My wife and I often get questions about parenting. Neither of us grew up as Christians and there was a lot of dysfunction in our families. But God was faithful to help us as we had our own children. Any success we had was because of His mercy and guidance, I assure you!
But along the way we embraced three questions that helped us in our parenting (and now our grandparenting). Maybe they’ll help you too.
The first question: What is my no. 1 goal?
What are you asking God to do in your child’s heart and life? What really matters?
Our top goal was for our kids and grandkids to be holy. To have Christian character. To be Christ-like.
We wanted them, regardless of what school they went to, regardless of what accomplishments they had, regardless of how much money they would make, regardless of anything else, to walk with God. So in everything we said and did, that goal had to be primary. If that didn’t happen, everything else was in vain; if it did, everything would fall into place.
The second question: What is my no. 1 role? Of all the things you can do for your children and grandchildren, what is your no. 1 role?
Look at a passage in 1 Corinthians 4:14-16. The Apostle Paul is writing to his spiritual children. “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel,” he reminds them. Then he adds a command. “Therefore, I urge you to imitate me.”
A parent’s role is to model the way of life they want their children to imitate: a dependent, loving relationship with the living God, walking in holiness. You want them to say, “I want to live the kind of life that I see my dad living, that I see my mom living.”
The third question is: What is my no. 1 responsibility?
A parent’s main responsibility is to nurture the kind of relationship where their children feel deeply and unconditionally loved (significant); and where they clearly know where the boundaries are (secure).
I like the wording found in the J.B. Phillips version of Ephesians 6:4. In this verse the Apostle Paul instructs parents to not “over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Bring them up with Christian teaching in Christian discipline.”
Christian teaching and Christian discipline. Our words and our actions. We need to help our children live out the biblical truths we’re teaching them. (And, of course, we need to live them out, too!) What that requires is clear boundaries. Boundaries produce security. Think of a mountain highway. The guardrails keep us safely on the road. It’s not punishment; it’s love.
There will be times when you and your children are on the journey and it’s rocky. There will be times where you will cry with your children; times when you forgive them when they make horrendous mistakes; times when you all laugh with joy. And here’s the thing: at that moment your arms are the arms of God and He is weeping with you through your eyes and laughing with you as well.
As you think through these three questions, remember, only God can work in your children’s hearts. In the midst of a broken world, all you can do is create the kind of environment in which the Holy Spirit—through the Word of God, through great relationships—not only will help the family members you love become what you long for them to become, but who God longs for them to be.
You’re not alone in your parenting efforts. Chip Ingram’s study, ‘Effective Parenting in a Defective World’, can offer more guidance.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip