One of my championing issues as a daycare provider was “be more involved with your kids!” In fact, while cleaning this past week I found a sign I made for an open house that said “When you are more involved in your child’s education, your child is more involved in their education!”
I championed this because studies showed that children whose parents were more involved, tend to be more well-adjusted, learn better, retain knowledge, and apply it better to their daily lives. Children whose parents are more involved had higher grades, were less likely to be involved in crime, and the list can go on and on. It seemed like a good thing! And I saw frequently, as a part of my job, what happened when the opposite was true, when parents did NOT involve their children. Experience and education taught me that tag-alongs were more than an excellent way to keep in touch with kids, they were a great way to prepare them for life!
Now, even more than then, I find God’s Word supports this. Strong nuclear families are God’s plan for us, and isn’t that a good enough argument? This is a classic case of secularism inadvertently proving scripture’s validity. Here is what God has to say about Nuclear families, and how they should work:
Deuteronomy 6:1-3 says:
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”
So firstly, God points out that by following his commandments, keeping his statutes, our children will be prepared to serve him. Sanctification is a blessing, and when we are in God’s Word, we know more of what he has planned for us. God makes it clear here that when he is the priority, and his Word is the priority, we enjoy the blessing of following his plan for us, and it is good!
He continues on in verses 4-7 to say this:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.“
It is clear in this scripture (one that is frequently quoted as parenting advice from a Biblical perspective.) that God designed the family for children to be involved, while we’re walking by the way (maybe traveling somewhere, going about our daily business… etc.) When we’re lying down, and when we rise. Our children should be taught by our most mundane actions, and our more public actions as well. They see EVERYTHING! We can’t lead by example if we’re constantly pushing them away. My inference here is that God expects us to be very involved in our children’s lives. Not marginally, VERY. Scripture has some other points that incidentally point to the value of family meals, direct instruction, etc.
Psalm 128:1-4 says:
“Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord. “
This beautiful song of ascents points out the blessings that come of fearing the Lord, and incidentally, it points out the normalcy of a family table. Eating together, being together, is a blessing! It reminds you of what God is doing in your home.
More specifically, scripture gives us a very serious responsibility in Titus 2 to mentor the younger generation. This doesn’t start as adults, as we see above, it starts when they are very young. So as parents, we are our children’s natural Titus 2 mentor.
Titus 2:1-8 says:
“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”
Ok, so scripture has all these commands for us. What is the natural application of this? Here is how I apply it. (Not everyone will apply it the exact same way, but the basic application is general: Live it!)
- We involve our children in everything! They come to the bank, the grocery store, the restaurant. We once even took them to a home closing. That was tough! We concluded that we need to be more prepared next time… Often times to prepare them for the unique situations in which they find themselves doing all these not so “kid friendly” activities, we will discuss what is appropriate behavior, how we greet and leave someone, and also, we might change our dress. When we went to the bank, the children and I dressed in ‘business clothing.’ Oddly enough, it set the stage for better behavior. They were angels! 🙂 We also model, then send the children to do things. When we went to the Post Office to mail a letter, Sarah (5) went inside (it is a small post office in a small town, with an all window exterior, so I could see everything she was doing. I also grew up with the postmistress, so she knew Sarah well. 🙂 ) by herself and bought stamps. She did beautifully. Emma (4) went in the following week to simply put a letter in the slot. Training them how to do these simple things with courtesy, kindness, and respect is a mundane, but HUGE part of their training. They knew how to do it, because they’d been tag alongs many times before on the same task!
- Teaching service is being of service! Sarah and Emma have seen firsthand the beauty of serving. They’ve assisted in baking pies for neighbors, delivering them, etc. They’ve helped to put boxes together for donations, cards for those in spiritual or emotional needs, etc. They roll the dough, or write their names, or help to buy donations, or even something as simple as handing out a few plates or drinks when guests enter our home. This is already beginning to become second nature to them, at a party recently I was very surprised to turn around and find my 5 year old had volunteered to carry the tray of cake around to everyone! It was particularly sweet to see her take initiative in an act of service.
- When we show bad examples, they mimic bad behavior. I found my young ones drawing on themselves frequently with pens. I was confronted rather innocently when I asked them to stop. “But you write on your hand, Mommy!” Even more sinister? My children watch everything I do. I was very convicted about a habit of perpetuating “little white lies” (not so little, and not so white.) when I inadvertently offended my little ones. I also found them lying quite a bit. It ended up being more destructive when I realized, especially when it affected my children more than I thought. It is amazing how tag-alongs can end up pushing you to be more Christlike!
- Be aware of their faith, cultivate it. I realized they watch me pray, they see the answers to prayer, and they initiate their own prayer. We’ve been praying over boo-boos, small perplexities, lost toys, etc. And then in some cases, where applicable, finding a simple verse to bear out God’s Word on the subject. It was a beautiful moment when both of the girls asked for prayer for their grandfather in church. Even more beautiful was the fact that they are aware of his needs, and that they are actively seeking God’s answer to prayer on their own. Now to teach them to trust his plan whether it suits us or not!
- Remember the little ones. Ava, our 18 month old, is beginning already to mimic some behaviors. Often times I simply do whatever with her on my hip. As young as she is, she is watching, listening, and engaging. Sometimes I forget she is there, it is so natural to think of her as a passive observer. But no more! We’ve reached Toddler stage, and the intentional teaching has begun! Whether I know it or not! This realization came when I realized after several trips to the garden together, she already knows how to harvest certain vegetables! She watched me, and then imitated me. Looks like I have me a new tag-along!
In a nutshell, we have a unique position and responsibility to be ready at all times with an answer, in word, in deed, for our little tag alongs. We need to purposely include them in our walking, lying down, and rising up, and teach them intentionally with the wisdom of God’s Word.