By Becky Hunter
Every now and then a pastor’s wife will ask me if I have any helpful tips to pass along about raising kids. It has been many years since three boys filled our home with lots of energy, but for two decades they did. Now each of our sons is passionate about Christ, married, and raising a son of his own. On the chance that any of the parenting practices we valued might be helpful to you, I’m listing a few I think were significant. If you have children, I’m sure you too, have tips you could share that would help others. I hope you’ll post them so everyone can benefit!
In addition to praying lots and faithfully reading Bible stories together every night, Joel and I kept the following 10 notions in mind while we raised our boys:
- Continuing faithfulness in our journey with Christ is primary.
- Respecting their father is not optional for me. I have always respected Joel because God says to do that. Also, I knew our sons would be less likely to respect him and more likely to disregard the important things he had to say to them—especially when they hit their teen years—if I didn’t respect him. (Ok, I’ll acknowledge the fact that respecting Joel is super easy because he is awesome!) It is equally important for boys to see their father love their mom well. Joel loves me well and has always modeled for our sons the importance of being faithful, providing for, protecting and encouraging a wife.
- Understanding that “boys will be boys” is a lie and that the truth is “boys will be men",” we gave our sons input accordingly.
- Quitting is not an option. As long as they lived in our home, our sons were not allowed to quit. They couldn’t quit a team mid-season, quit school, or quit going to church. Joel and I reminded ourselves often that we couldn’t quit being the parents!
- Matching a “punishment” with a “crime” when the boys made a bad choice was important. When possible, we made those disciplines well known before bad choices were ever made. This made parenting with consistency easier and gave them a good reason to think twice before succumbing to the temptation of the moment.
- Encouraging them in their strengths, and paying only enough attention to their weaknesses to keep those weaknesses from impacting the gifts God had given them, fostered their confidence in what God had already prepared for them to do.
- Humiliating each other or us was not allowed: no practical jokes, no mocking, no ad hominem arguments, etc. This family policy helped each of them develop not only a deep respect for family, but also a great sense of humor that isn’t based on demeaning others.
- Using their emotional responses to personal injustice, we helped them capture a mental image of how others feel when faced with an injustice. For example, if someone hurt our son’s feelings or made him mad, we acknowledged that unfortunate situation, but used that as an opportunity to teach him to consider life through perspectives beyond his own. We would say something like, “I’m sorry you are sad, but it is important to remember how you feel right now because of what was said to you so that you won’t ever be the guy who makes someone else feel like you do right now.”
- Tithing taught them the value of consistently giving a minimum of 10% to God’s work, to help “bring up there, down here.” We tithe and give offerings for the obvious reason of helping others, but also because such faithful giving consistently reminds us to focus on the Giver and not just His gifts.
- Investing time and money in opportunities and resources that held potential to help them be effective kingdom builders, was a priority for us. For example: each son had his own Bible, and it was always age appropriate so it could be most helpful (Toddler Bible, Picture Bible, Children’s Bible, Teen Bible with helpful commentary). We paid for the Christian music they wanted, but if they wanted to broaden their music library, they bought those songs ... knowing that any “trash”—whether it littered their rooms or their minds—would go into the garbage can where trash belongs. We backed their mission trips, their participation in christian camps (first as campers, then as camp counselors), and got them involved in service projects. We welcomed their friends and acquaintances into our home for small group Bible studies. We valued a great education for each of them so they could do what they wanted to do, the best it could be done. We were so committed to that, we sold our home and moved into an apartment for seven years to be able to make that happen financially.
If any of these things is helpful to you as you parent you children, that’s great! But, let me be very plain—neither Joel nor I believe that our sons became the Christian men they are today simply because of our parenting. We always felt our job as parents was to do our best to it make clear who God is and that He loves each of our sons even more than we do. We were well aware that each one would personally make important decisions from a range of options. We know it was God’s decision to guide them, and their decision to follow Him that makes them such effective men today. We are grateful and stunned by God’s incredible goodness and we truly admire our sons. Our parenting goal was to give them the most important advantage they could have, to meet God and fall in love with Him. They did. So now, we pray for our sons and their wives as they live in a way that helps our grandkids value a relationship with Christ more than life itself.
I’m praying for you as you worship this weekend. Please join me in praying for pastors’ wives around the globe as we all do our best to “bring up there, down here.”