How to Raise Great Kids in Today’s World
In 2002, only 9 percent of adults said the children they saw in public were respectful toward adults. In 2004, more than one of three teachers considered leaving their profession or knew another teacher who quit. The reason? Students’ “intolerable behavior.” So said Public Agenda, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research group.
In 2005, 70 percent of people surveyed said, “People are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago.” Among the worst offenders were children, said an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. The reason, experts say, is because of what parents expect from kids. “The pressure to do well is up. The demand to do good is way down.”
Dan Kindlon, a child psychologist at Harvard University, believes most parents want considerate, polite, well-behaved children. “But they’re too tired, worn down by work, and personally needy to take up the task of teaching them proper behavior at home,” Kindlon says. He says present-day parenting has more to do with training boys and girls to compete in school or on the soccer field, but competition doesn’t teach civility.
“Parents are out of control,” says Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a child psychiatrist. “We always want to blame the kids, but if there’s something wrong with their incivility, it’s the way their parents model for them.”1
It’s not easy raising children in today’s world. We have all of these pressures and it becomes harder to focus on what God wants us to do to raise great kids. I want to share with you today about how to raise great kids in today’s world. This will be the first in a three-part series. Today we will talk about the skills you can teach. Next week, we will see the challenges each parent may face, and then the following week we will look at sharing blessings with your children and grandchildren. If we want to raise great kids in today’s world, we need to share with them certain skills. These skills are Christian skills that help a child succeed later in life.
SEVEN SKILLS PARENTS CAN TEACH
TO RAISE GREAT KIDS
1. Obey (Ephesians 6:1-3, Ephesians 6:5)
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.” (Ephesians 6:1–3, CSB)
“Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5, CSB)
The first skill you teach your child is respect. A child will learn to respect themselves as they learn to respect those who are in authority. This is the reason for the commandment that is listed.
The word “obey” means to carry out one’s orders. A person listens to someone of authority and does what that person asks of them. This is the meaning of the word obey. I listen and carry out my orders. This is the essence of respect that a child learns from a parent. A child learns respect for their parents when they listen to their orders and obey them. This is why the commandment is listed to “honor” your parents. To honor someone is to respect the commands of someone.
A child learns to respect their parents as the first source of authority in their lives. Their parents mirror the authority of God. If a child learns to respect their parents, and they will learn to respect God. A child learns to respect that there will be people who they have to listen to and obey in their lives. There will be people in authority over them: teachers, managers, government officials, and ultimately God. A child learns that first from their parents.
The role of the parent is to teach the child they can do anything they want, but that there are boundaries in relationships. They must respect those boundaries. The first boundary is to respect those who are in a position above them.
The commandment comes with a promise. If you respect the boundaries, then God will give you a long life. When you don’t, then you are going to be in danger fairly soon. By disrespecting another person in authority, you will think that you can disrespect anyone. One day that will come to haunt you. Someone will demand respect and if you don’t give it, they will hurt you. Your life will be cut short. So honor must be learned. It should be taught.
As we will see, a child learns to respect and obey their parents. This will have implications when they leave the home. If a child learns to respect and obey their parents, they will carry that value into the workplace. This is the reason that Paul says that slaves should obey their masters.
We don’t believe that Bible teaches that slavery is right. But we do believe that the Bible teaches the importance of obedience. Taken in a work context, an employee/employer relationship should be one of respect. That can only happen when a child learns to obey.
2. Encourage (Don’t stir up anger) (Ephesians 6:4)
“Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, CSB)
The second skill that a parent teaches a child is an encouragement. This negative phrase implies a positive skill. As parents, we want to be an encourager to our children. Our instruction should be with positive reinforcement when possible.
Sometimes, however, our emotions get in the way. The way we were taught as kids by our own parents were sometimes not the best ways. As parents, we remember these ways ourselves and sometimes we cross the line. We get angry. That anger can make our children angry at us.
The word provoke is a Greek word meaning to frustrate, to anger. It means “do not exasperate your children or instill within them an angry disposition.” This doesn’t mean that our children will never become angry at our decisions. It means we shouldn’t be overly strict, angry, overprotective, lax, lenient, absent, or critical so as to make our children embittered in their hearts.2
We love our children, but sometimes our form of correction may cause anger in our children in such a way that it doesn’t fulfill its purpose. For example, many people say a parent should spank their children. I believe spanking is one form of discipline. It a form of corrective punishment. It has its purpose when it is used to correct a child. However, there is a difference between spanking once or twice and beating a child to death.
When a form of discipline only causes the children to become angrier, and it does not correct the behavior, then it is time to use another form of discipline. So we learn to encourage our children, and we give them a firm correction when necessary.
3. Train (Ephesians 6:4)
“Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, CSB)
The third skill that a parent teaches a child is how to do things right the first time.
The root word trepho means to provide nourishment. This is the word Jesus used when he told us to consider how the Heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air. It’s also the word used in Acts 12:20 when the people of Tyre and Sidon approached King Herod to talk about their food supply. This is also the word used in Luke 4, when it says that Jesus returned to the town of Nazareth where he had been brought up.
