By Dennis Rainey
Parenting wouldn’t be so challenging if we didn’t expect it to be so simple.
Overheard: In a Memphis neighborhood at the end of the first day of school, two moms were talking about how they thought they had done a good job of preparing their kids for school. But at the end of the day they uncovered a massive issue: Their kids’ masks weren’t “cool” enough for prime time. They wanted masks with a different design … and different ties!
As if parenting wasn’t challenging enough to begin with, the Covid-19 pandemic continues its assault and grip on our nation and families, depositing a plethora of problems that leave many parents bewildered and breathless.
The pandemic has birthed a number of issues that demand daily decisions for us and our children concerning physical wellbeing, job loss, economic stress, and educational choices. Additionally, there’s a jury of peers … parents judging other parents for their different values, or for their perceived lack of values.
Working from home has lost its luster and novelty. Working with a team that is truly “remote” has sapped our energy and challenged our effectiveness. Working parents are weary.
Then consider our marriages, which are essential to effective parenting. For many sheltering in place, being home 24/7 has exacerbated our differences with our spouse. The coronavirus has robbed our marriages of romance, with date nights becoming a distant memory, an endangered species. It’s difficult to parent effectively in the midst of conflict with a spouse who has decided you’re the enemy.
Our future as individuals, marrieds, families and a nation has never been so blurred, elusive, and uncertain.
So here we are in the midst of this relentless pandemic crazy-maker, commissioned by God to respond to these pressures while protecting our marriages and fulfilling our responsibilities as parents.
It is in the spirit of encouraging and equipping you during this chaos that I pass on these 7 Non-negotiables Every Parent Needs.
DISCLAIMER #1: These come out of a biblical worldview for raising children. However, there are no guarantees attached to children. You aren’t raising a robot. I like what an ancient theologian, columnist Irma Bombeck, said about guarantees in parenting: “If you want a guarantee, go buy a car battery.”
DISCLAIMER #2: Each of these non-negotiables could be a 1,500-word blog post. So these points are going to be the appetizer for the main entrée written by Barbara and me: The Art of Parenting. We didn’t write it during the 28 years we were raising our six children. No, we even waited another 15 years before we penned our story. Additionally, our six adult children contributed their perspectives. This book contains our best biblical counsel for parents.
If The Art of Parenting isn’t helpful, write me and I’ll refund your payment.
What follows is not in order of priority or importance. There’s even more in our book. Okay, let’s get with it.
As parents you need to:
1. Look in the rear-view mirror.
This is counter intuitive: to go forward as effective parents you need to first look backwards at your parents. This is one of the most neglected aspects of parenting—your obedience to what I call “The Forgotten Commandment.” It’s the fifth commandment found in the 10 Commandments: “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
God was equipping the Israelites to become a nation. The first four commandments have to do with their relationship with God. The focus of the fifth commandment was on their relationship with their parents, and the command to honor them.
God knew that “honoring” parents was essential to the formation and success of a nation. Plato points out, “What is honored in a land, will be cultivated there.”
A mom and dad who honor their parents not only obey God, but model for their children how they should value and esteem their parents.
How you speak of your parents, both to them and about them, is “caught” by your children. This is important to keep in mind considering many adult children experience bitterness toward their parents. We’ll discuss this a bit later.
The pandemic has given you the gift of reclaiming some time … time that would normally be gobbled up with distractions. Why not use that time to create something that communicates honor to your parents? If you want to honor your parents in a fresh way, consider writing a tribute to them, giving them a framed copy, and reading it to them for Christmas. You won’t regret it. (Read more on honoring your parents and writing a tribute.)
2. Become radical Christ followers.
Parents need to be modeling a sold out, infectious love relationship with Christ as they raise children. The pandemic shouldn’t edit your relationship with Christ. It’s a test that should prove your love for Him and that He is at work in and through you to impart lessons you’ve learned to your children.
The Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God …” (Romans 12:2). Read the entire passage of Romans 12:1-2 if you haven’t recently. God wants you and your children to be radical, generational world-changers for Christ.
3. Relentlessly commit to go the distance in your marriage.
In recent days I’ve talked with numerous pastors, counselors, and therapists across the country. They all report that the pandemic is destabilizing and destroying marriages, and as a result, impacting children and families.
It’s not wrong for your marital “boat” to be rocked, but go get help before it sinks. During World War II there was a phrase used among American workers who were making ammunition, building planes and ships for the military: “Loose lips sink ships.” We are in a war for marriages, families and the next generation and we need another phrase, something like “Loose lips sink partnerships.”
Don’t use the “D-word,” (divorce). Instead use the “C-word,” (commitment) and your lips to speak of your love and loyalty to your spouse.
COVID-19 has impacted all marriages. Regardless of the condition of your marriage (great, good, or shaky), I would encourage every couple to invest in your marriage by doing at least one of two things in the coming six months:
· Get a copy of the small-group video series, “The Art of Marriage,” and form an online virtual group to go through it. Or go through it yourselves one night a week for six weeks.
· Once a week, read a chapter of Bob Lepine’s new book, Love Like You Mean It. Try reading it aloud to one another.
A stable and secure marriage is a non-negotiable for parenting your children.
4. Find and unpack lost bags.
Every parent brings lost baggage into a marriage that needs to be found and unpacked as you raise your children. Invite your spouse to help you search for lost bags that may contain old emotional hurts and injuries that you don’t want to pass on to your children. These past wounds can poison a parent’s heart with resentment that spills out as we attempt to train our children.
Find those bags. Unpack them. Then forgive those who filled those bags. We are commanded in Scripture to forgive as we have been forgiven, “just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Otherwise you may find the contents spilling out in unexpected ways in your marriage and as you respond to your children.
If one of the bags is full, consider investing in some time with a mentor or counselor who will help you process the past and help you determine what to do.
5. Be intentional.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 is God’s command for every parent:
“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 hour 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.”
Notice the first command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.” If you are going to impart a love for God to your children, then you must first possess an infectious love for Him.
Intentionality is at the heart of every parent who wants to fulfill God’s assignment to teach your children as a way of life. This responsibility described in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 is to be a burden we sense before our feet hit the floor in the morning and carried all day until we retire in the evening.
Purpose to find ways throughout your day to pass on your love for God and His blueprints for life to your children.
6. Be a courageous “special ops” warrior.
Psalm 127:3 declares that children are “like arrows in the hand of a warrior.” You are not merely to protect your children from evil, but also to equip them for battle. If there has ever been a time when children needed parents who are courageous warriors, it’s now.