When we think about stewardship, we tend to focus on certain areas more than others. If you’ve been around church for long, you’ve probably heard a sermon describing how everything you have—including your money, your time, and your talents—is a gift God gives that you need to manage well.
But for those of us who are parents, there’s something even more important we must steward well: our relationship with our children.
God gives us a brief window to train our children and prepare them to make a difference in the world. Yes, if you’re a parent, you’ll help guide them for the rest of your life, but you have a unique opportunity to influence their lives during their childhood and adolescence.
Every parent has four main responsibilities to their kids as they guide them:
- Prepare your kids to face all seasons of life.
- Protect your kids in storms.
- Play with your kids for fun.
- Point your kids to God.
If you’re a parent, nothing you’ll do in this life will be more important than fulfilling these responsibilities to your kids. But how do you do that in a way that will bring out the very best in your children?
You do it by following God’s five foundations of parenting.
1. You accept their uniqueness. Proverbs 22:6 may be one of the most misapplied verses in the whole Bible: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). First, note that this isn’t a promise that comes true every time; it’s a proverb—a generally true statement that has exceptions. But there’s a key phrase in it. Parents need to train children “in the way [they] should go.” When you do that, you’re taking into account that each child is unique. Each is in a unique stage of life. Each has a unique mix of gifts, talents, and abilities. Each also has a unique personality.
To effectively engage your children, you need to understand all of those factors and take them into account as you guide your children.
2. You affirm their value. Everyone is starving for affirmation today. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t need affirmation. Your kids are no exception. Parents can learn to affirm the value of their children by noticing what they’re doing, showing affection, and expressing appreciation. Doing this consistently will help them know they have value to you—and, ultimately, to God.
3. Trust them with responsibility. Nothing will bring out the best in your children faster than believing in them enough to give them age-appropriate responsibility. People respond to responsibility. In fact, in Luke 16:10, Jesus says it’s how we grow. God gives us a little bit of responsibility and then gives us more when we fulfill what he’s already given us. As a parent, you are responsible for your children when they’re babies. But as they grow, you change from having a responsibility for them to having a responsibility to them.
Part of your responsibility is to avoid making them dependent upon you. You do that by giving your children responsibilities.
4. Correct without condemning. No one is perfect, including your children. That’s why we must learn to discipline them in a way that empowers them. The Bible says, “If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them” (Proverbs 13:24 NLT). You must discipline your children in a wise way. Words are tough. Never correct in anger. Speak the truth in love. Take the time to share helpful words instead of hurtful ones.
5. Love them unconditionally. Your kids will mess up. They will fail at times. They need to know you love them anyway. How do you show them? First, you offer them forgiveness, just as God has forgiven you. You’ll need massive amounts of forgiveness yourself as a parent. You need to be willing to offer forgiveness as well. Godly parents keep on loving even when their kids hurt them.
Second, you can’t give up on them. Real love—unconditional love—never gives up (see 1 Corinthians 13:7).
If you’re reading this article and you feel like you’ve already messed up as a parent, I want to encourage you. Don’t give up! God loves you and wants to help you get a fresh start with your kids! God is the God of second chances, and he hasn’t given up on you as a parent.
So wherever you are in your journey as a parent, God calls you to be a wise steward of your relationship with your children. It’s a life-changing investment!