“Make sure you shut the door!” This phrase is uttered a few dozen times a day in my home. With the warmer spring weather we have, children come in and out of the house all the time. We also have a dog. She is an extremely curious, 1-year-old Boxer (fawn) named Bristol, who very much enjoys being outside. If the door is left open, or allowed to close slowly, Bristol will seize her opportunity to run out the door, and then she’s off. She runs down the alley, through the neighborhood, off to experience the freedom of self-discovery. We have been told by neighbors that she sometimes just joins their family on their walk or goes into their yard to play. She seizes her opportunity.
However, there are times when she doesn’t run. Actually there is only one time. This is when someone with authority is standing in front of the door or close enough to catch her quickly. In this case, she just sits there waiting for us to get distracted or leave our post. She is most certainly restrained by the law and not trained by grace.
As a Dad, sometimes I feel like my wife and I are standing by the door. I look at my children (ranging from 2 to 18) and know what I think is best for them. We try to educate, be transparent, humble, gracious, consistent and loving with them. We want to build a foundation of thinking and understanding of the world, train them in wisdom and help them gain understanding. However, as a parent you never feel your work is done, there is always more to do and more you could have done better.
How can we know that once our children graduate high school or head off to college that they won’t simply fly out the door and run from everything we have taught them? How do we know that they won’t abandon the God of their youth? How do we know whether or not they are complying because they have chosen the consequences of submission (blessing) over the consequences of rebellion (discipline)?
On the weekend of our oldest son’s graduation from high school, here are some thoughts I have about keeping the kids from “running out the door” and away from God and their family.
1) Reverse engineer the thing.
Who or what are you trying to make? When I look at my kids, I want them to be able to do three things (concerning Christianity): 1) read/understand the Bible, 2) pray, 3) talk to people about the Bible. How do you do this? I think you have to regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday gathering, fellowship in the church, family Bible reading and discussions of spiritual things.
2) Be who you want them to be.
Many kids get frustrated with their parents because they hold them to a standard that they themselves cannot keep. Paul could tell churches to imitate him as he imitated Christ. There is some power in that statement. It’s pretty tough to tell your kids to be humble, accept correction and follow Christ when you don’t do it. It lets the air out of your argument. Instead, model the faithfulness that the Bible calls you to.
3) Elevate the Bible in the home.
I hope my kids will remember everything that we taught them about the Bible, but if I’m honest, I know it’s unlikely. However, I do think they could get the fact that Mom and Dad read the Bible all the time. We take the Bible seriously and believe it is actually God’s Word. This is an extremely impactful lesson for a kid.
4) Be consistent in discipline.
One sure way to exasperate your children is to change the standard of discipline based upon your feelings. Even worse, change them based upon the child. To the best of your ability, be consistent: What is wrong on Saturday is wrong on Wednesday. Kids will appreciate and be trained by this.