for debate. God commands children to obey their parents, and we should expect them to obey the first time that we tell them to do something. Anything other than their first-time obedience must result in discipline for the sake of your children’s souls and your future sanity.
Persevere in Prayer
Finally, parents need to persevere in praying for and with our children. Pretend for a second that you could do a perfect job parenting your children. You always kept your cool when they disobeyed and told them exactly what they needed to hear in every situation. You read the Bible to them every day and spent the perfect amount of quality time with them. You led them to friendships with the right kids and gave them every opportunity they needed. Even if you did all these things correctly, it would not guarantee that your child would become a Christian or behave properly. Only the grace of God can take your parenting and make it effective, so you must pray.
We should pray for our children and for our parenting every day. Pray God would cover our efforts with grace, forgive us where we fail, and empower us to persevere in our parenting. Pray God would change our children’s hearts by the power of his Spirit and raise them up to follow him and bring him glory. We need God, and our children need God, so we must daily plead for them before the throne of grace.
Not only should we pray for our children, but we should also pray with our children. By doing this, they learn how to pray and what subjects we bring before the Lord in prayer. They get to see our family pray for needs and how God answers those prayers. Also, our children should hear us pray for their salvation. Our prayers teach them what we value the most and by praying for their salvation, they will consistently hear about their need for Christ.
Parenting is hard, so we must write Galatians 6:9 over all of our parenting. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
“The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting“