Television was removed from our home over ten years ago. Psalms 101:3, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes. . . .” At that time the influences even “okay” shows brought into our home were often negative. Did the children treat their parents with respect? How did they interact with their siblings? What activities were they involved with? Those questions don’t even take into consideration what children see on commercials or other programs that are not “okay.”
Steve has been willing, as a dad, to invest time in his children’s lives. He has given up the recreation he would pursue during his free time in order to be with his children. About eight years ago, when Nathan was fourteen and Christopher was twelve, Steve and the boys began to finish our basement. Could Steve have done the job faster by himself? Perhaps at first, but with a few months of teaching and training, the boys had learned many skills to make their help valuable. Not only did they learn much about construction in the process, but they also experienced wonderful, manly fellowship during those hours of working together. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up . . . and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Steve has carried this policy on into car work and almost any other project or errand he does. He includes even the younger children in these activities. It would be much quicker to work alone, but he is doing more than a task. He is investing in the hearts and lives of his children. Turning the hearts of the children to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children has continued to be one of our main goals in parenting children (Malachi 4:6). Proverbs 4:1-5, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.”
Steve also will take a child with him almost any time there is a meeting or activity to attend. When he had a breakfast with our state representative, Nathan went along as a teen. Steve has made our children a part of his life. Proverbs 5:1-2, “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.” In addition to the fellowship that the children have experienced, they have been exposed to Steve’s insight and teaching on many spiritual subjects in a setting much more public than our home.
We have encouraged our children to be busy with work and ministry rather than entertainment. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27). Nathan and Christopher started a lawn mowing business when they were ages ten and twelve. They worked that business together until Nathan graduated from high school, whereupon Christopher continued it on his own for two more years. This work kept them profitably occupied. They worked hard in hot, uncomfortable circumstances. They learned to serve customers, to maintain their equipment, to cooperate with each other, and to manage a business.
To facilitate an appetite toward serving others, we include our children in ministry the Lord has given us. Steve and the six oldest children have ministered at the local county nursing home for seven years. Psalms 41:1 has been their ministry verse, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.” Also, James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” They have a “church service” every other Saturday afternoon, collecting up the residents who are interested in attending, wheeling them into the day room, and ministering to them.
Our children have helped with the homeschool group from the very beginning. One of them has always had the responsibility for the newsletter. They spend many hours preparing for the children’s programs that go along with the couples’ meetings. They also put on the spelling bee each year. Their hearts are being fed on the joy Jesus gives in serving Him and others, rather than self.
Nathan and Christopher each decided not to obtain a driver’s license until there was a need for them to be driving. For them, this occurred around age eighteen when their work required them to have transportation. Not only did they save a considerable amount of money by not having to pay car insurance from the time they were sixteen, but also the lack of transportation may have kept them from opportunities of immorality that could have resulted in failure.
We also suggested the boys wait until the need presented itself before purchasing a car. This happened around the age of nineteen for them. Here again, they saved money by waiting and kept their focus on preparation for the future, rather than self-entertainment that can easily lead to a rebellious heart and attitude.
Steve and I encouraged our children to consider courtship rather than dating. They decided this was a biblical way and have chosen not to date. Because of this, they have been spared from situations that can lead to rebellion and immorality. Their time, money, and hearts have gone to useful occupations such as work, ministry, and family activities rather than being drained by dating.
Before our children reached their teenage years, Steve and I decided it would be good to institute a “dress policy” for how the children were to dress whenever they were in public. We shared with them that, although God judges the heart, man looks on the outward appearance. While it may be true that we don’t have rebellious hearts, if the way we dress is worldly, or faddish, it can appear to others that we are. 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us. . . .” We wanted them to see themselves as ambassadors for Christ and suggested they choose a “classic style” of dress that would not cause others to assume they were rebellious when they were not.
Prayer has been a key factor in our children’s lives for avoiding rebellion. Steve and I could always have been more consistent and diligent in our prayer time for our children, but all through their lives we have called out to the Lord. We are asking for wisdom in raising them, for guidance in decisions we must make, for strength to stand by those decisions, and for Jesus to work in the lives of our children, molding and shaping their hearts for Him.
As we think and evaluate each of these areas that I have briefly discussed, there is so much more that could be said about them, but this is an overview. Some of these may not even seem to have anything to do with rebellion versus lack of rebellion. In the ones that are less obvious, we think the children have been protected from influences and temptations that could have caused their hearts to be turned toward rebellion rather than kept with their Lord and their family.
We believe our older children have been open to these choices because the Lord has enabled us to keep their hearts. Their focus has been on the Lord, work, ministry, preparation for their futures, and family, rather than peers and fun. Therefore, they are willing to listen to our counsel and look to Scripture for their guide.
We are not saying these children are perfect, anymore than Steve and I are perfect. We have discussions where we are on different sides of the fence. There are areas of need we see in their lives where we pray for the Lord to work. However, our relationship is sweet; we delight in our adult children, seeing them as blessings and friends. We have prayed for them, protected them, taught them, and counseled them. We now enjoy watching them as they learn to seek after the Lord with all their hearts.
We give all the credit to the Lord for the work He has done in these children’s lives, for the decisions He has led our family to make, and for His faithfulness to us in spite of our failures. We want to encourage other families who may struggle with some of these choices, who may feel they are too difficult and who may wonder if their children will suffer if they make them, that it is worth the sacrifices. What the world offers our young people is empty and vain, but what the Lord offers is full of riches.
As we make some of these decisions or changes, it is imperative that our hearts as parents are soft and open toward our children. We must approach the change with the right attitude. We should offer our time and ourselves to our children in return for anything we are taking from them. Our children learn from us, even what we are not aware they are learning. If our focus is on ourselves, doing what we love and serving our interests, then they learn that too. If we want to direct their hearts toward the Lord, then it must be obvious by not only our words, but also our actions, that our hearts are toward the Lord.
May we, as parents, evaluate each area that comes up with our teens and be willing to seek the Lord on it. May we make the choices the Lord directs us in even though they may be unpopular or difficult. May we continually call out to the Lord in prayer for His grace, wisdom, and strength in raising up children, who are mighty in spirit, to serve Him.