The following is an excerpt from Al and Gloria Baird’s new book, A Lifetime of Love – Building and Growing Your Marriage.
“Children are a heritage fromthe LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of awarrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.”
Werealize that not everyone reading this book will have children; but most willat some point in their marriage. Children are a gift from God, but a gift thathas a profound shaping-effect on any marriage.
Throughthe years, many younger parents have asked us for advice about parenting. Thetop of our list is to tell them to have the goal of raising them to love God.Key in this is molding their hearts, not just their actions. Since this a bookprimarily about marriage, we can devote only this chapter to rearing children,when an entire book is really needed. So, we will skim the surface as weexplain a few of our convictions.
GODIS THE ONLY TRUSTWORTY AUTHORITY ON REARING CHILDREN
Wehave lived long enough to see the trends about child rearing change severaltimes. We were raising our girls during the Dr. Spock era, only later findingout that some of his theories were not the best. Many of you have not evenheard of Dr. Spock since many other ‘experts’ have long since replaced him.Fortunately, we knew there were principles that we could depend on to beeffective and unchangeable from the one true expert—God.
Weare concerned that we see many Christian parents rejecting clear-cut directionsfrom the Bible, such as spanking. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; ifyou punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and savehis soul from death.” (Proverbs 23:13-14). Certainly, spanking should never bedone in anger and should be age appropriate, but do not let some modernparenting guru persuade you that Biblical parenting wisdom is passé. Many goodbooks are available that explain the “how-tos and whys” of proper godlydiscipline. Anyone who believes that God’s manual, the Bible, is outdated, willmake some serious mistakes in rearing their children.
Youare better as a couple that either of you would be individually. If I had beenparenting by myself, I would have been too firm, while Gloria would have beentoo soft and sentimental. Together we found a good balance. In areas of opinionit would be better to do something that may not be the absolute best choicethan to choose the best option but not be united. The kids will try hard todivide you to get their own way; and they are masters at knowing which parentwill most likely let them have their way at any point in time.
Don’tchange your rules and expectations without a good reason. Being tired or in ahurry is not a good reason. Children will be confused if parents are notconsistent. Imagine how confused a driver would be if one day it was legal torun a red light, but the next day he got a ticket for running through the samered light. It is easier to be consistent if you make as few rules as possiblebut enforce those rules implicitly.
PRACTICEWHAT YOU PREACH
MakeGod the center of your home in a genuine way. Children are like little videocameras, recording everything. They learn by example, even more than what wesay. Kids hate hypocrisy. Once I (Gloria) was preparing to teach a parentingclass with our oldest daughter Staci. I asked her what had helped her the mostgrowing up in our home. She said, “What I saw you and Dad being at home was thesame as I saw you being outside of the home.”
TEACHAND MODEL THE SETTING OF PRIORITIES AND SACRIFICE
Jesussays that we cannot be his disciples if we don’t put God and his kingdom first.Our kids know if we do or not, if they are old enough. Sometime ask your olderkids what they see as your top priorities. Hopefully, they see that the top ofour list includes our love for God and his church, our love for each other andour kids, and our determination for us to get to heaven and to take our kidswith us, and to take as many others with us as we can. An important ingredientin that is our sacrifice of our time and money.
We willnot inspire our kids by living in the comfort zone. Too many kids see theirparents putting the job, the kids’ sports or other interests above the church.Most churches have times of special financial contributions; these areexcellent opportunities to teach sacrifice. We would talk to the kids aboutwhat expenses, such as eating out, that we could reduce as the time for thecontribution grew closer. We had a large vegetable garden and our specialcontribution was in September, so we tried to have most of our meals from thegarden for the entire month of August. That way we could give all the money wehad saved from our food budget.
MODELAND EXPECT RESPECT
Whata person says and does is of prime importance in communicating respect, and theperson’s tone of voice and body language also play an essential part. My(Gloria) mother used to say, “You will always love your kids, but no one elsewill unless you teach them to be respectful!”
TEACHAND EXPECT OBEDIENCE
Obedienceis a fundamental building block in anyone building a relationship with God andit is one that the kids must learn in order to have a functional, lovingfamily. Failing to teach obedience to the kids when they are young willprobably doom you to “reap the whirlwind” in their teen years. If you wonderwhat your child will be as a teenager, look at him at two then multiply that byeight, and you have a sixteen-year-old! Our kids use this guideline with theirchildren: “First time, every time, and with a good attitude.’ We learned thehard way that counting “l… 2…3”, expecting them to obey by the time wereach “3” teaches the child that he doesn’t have to obey until you get to “21/2.”
VALUETHE FAMILY MEALS
Studyafter study,1 even secular studies, show many tremendous benefits tothe kids and the parents, too, of having regular family meals together. Theentire family sits down at the dinner table for the entire length of the meal,with no TV, no cell phones, and no other distractions. They become one of, ifnot the most important communication time for the entire family. Everyone canshare about the highlights of their day and anything else that comes up. Wealso would usually read a scripture and have a very short devotional.
Welearn from 2 Timothy 3:15 that Timothy began learning the scriptures frominfancy. So, we as a family learned one Bible verse each week, and any of us,including the kids, could ask anyone else to quote the verse, or any verse wehad learned in the past. It was a lot of fun, and we all can still remembersome of those verses decades later. In addition, once a week, we would have afamily night, which not only included the meal, but games and other activities.Each of our three girls, when they were old enough, would take turns cookingand preparing the meal.
DON’TTRY TO LIVE THROUGH YOUR KIDS
It isall too common to see parents who try to get their kids to excel in mom ordad’s favorite sports or other activities. Often this happens because theparent wished they had excelled themselves and now wants to live vicariouslythrough their child. This is both selfish and harmful to the kids. You, theparent, had your chance; now let the kids have theirs.
Hospitalityis an important part of the Christian life, and there is no better way to teachit to the kids than for them to experience it firsthand. Our home was “GrandCentral Station.” Our girls usually had some friends over, and we had manyguests. Some lived with us for short periods of time. It was not unusual for usto have a couple who we were trying to help with some serious marriage problem,or even occasionally someone coming down from a drug high. Looking back, thishad an unexpected positive benefit to our kids as they were able to seefirsthand in a safe environment how bad life can be when someone doesn’t followGod’s way.
MOM& DAD’S RELATIONSHIP IS STILL THE MOST IMPORTANT
Nextto God, our relationship is the most important. Yes, even more important thanthe kids. We often tell parents, “You love your children better when you love yourmate best.” It is significant that various studies show that building a bettermarriage results in being better parents.2 Make sure you are gettingspecial alone time together, at home and away. Put a lock on your bedroom door.Generally, the kids don’t belong in your bed. Evangelist and author Sam Laingsays, “The marriage bed is intended for two things and the kids don’t helpeither.”
It iscomforting to know that we do not have to be perfect parents. We will makemistakes. We and our children will learn and grow through them—they won’t beruined by them. God is the ultimate Father who is molding and shaping all ofus. He will work even through mistakes if we are humble toward him and others,and if we keep loving our children. Love does cover a multitude of sins. Enjoyevery stage. Children grow up so fast! Be sure to treasure the times you havewith them. Make memories that will be treasured for years to come.
Oh,yes. It is never over. Just when you think you have finished raising the kids,the best is yet to come—GRANDKIDS!