I was scrolling through my Instagram feed the other morning and came across a post from a prominent Women’s Ministry leader, rejoicing that all five of her kids were away at youth camp. She referred to them as “spawn” and described how she and her husband were literally having the best time of their lives without them.
What followed were hundreds of comments from other moms, all complaining about being at home with their own children. Some bragged that they were able to coordinate their schedules in order to spend the least amount of time possible with them this summer.
As a whole, we’ve lost our eternal perspective of parenting. We are not raising our kids with a kingdom-minded focus. We favor convenience over sacrifice and entertainment over the Word of God.
Since we’ve neglected to make active parenting a priority, we’re often reacting to situations and behavior that come up in our families, instead of responding. As a result, we’re really just duct taping one day to the next.
Yet somehow we still expect to turn out well-behaved, godly kids.
Raising children who love and serve Jesus doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality and purpose.
We must reexamine our priorities in light of our goals, if we hope to accomplish them! These six habits will lead you to parent intentionally and create a strong, godly foundation for your kids:
Water With the Word
If we want our children to inherit eternal life, we must hold fast to the words of the Life-giver. When mothers and fathers do not water their families with God’s Word consistently, their children won’t flourish as “trees planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:1). They will just wither away.
And the devil loves that.
Scripture says God’s Word is “living and active”. Over time, regular reading of the Bible will change your children’s hearts and transform their minds. Make studying the Bible with your kids a daily habit, and help them have their own quiet times.
Choose Encouraging Words
Words are so powerful. We can either use thoughtless ones that tear down our kids, or encouraging ones that build them up. Careless words said directly, or indirectly (such as out on social media), will have a negative affect on your relationship with your children. And they have the potential to become self-fulfilling.
Look for opportunities to catch them doing something right and acknowledge it. Don’t let your encouragement always be about their performance in a certain area, either. Use words that communicate you genuinely love and believe in them such as, “I love watching you play and seeing you have fun.” Praise them for who they are, not for how they perform!
Show Genuine Affection
Do we regularly show our kids that we delight in them, or that we just tolerate being around them? Your kids need to hear your encouragement in your words, but they need to feel it in your warmth.
Romans 12:10 says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Pour that affection on at random times throughout the day, like when you’re sitting together reading a book. Pull them into a bear hug when they’re walking by, or plant a kiss on their cheek when they’re not expecting it- even your preteen boy, who would rather die than admit he needs your loving touch.
When they’re cuddling up to you with their cold feet and sticky hands, don’t push them away. That connection will carry them through many hard times.
Maintain Consistent Presence
Kids need your time- both quality and quantity. It’s so important to position yourself as being easily accessible to your children. That means welcoming their interruptions and being willing to put aside your to-do list or phone to interact with them.
It may mean saying “no” to certain commitments and activities so that you can be fully present. A lot of the discipline and training of children cannot be accomplished if kids are away from both their parents for the majority of their waking hours. As their mom, you are in a unique position to disciple your children and bring them up in the ways of the Lord! This godly training of your children is your first and most pressing responsibility.
Proverbs 19:18 has some strong words to say about disciplining kids: “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” We can’t let disrespect and disobedience continue to pile up until it gets out of control. We need to make sure we stay on top of correcting our kids and issue consequences. This teaches them responsibility while they’re young.
But we have to go beyond just behavior modification. We have to address the underlying issues and speak to their heart. Biblical discipline is more about guidance than it is about punishment. Ultimately, we want to teach our kids what they did wrong and inspire a true desire to do better next time.
Applying specific verses to their behavior is a great way to do this. Instead of saying, “Don’t you ever talk like that!”, say “Ephesians 4:29 tells us not to use foul or abusive language, but let everything we say be good and helpful, so that our words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
Make Jesus the Center
So many of us practice “cultural Christianity” in our homes, but don’t truly create a Christ-centered environment where Jesus is present in real and authentic ways. In order for your kids to be in the world but not of it, you must build your home on the foundation of the Chief Cornerstone and abide in it.
A home with Christ at the center acknowledges His lordship over your finances, media & entertainment choices, and how your family decides to spend their time. It provides your children with a peaceful shelter from the ugliness and pressures of the world. It’s a place with healthy boundaries, where they’re free from comparisons and know they’re accepted and loved. Providing this type of environment is no small task, but it is easier when you’ve already made the choice to be actively present and engaged with your kids!
These intentional habits will make a world of difference in your parenting, and define who your children become as adults. We need to move beyond short-term thinking and establish a long-range plan for our families, so that our children grow to love and follow Jesus!