I’ve taught a study skills course to 7th graders for nearly fifteen years. As we focus on organization skills, my advice is simple: Find something that works. There are lots of strategies and systems to stay organized, but if the student himself is not organized, then specific method implementation or a system change is required.
The adage of “find something that works” also applies to parenting. Various systems and strategies exist, so the focus on principles and methods becomes important. All Christian parents can agree on core principles and outcomes as we shepherd the hearts of our children. We desire them to be marked by the following:
- Hearts of obedience (John 14:15)
- Kindness toward other people (Colossians 3:12)
- An ability to be self-controlled appropriate to their age (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Showing respect and honor toward others (1 Peter 2:17)
- Attitudes of grace and mercy (Luke 6:36)
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but all parents aspire for their children to be obedient, kind, self-controlled, respectful, and merciful. The common mistake we can make is to view these as future hopes, not current goals. Consequently, we fail to invest needed time and effective methods in discipling and disciplining our children for these current realities when they are young.
Such training should start early, but we easily fall into parental excuse making: They are too young (no time is too early to begin training); They are too immature to understand consequences (little ones learn quickly how to get a parent’s attention); I don’t have the energy or time to address disobedience (discipline is rarely convenient for parents); My children are naturally difficult (some are more challenging than others, but we are all children of Adam). When we abdicate in these ways, the result is permitting the wrong types of behavior and attitudes in our children.
Children will not be perfect, because they descend from imperfect parents. But as imperfect parents, our priority is to find that difficult balance between what some call “saturation love” and accountability that consistently addresses sin in real time. What we permit and allow from our children we promote and condone. Overlooking a spiteful comment, allowing the whining, or tolerating disrespect merely leads to more of it. Successful parenting requires diligent effort, and the tough reality is that our children’s behavior reflects our principles and methods.
So here’s the key question: are your methods working? Have you found Christian parenting strategies that produce obedience, kindness, self-control, honor, and graciousness? If not, embrace the hope of the gospel and recommit to try some new strategies. We all know what is said about repeating the same thing but expecting different results…
The good news is that it’s never too late to apply new methods! In Part II, I’ll share some sound advice from some of the pastors in our school community and provide some additional resources for continuing to train up our children in the way they should go, so when they are old, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).