With a thankful spirit this holiday season, I’m going to acknowledge two people who had the biggest impact on me, my mom and dad. I want to give a word of praise to two parents who did their best, and for the most part, raised a decent human being. Now, my parents aren’t perfect, but no one’s are. However, I’ve come to realize, more and more, how much my upbringing has prepared me to be the person I am today.
Unfortunately, many children don’t have a model home, because of such things as divorce and incarceration, among other factors. Sadly, though, many kids with both a mom and dad at the home are also struggling. There is a lot be said about proper parenting. Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, said this in the book of Proverbs (22:6) says:
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Let’s be careful not to place all blame on the parents. Because this is a proverb, and it deals with general truths, there are exceptions to the wisdom suggested. Sometimes, youth rebel despite of the great efforts of their parents. However, most often, this proverb proves itself to be true. People grow up to be a result of their upbringing. Think of the implications, if you haven’t already reached the conclusion on your own, that one’s method of parenting matters.
I really believe my parents did a great job in raising both my brothers and me. I hope that if you are a parent and still have children in the house, or even if their grown up, that you will see what mattered most for me and really, what matters most for the majority of teenagers – having great parents. Don’t believe me? These are comments from young people who watched an episode of World’s Strictest Parents (where the parents set rules!):
“I’d actually love to be in that family.”
“In retrospect, I wish I had parents like these.”
“I wish I had the opportunity to experience their lifestyle… their three kids are lucky to have someone who loves them unconditionally.”
“I am an atheist and I have to say, that makes no difference on how I view this. The family values and trust instilled by the parents here are just great. I admire the father for his commitment to his children. It is so refreshing to see such love and trust/responsibility given to kids in an age where all of that seems to have gone away and the kids are in charge.”
This generation of young people seeks parental influence. They desire for their parents to be involved in their lives. There must be a proper balance between being a friend to your children and being an authority figure. Here are some things I admire most about the way my parents parented:
My parents let me know, verbally, that they loved me and had taken great interest in me. I have had more than one friend who has told me, “I don’t ever remember my dad telling me ‘I love you.’” Notice, it’s usually the dad that has a hard time expressing this. My parents did more than just say “I love you.” They told me they cared for me, asked questions that showed interest, and they bragged about me behind my back (I’m far from perfect, so this last one was a big deal). The truth is: words do make a huge difference. I had a professor at college use the phrase “words create worlds.” Well, my parents showed me they loved me by the world created by their words.
My parents made my interests a priority in their own schedules. As most boys, I loved sports. On the hierarchy of important things to me as a teenager, sports were at the top. By the way, as I write this, I am really trying hard to think of a time my parents were not at one of my sport’s event, and I cannot think of one. Had they missed one it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I bet that if they had missed one, they would have at least took the time to ask me about the game or event. This was no small task as I participated in baseball, basketball, football, and track and field. If your children play video games, play video games. If they love learning, find a way to learn their favorite subjects and interact with them. Most importantly, TALK TO THEM, and I guess more importantly, LISTEN. Take advantage of time at the dinner table (eating dinner as a family was a big deal to me) or time before they go to bed. The more you have conversation with them, the easier it will be to do everything else.
My parents communicated to me a healthy model of both manhood and womanhood. There are many things I learned from my parents about being an adult (i.e. my dad was big on hard work). The important thing, however, is how I learned these things. I learned by watching. My parents modeled characteristics of healthy adulthood by living it themselves. Scott Moreau says, “It is impossible for any person to stop communicating. From a sigh to a wink, from a laugh to a yawn, every word, every gesture, and every action of yours can be seen to have meaning by another person, whether you intend it or not.” Remember, as Doug Fields says, “children are like ‘sponges’ and they will soak up EVERYTHING you say and do” (This is why I can say my parents aren’t perfect =)).
My parents invested in my spiritual life by instituting an atmosphere of spiritual growth. This, the most important thing, I appreciate most. Neither of my parents have a background in theological education, but they both understood their role as spiritual leaders. Check out Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 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 on 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 doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
In other words, parents, constantly be modeling and teaching the things of God. This is not an either/or, but an issue of both teaching them the right things and actually living out those things. It wouldn’t be a help to tell your kids how important it is to follow Christ and then abandon that walk yourself. Remember, they’re like “sponges.” Teenagers today are looking for something worth following. Are you modeling a faith that shows genuine passion for God, the church, and for others? I will always remember the spiritual disciples my parents taught my brothers and me. We attended church on a weekly basis, had family devotionals nightly, and even sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus every Christmas evening. Simple, yet these memories will always be a reminder of the spiritual influence of my parents.
Now, I’m married and my wife has also been blessed with great parents. I appreciate the influence of both sets of parents. This holiday season should be great!
To conclude this thought, my parents were not perfect, but that’s the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He loved us while we were rebellious and gave up His life so that one day we could be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to Him, our Creator. Through a relationship with Christ, we can live out His grace in all areas of our lives, including parenting.
I love you mom and dad!