Many parents who come through the admissions process hear of my change in perspective at the birth of my first child. Even though I had been a teacher for four years prior to her birth and a classical Christian teacher for one, I still did not have a clear and deep understanding of what it meant to be a Christian parent. Even having been a Christian for over a dozen years and reared by parents whose values were very strongly grounded in Protestant ethics (work hard, work with initiative, work is a means to wealth, work is a means to advancing virtue), I craved more understanding about leading a Christian family well and pleasing God with my parenting. The birth of my first child, Maddie, compelled my active pursuit of acquiring knowledge and skill in godly parenting.
Thus, I prayed earnestly and regularly for Christian mentors. Kathryn prayed for her own mentors as well. Over the years, and prior to and after our having children, God provided an abundance of such men and women in the body of Christ to influence us. Some of the mentors were parents at school, pastors, employers, peers that were a little older than us, and older adults through church. While writing this article, I listed at least 14 couples who mentored my wife and me either directly or indirectly. Those who directly influenced us were folks whom we spent lots of time with throughout the year. We even boldly (and awkwardly) asked some couples to mentor us!
I also listened to parenting audio resources during my morning and afternoon commute: preaching, teaching, courses, et. And I read through the following sources and many more, examining what they had to offer in the light of what the Scriptures say about children, man’s nature, wisdom, discipline, etc.: Bringing up Kids God’s Way, Teach Them Diligently, Dad the Family Shepherd (Coach, Counselor), Standing on the Promises, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Withhold Not Correction, Future Men, Heirs of the Covenant, Age of Opportunity. If had to tell a parent where to start, I recommend starting with Standing on the Promises by pastor Douglas Wilson.
One time, I asked an elder at church (who was an astronomy professor by day) for some perspective on his priorities for child-rearing. In a casual 10-minute conversation walking down the school hallway after basketball practice, he replied, “Ted, I am humbled you would ask. That, in and of itself, means that God has covered over our many parenting mistakes. So praise be to Him for all of it. Here are some thoughts. We have given our children the following expectations and priorities:
- They must be faithful in church and working at their spiritual life.
- They must be faithful in their learning activities (e.g. schoolwork).
- They must be involved in at least one athletic/physical activity throughout the school year.
- They must pursue learning an instrument all year long.
- We only buy gifts for birthday and Christmas that emphasize those priorities. We steer clear of buying things for their entertainment.”
I was ecstatic. I loved having some clear expectations and goals like that to consider. I took those words to heart and have led my children similarly and with some flexibility as to these activities since each family is unique and each child has distinctiive gifts and talents. In some respects, I have thought of these priorities as aptly reflecting Christ’s admonition: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”(MaL. 22:37).
Some fair questions to ask about these priorities are:
- “What ought a child’s spiritual life look like?”
- “What does faithfulness in learning activities look like and what encompasses “learningactivities?”
- “How broadly do you interpret the phrase ‘physical activity’?”
- “Why an instrument? Why not some other hobby?”
- “Are video games considered ‘entertainment’? What about legos?”
Part 2: Coming Soon: Examining those priorities above and how we implemented them in our parenting.
I will follow up in future articles regarding defining and exploring these priorities.