The idea is that parents are to provide the nourishment children need for growth. Not just the physical nourishment of food on the table, but the emotional and spiritual and mental nourishment children need.3
We are feeding our children in the way we teach. This training is about how to do it right. The word here means “to teach.” We get our word pedagogy or the science of teaching. When a person teaches, then they are teaching the right way to do something. A teacher never teaches the false way to do something. A teacher trains by showing the right way to do something. That’s our role as parents. We train by teaching the right way to do something.
4. Instruct (Ephesians 6:4)“Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, CSB)
The fourth skill that a parent teaches a child is how to correct something that is wrong.
The word admonition—nouthesia—comes from the word nous, meaning, mind; and tithami, meaning, to deposit. So literally it means to deposit in the mind. It is often translated to warn. It suggests that parents are responsible for depositing the truths of God’s Word into the minds and hearts of their children.4
When we correct someone who is doing something the wrong way. This is the meaning of the word “instruct” here in this verse. This instruction is a form of correction. When someone does something wrong, then they are corrected to do it right. A child learns something wrong, and so they have to go back and do it right. That’s instruction. You keep teaching until they always do it right. Training is easy. Instructing is hard. Because you get frustrated as a parent.
Go clean your room. But they don’t clean their room completely correct. They leave stuff undone. So you go back and you tell them to finish. That’s instruction. So a child learns by this form of instruction to correct a mistake. This is an important skill to learn. A child learns that mistakes have consequences but that they can be corrected when we make the effort. Another result of learning this skill is that a child learns that when something is wrong, they are obligated to correct it. So if you see something wrong going on, you step in and correct it as best as you can. If you see an injustice happening, you speak out. That’s part of instruction.
The first four skills in this list are general in nature. They teach how a person should have to build positive self-esteem. As parents, we are teaching our kids how to behave, and how to be in society. The next three skills teach how we should behave around others. They deal with how I relate to other people.
5. Work (Ephesians 6:6)
“Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.” (Ephesians 6:6, CSB)
The fifth skill that a parent can teach a child is the value of work. If you are training them, and eventually correcting them, a child learns how it important it is to do things right. One of the reasons this is important is because a child has to learn the value of work. Chores in the home teach a child that there is value is doing work. Work is necessary.
6. Good attitude (Ephesians 6:7-8)
“Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:7–8, CSB)
The sixth skill that a parent can teach a child is the importance of a good attitude in everything one does. Because God is good, a Christian derives a good attitude from serving Him. If one applies that same goodness to the workplace, then it makes work more bearable or enjoyable even.
7. Fairness (Ephesians 6:9)
“And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6:9, CSB)
A seventh and final skill that a parent can teach a child is the responsibility to be fair.
Here, Paul instructs masters to treat their subjects with consideration. Masters or people in positions of authority over others should treat those below them with goodwill. The reason is that we all have a Master in Heaven. God shows no favoritism and He expects us to show no favoritism. God is fair and He expects us to be fair. In many ways, life is not fair. Because life is not fair, as Christians, we should show as much fairness in life as we can. Many times this includes being gracious to others.
Back in the days when women permed their hair a lot, a mother was getting ready for a late date with her husband. While rinsing her hair in the kitchen sink, she heard the unmistakable rustlings of two little boys who were supposed to be in bed.
Lifting her mouth above the stream of hot tap water, she hollered, “You kids get back in bed!” The little boy noises quickly subsided, but as soon as she lathered up again, once more the telltale thumps and bangings wafted down from upstairs. Now beginning to get angry, the mother wrapped a towel around her head, marched over to the foot of the stairs, and yelled, “The next time I hear you, I’m coming up there!”
Confident her threat would eliminate the problem, she returned to the sink to finish her hair. But no sooner were her tresses underwater once more than she heard her kids running around again. Furious, she again threw the towel around her head, bounded upstairs, stormed into the room where her two boys were playing, and scolded loudly, “I told you to get in bed, I mean for you to get in bed, and you had better stay in bed!”
By this time the mother was so perturbed, she decided to stand unseen just outside the door to see if her sons obeyed. As she silently lurked a few feet from her chastened sons, she heard her youngest boy whisper to his older brother, “Who was that?”
Isn’t it amazing? The same kids who one moment can make us red-faced with anger can in the next instant make us roar with laughter. We cherish them more than we do our own lives—even though they know exactly how to drive us crazy.
But that’s the deal with parenting! To be called “Mom” or “Dad” is a tremendous privilege with a corresponding challenge that is just as great.5
1 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 285. From Judith Warner, “Kids Gone Wild,” The New York Times (November 27, 2005)
2 Robert J. Morgan, Real Stories for the Soul, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 111.
3 Robert J. Morgan, Real Stories for the Soul, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 111–112.
4 Robert J. Morgan, Real Stories for the Soul, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 112.