By Dennis Rainey
I can’t imagine how difficult it is for many parents today, dealing with all the uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic. What’s going to happen over the next six months is unknown, and yet you are faced with a multitude of choices about education, safety, relationships, finances, work, church, and much more.
How do I raise my kids while I’m working at home?
What can I do to keep them busy? How do I use this time well?
How much should they interact with extended family, or with other kids?
How can I keep my children safe? Is it okay to let them go to school, or to church?
I’m reminded of Jean Jostand, a French biologist and writer, who once said, “Far too often the choices reality proposes are such as to take away one’s taste for choosing.”
As you raise your children in the midst of the pandemic, some choices are just plain hard to make. A few choices taunt and dare you to decide. Then after deciding, they relentlessly taunt and haunt you with clouds of doubt. You worry you’ve done the right thing … how much damage could occur if you made the wrong choice.
Exhausting and exhilarating
In normal circumstances, raising a child to maturity and adulthood is composed of hundreds of choices. Choices about education, spiritual training, character development and discipline, relationships, schedules and priorities … and on it goes. Parenting is both exhausting and exhilarating.
And if you think about it, raising children is also one of the dangerous assignments God has given humankind. A child is not a robot that can be perfectly programed. He has a will of his own. Today many parents feel like they are in an all-out war with the world as they try to raise kids who follow Christ.
The current pandemic makes all this much more challenging, but I think it’s easy to overlook the gift these circumstances give to many parents… the gift of simplicity.
Kids are home more … with you. The power of your influence on them has never been greater. Additionally, pressure from peers may be at an all-time low if you choose to control their access and use of media.
Do you have a plan for how to use this time to your advantage and their good? What are your goals for your children? This pandemic can give you more time to think, pray and discuss what you want to do to develop your children so they will be effective as they emerge into adulthood.
Pilgrims parenting in the pandemic crazy-maker
A few days ago, I was walking into the grocery store when a familiar voice called out, “Hey, Dennis.” I stopped, turned around and immediately recognized Derek, a young man who is a friend from church. Even with my mask on, he spotted me and diverted from his grocery mission to ask for help.
His mask could not cover the concerned look on his face as he blurted out, “My wife and I need to talk with you and Barbara about a number of issues and choices we are facing with our children!” They have three kids, and don’t know what to do about educating them, protecting their health … scheduling issues … relational issues. “We just need to talk with someone who’ll listen and provide some mentoring and coaching,” he said. “Would you meet with us?”
I said, “Yes, but I’ll need to clear it with Barbara.”
I asked her and she said, “Absolutely!”
I expect we’ll meet soon. And when we do, I’m sure we’ll begin by discussing many of the crazy choices they now face because of the pandemic. But as we mentor, we also need to challenge them to pull out of the weeds to get an arial view, and see this period in light of their overall plan for parenting. Pandemic parenting demands a prayerfully crafted plan and goals.
The following assumptions are a great beginning as you revisit your parental responsibility:
1. God has given you and your spouse the primary responsibility for discipling, training and educating each of your children. Teachers, coaches, youth group leaders and mentors may play a role in his development, but you are responsible and accountable to God for equipping them for life.
The Apostle Paul owned his assignment as he discipled leaders in the church. Look carefully at his words, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).
2. Your choices of where and how you develop each of your children should be led by God and informed by the Biblical values you embrace together as parents. Prayerfully ask God for ingenuity, competence, and effectiveness in developing your child.
3. It is imperative that you and your spouse process your differences in a healthy manner and make major decisions together. Unity in these decisions is absolutely non-negotiable. If you let them, your children will seek to divide you as parents. Agreeing on a decision with your spouse may mean it takes longer, but you will stand as one. Your children NEED the security of their mom and dad agreeing about decisions.
No one owns teaching values and convictions like you do as parents. No one knows your children like you do—their current needs, gifts, strengths and weaknesses. No one loves them like you two do.
4. Scriptures make it clear that God wants us, as parents, to equip our children to know how to think Biblically about issues they will face so they will be wise as they make decisions. Expressed another way, we are to disciple our children with “Biblical worldview.”
Consider the parent’s Magna Carta in Deuteronomy 6:4-7:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. 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 your 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.”
This is your responsibility and burden you are to carry as you shape your children’s lives.
During our child-rearing years Barbara and I had a standing “date night” on Sunday nights so that we could be “on the same page” as we raised our children and did life as a family. Why not schedule a weekly date where you both discuss your thoughts about each of the assumptions listed in the above verses? Talk about how each of them can be implemented in your family.
Determine the goal for your children
I believe most parents have a general idea of what they want for their children. We started that way. But we concluded that we needed a clear, well-defined goal of what we desired to develop in each of our children. So we began to study and discuss what Scriptures had to say about raising children.
One of the passages that caught our eyes and our hearts was Psalm 127:4: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” A warrior handcrafted arrows with a purpose in mind. Similarly, a parent is to shape the moral and spiritual dimensions of their children so as they grow up, they can be effective in the battle for their generation.
So what’s the Biblical target you are aiming your arrow to hit?
In our book, The Art of Parenting, (which I believe is the best book Barbara and I have ever written, for such a time as this) we share what we are convinced is the Biblical “target” for our children: the four “life skills” that every child needs.
1. Relationships. This is anchored in the Great Commandment that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 22:36-39: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
God made us for a relationship with Him and with others. Our assignment as parents is to train and develop our children’s hearts to know how to love God and others. If your child isn’t equipped to love others God’s way, he will never be all God intended him to be. If a child misses experiencing and expressing love, he misses life.
2. Character. The book of Proverbs repeatedly uses the words of a father appealing to his son to be wise and not a fool. To do what is right and reject wrong. There are a lot of adults whose parents made sure they attended the finest intellectual schools, but abandoned the development of their character. As a result they are now a genius with no conscience.
I’ve always liked what World War II General Omar Bradley said: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”
3. Identity. Your child is imprinted with a special assignment of being an “Image Bearer” of God … emotionally, spiritually and sexually. God made two distinct sexes that reflect Who He is … “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). As parents we need to affirm our children in who God made them to be.
4. Mission. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “We are His workmanship [work of art], created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Helping our children understand their purpose and know why they are here is one of the most noble assignments God ever gave to man and woman. One of your most sacred duties as a parent is to help your children discern and own God’s unique assignment for them!
You are to “aim your arrows” and release your children toward the target of impacting their generation with the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commanded them to “Go … and make disciples of all nations…”