by Janie Seltzer, Spiritual Director for Ziglar Family
Parenting is not a job for wimps! Of all of life’s challenges, parenting, in my opinion, is at the top of the list!
Because every chick that is hatched is a unique individual and will NOT go back into the cracked egg, even if you can’t figure out HOW this individual could have come from this mother and this father! What an incredible mix of genes our children are!
All humor aside (and it helps to have a sense of humor!) my husband and I—the parents of two grown, unique, “full of wonder” sons—found it helpful years ago to embrace the biblical concept that children were “an assignment from the Lord.”
Let’s look at the passage: Behold, children are a inheritance from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward (Psalm 127: 3).
The word inheritance in original Hebrew has the meaning of an assigned plot of land, with the inherent responsibility of tending or working the land.
Needless to say, the plot of land that is a human being requires a great deal of focused tending!
I like to think of childrearing as the process of giving them roots and wings: roots grounded in good soil to nourish, and wings that gradually unfold to enable the child to fly in their divine calling!
The problem we parents face is the tendency to want to mold our children into our own image or our concept of what should grow on that “land” that is their personhood.
Yeah, this is not such a good idea. Think of how YOU resist when someone tries to control and mold you!
Instead, it is helpful to think of a good farmer who preps the land, fosters the soil to become healthy and rich for the harvest, then allows the Lord of the harvest and Maker of your child to sow the seeds according to His divine design for your unique child. Obviously, when the seedlings begin to come up from the soil, it is imperative that you pay attention to the young plants. Do we have wheat, or corn, or beans, or barley or . . . ?
If all of this sounds nebulous, let me drill down with some practical tips that I hope you will find helpful:
1️⃣Notice what interests, strengths and weaknesses your child exhibits “naturally.” My eldest son had a more ‘bookish” brain. He loved to read, build things and enjoyed the challenge of learning in more traditional ways (he is now a clinical psychologist.)
My younger son disliked reading, seemed to drift off into his own world, learned in tactile ways, and had trouble concentrating (he is a musician, singer/songwriter).
We did our best to encourage each son in his strengths and abilities—even to the extent of permitting our youngest to go the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. Yikes!
2️⃣Don’t do for your children what they can do for themselves! Honestly, I wish someone had taught me this principle early in my child rearing! Give your child responsibilities, and pay attention to their implementation or lack thereof. This is critical for prepping the soil for success whatever endeavor they choose to do in the future!
3️⃣Balance grace and discipline. Look for opportunities to encourage the good stuff they do, but do not ignore the inappropriate behavior. Everything they do is NOT wonderful—contrary to some parenting.
We humans have the divine stamp of God’s nature, but we also carry in our personhood the tendency to rebel. Stubbornness must be dealt with; however, not with harshness and meanness to discourage the child.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul says to fathers in particular: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath; instead, bring them up in the nurture and discipline of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Such an important word! Love unconditionally AND give your child clear boundaries that are reinforced, which equals safety.
4️⃣Take the long view. As I have experienced firsthand: parenting never ends!
The human person is always evolving and becoming. Sometimes our children are side-railed, as are we! Patience, perseverance and prayer are the keys in these situations— I’ve had plenty of them, and so will you!
Life is not a straight line, and with this assignment from the Lord, we grow at least as much as they do. There are huge servings of humble pie served up in this assignment. But remember, humility is excellent fertilizer for our souls!
5️⃣Faith is more caught than taught! If you are a person of faith and desire above all that your children be filled with faith, then I encourage you to LIVE your faith!
Let your children catch you in prayer, in Bible reading, in true devotion. Otherwise, it’s all theory. After all, we are what we do, not what we say.
Hauling your children to church is only part of the story. Faith without works is indeed dead and useless (James 2:20).
I must say, woe to those parents who say one thing and do another—most of all, abusive, terrible things. Sadly, those stories pop up in the media from time to time and there is much more that is hidden. Yes, it is true that all things will be revealed in the end.
May you and I not experience the consequences of hypocrisy! May we instead be given our reward—the fruit of our womb—that includes our children who shine as bright as the morning sun . . . and who have wings to fly in the joy of being all they were created to be. To God be the glory!