If there’s one thing I love doing with my mom, it’s having honest late night talks. There’s this one conversation in particular that struck me the most. I remember my mother was folding clothes on her bed and I was sitting across from her, spilling out my hostility against one thing that my father had missed out long ago which until that day made me upset. In full assertion, I asked, “Isn’t that something he should already know as a dad?”
I waited in anticipation as she paused to think.
“If you want to recreate a dish, follow what cookbooks say. If you want to understand a device, get your user manual. You can acquire a lot of skills with so many how-to books out there as your guide. But a fail-proof handbook on being a good parent? I’m afraid there is none, ” she replied.
“Your dad and I didn’t know what to do when we first held you in our arms. Up until now, we are still learning. Sometimes we get things wrong but we only hope you get it right when it’s your turn to be a mom,” she continued.
Parenthood. How do you know you’re doing it well?
Leaving an imprint
Last April, I had the privilege to sit down, learn about godly parenting, and talk with married couples at the seminar called IMPRINT. Although the target audiences were men and women who are newly engaged, expecting a baby or raising a teenager, my single friends and I didn’t find ourselves out of place.
Pastor Paolo Punzalan, a father of four, started the seminar with quirky stories of leading his own family with the guidance of the Lord. Rooted from the verse Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Pastor Paolo gave five important points to focus on.
“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.”
1. It doesn’t matter what you know if you don’t know what matters.
Deuteronomy 6:5 is the very core of our existence. Our heart for God is what matters in all life stages. As parents, the main goal is to be sold out for Christ, devoting the child to know God by living a life of faith and obedience themselves.
Below is an illustration from Pastor Paolo that tells us how parents can use their power to lead children to full dependence on God.
At ages 0-6, the parents train the child about the basics such as walking, uttering words or eating vegetables. During this stage, the child is fully dependent on the parents obviously. However, as they approach ages 7-12, the parents must introduce independence to the child such as letting him work on his assignments, finish his own plate, and do some chores by himself. As much as the parents would want to assume full control over their child, the role of the parents is to assist the child in finding dependence on God more and more as he grows older.
When the child reaches the ages 13-18, the parents train the child to be released from their authority while the child learns to decide on his own. The parents give the child more freedom when it comes to making decisions such as choosing which university course to take, movies to watch or activities to do over the weekend. Upon reaching the ages 19-24, the parents must no longer be looked up to as the child’s figure of authority but rather people of influence, directing all their trust and confidence on God.
2. The relationship is more important than rules.
The Scripture isn’t merely a set of laws but a reminder for us to always love and worship in God’s spirit and truth. Our life of obedience is nothing but empty religion without love for God and for others. And the same goes for a parent-child relationship. Abiding by the rules without a deep-rooted relationship only makes the connection superficial.
Pastor Paolo explained the importance of authority and sympathy in dealing with children. Again, he reminded the audience that the role of the parents is to leave an imprint of God on their children, not theirs.
3. It has to be in you before it can be in them.
Parents are children’s first role models. In Deuteronomy 6:6, Moses instructed the people to store their love for God in their hearts so that they may pass it on to the next generation. We can’t teach what we don’t know. We can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t be an example of what we don’t live out. Fathers, show your sons how to be the servant leader of the household. Mothers, teach your daughters to be pure before God and man.
4. Imprinting happens anytime, anywhere.
Every moment with your child is an opportunity to teach them about God. As young as they are, always input the Scripture in the materials they read, listen to or watch. When they wake up in the morning, invite them to pray with you. During the day, play Scripture-memory songs. Eat together during mealtime. Before they go to bed, read them Bible stories. Bring them out to a date as well! As parents, show them how men should treat women and vice versa. Practice godliness in everything and nurture the character of your children. Give them the right standard that God is pleased with.
5. What is worth remembering is worth repeating.
It may seem that they don’t understand a thing but don’t take for granted the deposit that would take root in his heart. Keep planting and throwing seeds of the Word to him diligently.
Humanizing your parenting
There are no perfect parents just as there are no perfect children. Time will surely come that parents will fail at one point. I love how Pastor Paolo mentioned that parents can stop acting like superman around their children. He highlighted two things:
(1) it’s okay to apologize when you make mistake, and
(2) ignoring your children is worse than getting angry at them.
When children see that their parents are humans too, they will learn to appreciate them more. I came to admire my mom and dad more when they were humble enough to admit that parenthood for them has been a run of ups and downs, too. Nonetheless, I can only dream of that wonderful experience to become a parent and an ambassador of Christ to a child.