My oldest son recently became a teenager. A teenager! How on earth am I supposed to know how to raise someone that age? I admit I’m a little scared. And sad. Only a few more years and he’ll be out on his own.
As I reflect on these things, four primary guiding principles come to mind:
1. Be involved in your kids’ lives.
Moses’ admonition in Deuteronomy 6:7 to teach God’s word diligently to your children, whether we’re sitting, walking, going to bed, or waking up, implies we’re with them often. Spend time with them. Have fun with them. Get to know them. Teach them God’s word. Don’t stop wielding your influence when your kids reach adolescence. They need us desperately, especially at that age.
2. Balance authority with respect.
Regardless of their age, children need to know who’s in charge. And it’s not them. I’ve learned, though, that I can accomplish this in a diplomatic, rather than authoritarian, manner. Kids deserve respect. Just because they’re children doesn’t mean we can belittle them, yell at them, and boss them around like slaves. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
3. See them as the adults God wants them to become.
I like to imagine what my kids will be like when they grow up. I picture them as godly, responsible, balanced adults with a Christian spouse and well-behaved children. Then I ask myself if I’m doing my part to shape their hearts and character to that end. This exercise provides me with a marker to steer toward, like a lighthouse on the distant ocean horizon. I want to be a Proverbs 22:6 parent: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
4. Make Heaven the ultimate goal.
In the end, our kids’ eternal salvation is all that matters—not whether they get a full ride to the university of their choice; not whether they pursue their dream job. Our parenting priorities echo for eternity. Above all other responsibilities, it is our job as parents to point our children Heavenward. “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
When I told my wife about this article, she said, “Parenting isn’t scary; it’s something to embrace! You’re gonna say that, aren’t you?” Now I am! She’s absolutely right. We should enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to pour ourselves into our children every single day while we still can. That’s all we can do. God will take care of the rest.