No occupation is as challenging as parenting. Children have no on-off button. They cannot be put in the closet like clothes, turned off and parked like cars or placed in a kennel for the night like pets. They are on a constant quest, poking, prodding, pushing, pulling and climbing. When our children were little, as soon as they got in the car they looked for buttons to push and knobs to twist. When I turned on the key the blinkers blinked, windshield wipers wiped and the radio blared, vibrating the windows and rendering me momentarily deaf. The same was true for our bedroom and kitchen.
They grew up to be responsible adults. But the path wasn’t easy. Every passage brought new challenges: the first day of school, a move from familiar neighborhoods to a new city, puberty, a drivers license, dating, computer games and technology. Parenting requires a constant learning curve that never stops, even after children are grown and on their own. Relationships constantly change and adjust. As a parent, you are always entering new and unfamiliar territory.
I found across the years that there is no “fix it” book for parenting, no “cure-all,” “read this,” or “do this” simple solution. Every child is different and every parenting situation has its unique challenges. But there are some essential tools that make the difference: patience, consistency, authenticity, trust, love, faith and a listening ear. Most of us don’t come naturally equipped with these essential tools to be successful parents. Most of us have to learn them and acquire them while we are on the job. And all of us have room for improvement.
Years ago I visited a young mother in her home who was caring for several pre-school children. I was amazed at her patience and attention with the children and commented on it. She responded by telling me that this had not always been the case. Before she trusted Christ, she said, she had no patience with children, but after she gave her heart to Christ, He gave her a gift of patience, not only for her own children, but for others.
The Bible says that John came to introduce Jesus to the world by turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to righteousness. Every generation has to struggle against the natural desires of the flesh that result in envy, jealousy, resentment, anger and self indulgence. These attitudes destroy the family. When we put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ He gives us a new heart. He produces in us the fruits of the spirit that equip us to be the parents and people that we long to be: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.” All of these, the Bible says, are the fruit of the Spirit. When our hearts are right with God so that we are producing these fruits, we will be good parents. Then we will be able to fulfill the Scripture’s instruction, “Do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the teaching and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).