Who is influencing your child?
Nail it down. Name the four greatest influences on your child?
What do you think?
TV? Films? Books?
All these things and people do have an influence.
But still the biggest influence on your child’s life is YOU! Their parent. You are the one who is there at breakfast. You are the one who is there picking up the pieces from the scraped knee. You are the one dealing with the homework meltdown. You are the one who sits next to them in A&E. You are the one they cry with after every flavour of heartbreak. You are the one they argue with over the boundaries you set. You are the one to give the reasons why we are not, “like everyone else.” Just this week a Mum explained to me that her son was sure he was the only one in the class not playing Fortnite at home. My daughter tells me that she is the only one without a smartphone.
You. The parent are the biggest influence in their life. They might not acknowledge or realise it. You might not see it. You might wince, worrying about the consequences of this being true, hoping someone better than you is a greater influence. Or you might wish that it was the case, feeling like you are the last one they turn to for answers. But it is true. The Bible tell us that it should be true.
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honour your father and mother’– which is the first commandment with a promise – 3 ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6: 1-4)
Can you imagine when this letter was first read to the Church in Ephesus? Children were stood there next to their parents as Paul’s letter was read, slowly. Children were spoken to directly. Told to obey their parents. Told to honour them. Told to turn to them as their greatest influence. Mums fought the temptation to nudge their nearest child, raising their eye brows and mouthing, “See!”. Dads just nodded with approval, thinking, “Finally, someone else is saying it.”
Then the parents were addressed. And the Dads looked awkward, shifting their weight from one foot to the other. “Do not drive your child to explosive frustration; instead, raise your kids to know and love Christ, with patience and care, taking every opportunity.”
Did you hear that slightly painful instruction? Don’t just shout the next command at them. Don’t just scream another order into the living room. Don’t start the next sentence with, “How many times do I have to tell you…” or “I can’t believe you would have….”
Paul Tripp (in “Parenting”) predicts the outcome of such talk, “No child hears that kind of talk and says to himself, ”What a wise and loving parent! I know I can share my heart with this person. I just wish he would say more of these things to me! I am so thankful that this person is my parent! I think I’m beginning to see my heart."
It’s harder to find the opportunity and the right words don’t just tumble out, but where possible, try to talk to your child in such a way that they are brought up knowing the Lord. You might want to leave it for a few hours (or days) for the anger to pass, but take the moment to use your wisdom, knowledge of God and of your child’s heart to offer better words.
Oh, and just in case you don’t believe God’s final authoritative word on the subject, the graphs agree! Your are your child’s greatest influence. Would you know it? The world happens like the Bible says it does!
Children were asked, “What/who have shaped their spiritual beliefs”
Figure 1 Australian Communities Report. This is how the children responded to being asked what/who had shaped their spiritual beliefs. Quoted in “Youth & Children’s Ministry” from www.effectiveministry.org p12 from McCrindle Research
“Who were the most significant people to show you what faith was about?”2
Figure 2 Quoted in “Intergenerational Ministry” from www.effectiveministry.org p16 from McCrindle Report: ‘Social Shifts, Social trends, 4 Decades of Change: Christianity in Australia Today’ (Christian Venues Association"