By Don Ruhl
Influences bombard our children. They are our children, but the world does not seem to care, influencing them in ways the world desires. Some of that we can control, especially when the children are young, but as they grow, it becomes more difficult. Therefore, we want to minimize those influences by being an important factor in their lives from their earliest years. Matthew 18 shows that Jesus taught the heavy responsibility we have with children. Let His teaching sink into your heart, and you will see that we ourselves must not be bad influences or non-influences upon them, “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:5, 6).
Beware of Wasting Influence
There are things parents just have to do that take them away from their children for a while. That is not all bad. Children have to learn how to use their time and they have to learn how to do some of that by themselves. They need time to be creative. They need time to make decisions and learn from their failures without a parent right there doing everything for them.
However, it is also true that we have to be careful to remember that God gave us those children. Therefore, parents have to spend time influencing their children, not only for good moral reasons, but also because the parents know those children best. They know how to bring up their own children, knowing each child’s individual character, strengths and weaknesses, skills and talents. Remember the teaching of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Pr. 22:6). Parents have to train their children with their disposition in mind.
Therefore, parents have to think about those extra things in life that might make them lose their time of influence with their children. If a parent cuts out too much of his or her time as a parent, he will miss out on influencing, training, teaching, laughing, reassuring, holding, listening, etc.
Even when parents are home, they have to be careful of being too distracted. Again, there are things that parents just have to do, things to get done, even while home with the children, but it is also true that if we are not there for our children, they will find someone who is.
Let there be a proper balance. Remember that things have their proper places, but people are more important than things. When the doctor tells a person that he or she has a terminal disease and that he will be dead in three months, will he wish that he had spent less or more time with his children?
Ephesians 5 encourages a wise use of time, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ep. 5:15, 16). How do we walk circumspectly? How do we walk as wise? For one thing, Paul said to redeem the time. The wise parent considers the value of time.
Ponder the truths of Psalm 101, “I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Ps. 101:2, 3). If we profess to know God, it should be obvious by our conduct at home, including what we set before our eyes.
Society’s Time With Our Children
After kindergarten, society tends to have our children more than we do, hurting our ability to influence our children’s character. One author wrote, “…raising children meant that the parents trained or formed their children. Parents did not simply give their children physical life and send them out to society to be formed and established. The parents trained them in the training ‘of the Lord.’ Children were formed to be like their parents. For Christian parents, this meant forming the children to be men and women of God. They taught their children how to live as Christians, and thereby the image of God was formed in them. They trained their children to carry on the life of the body of Christ. The parents passed on to their children the way of life they themselves had received (Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Servant Books, 1980, p. 69).
Think on the awesome influence of society upon our children. This is not all bad, but we should be aware of society’s time with our children and involvement in their lives. Schools give general education, colleges train for careers, scouts teach how to camp, 4-H shows how to raise animals and do crafts, school counselors give advice or therapy, coaches make them athletes, television entertains, and churches lead spiritually. Where does society stop? What are parents left with to do in building their children’s character?
Remember Deuteronomy 6, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (De. 6:7–9).
Maximize Your Influence
Work at maximizing your influence and either regulate or cut out other influences. We increase our influence when we take heed to our example in marriage, in the treatment of our children, and in life.
Luke 6 shows the power of influence (I have edited it for the context of this article), “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A [child] is not above his [parent], but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his [parent]. And why do you look at the speck in your [child’s] eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your [child], ‘[Son/Daughter], let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your [child’s] eye” (Lk. 6:39–42).
Most of the time, children do not surpass their parents in character; if they do, it will be in spite of their parents. Parents cannot build their children’s character any higher than what the parents have already gone. They are blind beyond what they have attained. Know what to do and what you are doing by knowing God’s instruction on character and by having developed the right character, then you can show your children how to achieve excellent character and once they have those tools, they can build themselves into something great, even surpassing what their parents personally achieved.
Magnifying Parental Influence
Parents magnify their influence when they are quick to encourage and compliment their children. We must rebuke and correct our children, but most people, children included, try harder and do better when someone they love lets them know he is on their side.
Children want to please their parents. Wise parents will capitalize on that desire and use it to build the right character within their children. How often do children show their parents art work, letters, stunts, new found knowledge and other things in which they seek parental approval?
Wise parents use those golden opportunities to make sure that their children see their parents as heroes.
First Thessalonians 2 shows how parents can increase the power of their influence, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children…as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (1Th. 2:7, 11).
When a mother cherishes her children, she is naturally gentle, opening many doors of opportunity later. Fathers who exhort, encourage, and teach their children have children who brag about their fathers.
Moreover, do not fear to encourage and compliment. Some people do not encourage and compliment, because they fear the approval of imperfect work will encourage mediocrity. The opposite happens. They try harder to get more praise next time. Yes, praise can be overdone, especially when not earned, but praise can be underdone also, especially when earned.
Proverbs 25 has wisdom for parents, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Pr. 25:11). Parents speaking a word fitly, keep in mind their children’s age-appropriate abilities. While our children sometimes act younger than their ages, sometimes we expect them to act older than their ages, to be at our level, forgetting that they do not have the advantage of decades of experience.
How has God influenced you? Why not use that influence? Know God as the Father and become a better father or mother. Love God first, then be able to love others. Love your children as God loves His children. Are you His child?