Parents have often wished: “It would be great if children came with an instruction book, so we would always know what to do and say while raising them! If only we had a clear set of parental directions—ones we could rely on and refer to as we make the myriad of child-rearing decisions each day. And it would help if they were easy to remember!”
To answer that wish, I offer “Four R’s for Christian Parenting” as a base, a compass, a guide for all those decisions. The four R’s are four key characteristics parents want their children to develop:
REDEEMED: Trust they are forgiven
RESPECTFUL: Treat others with love
RESPONSIBLE: Take ownership of their actions
RESOURCEFUL: Think of ways to get things done
When faced with a parental decision on what to do or say, the answer will be to do or say that which best helps your child be respectful, responsible, or resourceful, all the while being assured that he or she is a redeemed child of God. Reminding our children of these key characteristics will give the proper foundation to all we are trying to teach. Let’s take a closer look.
Both parents and children are sinful. We will make mistakes. Our actions and words will be hurtful instead of helpful. Rules will be broken. Sin still calls for repentance. Discipline, correction, and consequences will be needed. But in every situation, all involved are still also REDEEMED.
While Satan, the roaring lion, will do all he can to make both parents and children feel they are guilty, unlovable, and unforgiveable, our God still loves us and has forgiven us.
That unconditional love and forgiveness we receive from God is the same love and forgiveness we offer to our children. As a matter of fact, forgiving our children when they are rebellious and sinful truly helps us understand the tremendous love and forgiveness of God for us.
What a privilege it is as a Christian parent to reflect the love of God by continually assuring our children that they are redeemed children of God! Some suggestions for keeping the first R—Redeemed—in your family.
- Demonstrate true joy and thankfulness in being forgiven.
- Have regular family devotions.
- Pray continually with and for your children.
- Model forgiveness as husband and wife.
- Conclude all discipline with an assurance of God’s and your forgiveness.
We are raising children in a society in which people often fail to show respect for one another. Our Christian homes need to be models of respect. It all starts with the modeling done by parents. Husbands and wives need to respect one another and their parents, the children’s grandparents. Parents need to treat their children in a respectful manner, treating them as valued members of the family and listening to them.
Discipline needs to be carried out in a respectful manner. Parents need to emphasize the what, where, and when of the misbehavior instead of spending vast amounts of time getting to the why of the behavior. Parents need to help the child change the behavior, not intimidate him or her into doing so. Parents need to provide structure in a child’s life.
Children need to be taught from a young age that showing respect for parents and others in authority is required and has been established by God as the proper order within a family. Dads, recognize your role in assuring that proper respect is shown to Mom.
Some ideas for keeping the second R—Respectful—in your family:
- Do not argue with your children. They want reasons; they don’t need
- Don’t fall into the “I want to be my child’s friend” trap.
- Have expectations of respect from your children especially when they are young.
- Be a model of respectful behavior in all you do.
- Talk with your children when they witness disrespect in other families and on television. Grab those “teachable moments.”
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is helping them to become responsible people—people who demonstrate good judgment, who make God-pleasing decisions on their own, who can be trusted and relied on. To develop responsible children, we parents will need to serve as models. We need to “mean what we say and say what we mean.” We need to carry through on our promises and fulfill our responsibilities to our children. We will need to take the time to give our children jobs and responsibilities and guide them in successfully completing their work. We will need to have clear rules and consequences for our children as they work to develop their rules for living. Some ideas for keeping the third R—Responsible—in your family:
- Recognize that teaching a child to be responsible will take far more time than simply taking care of the responsibility ourselves.
- Be responsible to your children by meeting their needs, not their wants.
- Hold your children accountable; let them suffer consequences for not being responsible.
- Have rules that are limited in number, realistic, enforceable, agreed upon by both spouses, clearly understood, and age appropriate.
- Have consequences that are logical, natural, predetermined, applied every time, certain but not severe, and administered with a cool, calm, and caring attitude.
One of the best ways to help our children into lives of their own is to help them to be resourceful—to be capable and creative especially in dealing with difficult situations. In our sin-filled world, everyone will encounter difficult situations. In school, at work, in relationships, we all encounter difficulties and challenges that require the ability to “think on one’s feet” and to find a way to get it done. Allowing or requiring our children to struggle to find their own way to overcome obstacles may be hard to watch, but it is a key way to instill resourcefulness. While we will want to meet our children’s needs, they benefit greatly by having to be resourceful in getting their wants.
Some ideas for keeping the fourth R—Resourceful—in your family:
- Distinguish between what your children need and what they want. Give your children all they truly need and a small amount of what they want.
- Allow children to “learn the hard way.”
- Work to give your children more opportunities than you had, not more things.
- Encourage your children to find a way to get things done.
- Don’t run constant interference for your children. (Avoid being a helicopter parent or, worse yet, a stealth bomber parent.)
- Help children get started on the pursuit of hobbies.
The next time you find yourself stumped as a parent, run through the four R’s and ask yourself, “What decision will best help my child be Respectful, Responsible, and Resourceful, and, most important, how do I reassure my children of their redemption?” Finally, realize that try as we may, we will still make mistakes. It is then that we can repent and rejoice—we and our children are Redeemed!