I learned from my pastor that you can’t save your children. You can raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord, guard them from the sinful influences and temptations of the world, and cocoon them in the fellowship of others who know and love God. But in the end, their repentance and faith cannot be inherited or manufactured—salvation is God’s work, not yours. As a parent, your influence can only go so far.
Having said that, I want to stress that sometimes-I should say often—parents are partly to blame for their wayward children’s rebellion. I have seen many parental groups in my tight knit circle as well as out in society that are generally more to blame for wayward kids than society, peers, or any of the other influences parents tend to blame. Is it the responsibility of our society, peers, or any of the other outside influences to raise our children? Now I don’t have children so this coming from me might sound a bit phony, but I implore you to listen to the rest. One doesn’t need to have children to understand the principles that God has set for us. To answer the previous question, It is no one’s responsibility but that of the parents. It seems that some parents have violated nearly every biblical principle of parenting, who nonetheless come to the pastor seeking some kind of absolution from the responsibility for their children’s defiance. They want verbal assurance that they are in no way to blame; someone else is. God Himself has given the responsibility for raising children to parents—not to schoolteachers, peers, child-care workers, or other people outside the family—and therefore it is wrong for parents to attempt to unload that responsibility or shift the blame when things go wrong.
From Mack Story I learned that Influence to your children is critical. I remember a story he told in his first book about he and his son. Mack made many bad choices as a parent and he isn’t afraid to admit that. Those bad choices created negative (bad) reaction in the child. The child later did not want to be with the father. The child then went on to make his own life and own decisions. The father then lived 4 years of life without the activities of his son in his life. The father chose to control instead of influence. John Maxwell says this, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less. Everything rises and falls on Leadership.”
Some parents will no doubt cynically roll their eyes at that, and insist that it is unrealistic in this day and age to expect parents to influence their kids more than peers, the culture, television, schoolteachers, and all the other factors that vie for a controlling interest in the typical child’s life. Parents must involve themselves in their children’s lives enough to insure that no other influence takes precedence. To parents who complain that their kids’ failures are the kids’ friends’ fault, my inevitable reply is that ultimately the parents themselves must be to blame, because they were the ones who allowed peers to have more input into their kids’ lives than they have themselves.
Parents must realize that character is neither inbred by genetics nor picked up by osmosis. Children are taught to be what they become. If they have become something other than what the parents hoped for, it is usually because they have simply learned from those who were there to teach them in their parents’ absence. Whenever outside influences shape a child’s character more than the parents, the parents have failed in their duties. It is as simple as that.
For many parents, the first step toward getting back on track must be a fresh commitment to the things of God for themselves. If our own priorities in life are askew, there’s no hope of teaching our children what they need to learn.
Parents, take inventory in your own hearts. Do you thirst for God as the deer pants after the water? Or is your own life sending your children a message of hypocrisy and spiritual indifference? Is your own commitment to Christ what you hope to see in your children’s lives? Is your obedience to His Word the same kind of submission you long to see from your own kids?
Those are crucial questions each parent must face if we really want to be successful parents and good role models for our children. For parents to be derelict in their own spiritual lives is tantamount to cutting down all the shade trees for the next generation in their family.
Christian parents—be encouraged. You have a responsibility before God to use your influence with your children for His glory and their good. But the weight of their eternity is not on your shoulders—remember they’re not born morally neutral. God will use whatever means He chooses to draw His people to Himself. Pray He will use you in the lives of your children, and trust that He is faithful even through your failures.