You’re a parent.
Nine months of new experiences, discomfort, pain, and joy ushered you into the shimmering sphere of parenthood.
Since then, depending on how old your children are, you’ve experienced twenty strollers full of new difficulties, learning experiences, hardships, and happiness.
Whether you chose to educate your children formally or not, you’ve inevitably distilled and instilled more life lessons into them than potentially any other human being ever will.
And for this cause, parents like you have been celebrated in literature, video, blogs, memes, tweets, vines, and graffiti.
And yet, the question must be asked – what qualified you to be a parent?
What certification, education, training, or experience did you receive to prepare you for the monumental composition that is child-rearing?
No doubt you read baby books (as my wife and I did). Depending on your age, you may have googled everything from baby names to vaccinations to potty training tips.
But think about it . . . in order to operate a vehicle, fire a gun, or work at McDonald’s, you need training and certification. Yet every day people have children without a single clue about what they’re doing.
“Making babies is fun! We’ll worry about the rest later.”
What’s my point?
I’m concerned that we not miss this divine opportunity for some parental reevaluation.
The Bible Doesn’t Celebrate Moms and Dads – It Trains Them
It wasn’t uncommon before the turn of the 20th century for women to prepare for motherhood by enrolling in seminary. Many of them understood that the single most important information they would need to be a victorious mother was the truth of God’s Word.
Today, especially in fundamentalism, seminary is the last place you’ll find a woman. Most of them are getting majors in nursing or education or business or art despite the fact that though such majors can teach how to make a living, they cannot teach how to make a servant of God. The same goes for men. We’re so consumed with educating ourselves for a career, we forget to educate ourselves for discipling a child!
I propose that no vocation or calling or charity or mission will ever require more from you than rearing a child! You don’t work your job 24/7. You get breaks. You take vacations. You retire. Parenthood is always, and the investment is eternal. “Dad” or “Mom” is the most important title you’ll have. It’s the most dangerous and fulfilling calling to receive. And yet most parents are depressingly unprepared.
What’s the Fix?
Simple. Whether you’re a new parent (congratulations, by the way), jogging through the teen years, or an empty-nester . . . you need to be constantly training.
Men who fix printers have weekend-long training seminars. Salesmen seem to hit the conference circuit more than they interact with clients. IT guys . . . well, when are they not reading up on the trendiest tech-news?
But parents are apparently too busy to get the training they need to prepare them for tomorrow. Yet they’re the ones most loath to neglect it!
So here are some helpful starting points for parents of all stages. There’s a lot of overlap, but the key is get as much training in God’s Word as you can and learn how to teach it to others.
- If you’re not a parent yet, consider a degree in biblical counseling. Think about it – what’s parenting if it’s not discipleship? What if you went into parenting with a solid foundation of biblical knowledge and the ability to expertly pass God’s truths on to others? Wow! Parents come to me all the time because I’m “The Counselor,” but what if you didn’t “need” me and people like me? Imagine a world where each parent was versed enough in God’s Law they could “teach [it] to [their] sons, talking of them when [they] sit in [their] house and when [they] walk along the road and when [they] lie down and when [they] rise up” (Deuteronomy 11:19). The compromise is that you study biblical counseling as a minor, or at least attend a Christian university where you can take electives to prepare you for serving God in this world.
- If you’re a new parent who can’t go back to school, read, read, read. It’s so easy to want to read Things People Call Their Kids or Baby Wise-Guys, but those books can’t teach you to shepherd a child’s heart, to prepare kids for Satan’s attacks, or to teach children to choose a Christ-honoring spouse. The exciting news is there are amazing books from God-loving authors for basically every stage of your child’s life. But remember, you need more of God’s truth and less of the trendy psycho-talk. It’s Bible we’re after here, that is the only Book guaranteed to work (Isaiah 55:11). Get in church, join a Bible Study (my wife LOVES “Entrusted with a Child’s Heart“), and spend time with the Lord every second you get.
- If you’ve had kids for a while and still feel ill-equipped, don’t give in to hopelessness. I realize this was the first “don’t” on my list, but not feeling hopeless is the absolute first priority for you in this stage. I’ve heard a milieu of parents lament that “It’s too late” for them. THAT IS A LIE OF SATAN! Don’t believe it. You have a great God! Start today grounding yourself in the Scriptures, start talking about it when you sit down and take walks and before bed at night. You will change slowly, but it will make all the difference. You’re not a hypocrite if you’ve failed in the past but genuinely want to be changed into the image of Christ now. You’re a hypocrite if you wish your kids would make the right choices, but you’re not prepared to yourself. Read, study, grow, teach. Check out the suggestions for newer moms above; it applies to you to.
- If your kids are grown and gone, pass on your knowledge of God’s Word to the next-next generation. Empty-housers aren’t off the hook when it comes to discipling. Remember when you were that inexperienced mom who wasn’t prepared to have kids? Wouldn’t it have been AMAZING if a more experienced mom had poured her knowledge of God’s Word into you? Fathers, how uplifting would it have been to have a mature dad bear your burdens, sharpen you, and disciple you? Be that for someone else! But make sure you’re using God’s Word and not simply anecdotes from your past. They don’t need your memories, they need God. Remembering this keeps the “no one cares what I think” line from zipping our lips. You’re right, what we think doesn’t matter, but we’ve been called to teach the Bible (Titus 2:4), so teach it!
Wrong Motivation = Bad Consequences
Lastly, please beware of this very dangerous pitfall: If the only reason you read the Bible and go to church and attend that Bible study is to help your kids turn out the way you want them too . . . you will have no divine blessing on your endeavors. The real motivation for “studying to show yourself approved” must be the impact it will have on you and your relationship with God. Otherwise, you’re the parental equivalent of a false-teacher who knows the truth but is using it to achieve idol purposes.
But the beautiful consequence of life lived for God is your Christ-likeness will impact every sphere and bowling ball and kick ball in your life.
Now go get a Doctorate of Theological Parenthood Counseling from God Himself!