Rachel over at the Danielthree18 blog wrote a good piece today examining whether or not it is wise for Christian parents to send their kids to public school with the idea that they be salt and light to the unsaved. She has some excellent points and food for thought, so please be sure to click on this link and read her essay. Her post prompted me to examine again the decisions that my husband and I have made regarding our own children and their education. Parenting is one of the most important roles that God gives to us, and I know that I am not alone in having a deep concern for my children and whether or not I am making the right decisions for them and most importantly, pleasing the Lord in how I am raising them.
I have written before about shepherding the minds and hearts of our children. For today’s post, I thought I would expand on that a little bit and give you some insight into our strategy of Christian parenting. I by no means believe that I have it all figured out or do it better than other parents. My purpose in sharing stems from my own appreciation of hearing how other parents handle situations, as I find it very helpful to learn about their perspectives and successes and failures. This post is simply food for thought from one Christian sister to another. As I enter my 18th year of parenting, I know more than ever that I am far from perfect! 🙂
Teach them the Gospel
The first, and probably most obvious, is that Christian parents need to teach their children the truth: God is the creator, people are sinners who cannot save themselves, hell is real and what we all deserve, and there is no hope outside of Christ and what He accomplished on the cross. The gospel is simple enough for a child to understand. It is not the responsiblity of the Sunday school teacher or youth pastor to disciple your child. God has ordained that parents are the ones who are to spiritually train their children. If the sum total of your child’s spiritual training consists of being dropped off at sunday school one hour per week, there is a problem. There is nothing more important that you will do as a parent than training your child up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). God has deemed it so, and it is your privilege and duty to be obedient to Him and to honor Him in fulfilling this role and task in your child’s life. You need not be intimidated; you do not need to be a Bible scholar. Read a portion of scripture daily with your child and explain it to them. Let them ask questions, look for opportunities to teach them real world application. Pray together. If dad is a believer, he should take the lead here because God has ordained that men are the spiritual heads of their families.
Base Discipline on Grace, Forgiveness, and the Concept of Sin
Kids are sinners because they are born with a sin nature. Therefore it is no surprise that a lot of parenting involves discipline as a result of their sin. Our aim has been to teach our kids the concept of sin and forgiveness in those moments of discipline. When children disobey, act out, or mistreat a sibling there is an opportunity to talk about why what they did was wrong because it is sin; sin against the other person and sin against God’s moral standards. For example, did little johnny lie? You can share where scripture defines lying as sin. You can talk about how God will forgive that sin if we ask Him to. I am not recommending that each parenting interaction become a long drawn out scripture lesson. I’m saying that our discipline should be rooted in biblical truth and concepts. Teaching kids overall that their sin nature is the root of all their misbehavior is the idea. This brings a tangibility to biblical concepts and truth.
An even better way to teach kids about sin and forgiveness is from our own sins against them. When I have been impatient or irritable with my kids, or raised my voice or been unfair, I will go to them and confess that sin and ask their forgiveness. At bedtime prayers, you could even let your kids hear you ask the Lord for His forgiveness of whatever sin you had committed against your child, (“Lord, please forgive me for raising my voice unfairly to Johnny”).
Give them a clear contrast
We send our kids to public school. They are both in high school now, and through the years I have gone back and forth in my mind as to if I have done the right thing. Many Christian parents have strong convictions to home school their kids, based on their understanding of being responsible for their child’s training. I firmly support that perspective and conviction. Some Christian parents have come to the conviction that Christian schooling is what is best for their family, and I support these folks as well. Then there are those of us who have chosen to send our kids to public school. Our philosophy in regards to schooling for our kids was this: we have great public schools in our neighborhood district, that we ourselves attended. We wanted to guide our children through being around the world and all that it entails while they were still under our care and authority. There is a certain amount of risk involved in this choice. For our particular family we believe it was acceptable in order to guide them while they faced some of the temptations and exposure to worldliness, versus keeping them home until college and having that be the first time they were really in the world. Again, I am not condemning anyone’s choices that are contrary to ours. This is just what we believe is best for our particular family.
Regardless of which type of schooling people chose for their kids, but especially if it is public school, it is important to give your kids a clear contrast at home to what they see in the world. This is one of our main ‘Christian parenting strategies’. I have seen it time and again, when I was growing up and also from my vantage point as a parent now myself, of Christian families who seemingly are in no way different from non-Christian families. I am not suggesting that you become legalistic. What I am saying is that we personally, only feel comfortable allowing our kids to go to public school because we are committed to making sure that they have a very clear and obvious contrast here at home.
Here are some things we think about: are we watching all of the same movies, t.v. and listening to the same music as secular people do? What kind of speech do we use and attitudes do we display? What freedoms do we allow and how do we spend our time? What our are priorities? What types of things do we talk about in our conversations? Time and again our kids will report to us around the dinner table what other kids are allowed to watch or do, and they see very clearly that our family is different. Not different because we are trying to be self-righteous. Not because we are keen to keep some moral rules. But because we want to honor the Lord in all that we do; even in our leisure time. If we don’t allow a certain book or movie, we talk about the reasoning behind why: are there sexual situations? Language? Modeling of sinful lifestyles or behaviors? The Bible instructs us:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes (Psalm 101:3)
If what we are watching, reading, or listening to causes us to think sinful thoughts, it’s not for us. If what we are ingesting as entertainment dishonors God in any way, it is not for us. To be absolutely clear, I am not interested in imposing our personal convictions on anyone. I am just giving you our thoughts on how we decide things for our kids, as it may be helpful in your own decision-making process. Whatever conclusions you come to regarding limits for your family is between you and the Lord and should be based on Scripture. The important thing to take away from this section is that there should be a clear contrast for your children in what they see at home versus what they see out in the world.
I hope this has been helpful and edifying for you. I know how difficult it is to carry the responsibility for shaping our children. I am thankful that God extends grace to us, parents who have sin natures and are not perfect. I am also thankful that He will give me wisdom and help as I strive to honor him in how I parent my kids. Not perfect, but seeking to honor Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!