“CAN I INFLUENCE MY CHILDREN?”
Patricia Chen — Irvine, California, USA
Parent:“I said it’s time to put your toys away.”
“I’m going to count to three.”
“One, two, three…three…three.
Did you hear what I just said? I said it’s time to put away your toys, brush
your teeth, say a prayer, and go
Child: “Okay, I heard you but I’m still playing, can you count again?”
Does this sound familiar?
Parenting indeed is a challenging
job. We try our best to guide our children, but it feels like they are the ones
who are controlling us. Sometimes, they don’t even seem to hear what we are
saying. Most North Americans believe that parents have less influence on their
children than school and the media. With their busy lifestyle, some parents
assume daycare, school, and television programming play the primary roles in
molding their children.
Even at church, some parents are
buying into the myth that there is little they can do to shape the lives of
their children. Subsequently, we have lost confidence in raising moral kids.
DO I REALLY HAVE INFLUENCE OVER MY CHILDREN?
I remember before we had our
child, my husband and I were very concerned about what kind of parents we would
be. Even today, we constantly explore the Bible and see what the word of God
teaches us about parenting. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed just thinking about
all of the dangers and uncertainties my child will face as he grows up. I fear
for his safety, but most of all I fear for his soul, mind, and spirit.
The fact is, the world we live in
has lost its moral compass. The media thrive on unrealistic and dangerous
messages that can easily defile our purity. When our children fill up on movies
with immoral images, violent television, or music with profane lyrics, they
will be adversely affected.
Nevertheless, as I continue to
search the Scriptures and pray, I am convinced that God offers help and
strength to any parent who wants to grab hold of these fleeting years to mold
the next generation.
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord;
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth,
How blessed is the man who quiver is full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
I refer to our time as fleeting
years because, as parents, we do not own our children. God has said that they
are gifts and rewards, and He has only entrusted our children to us for a brief
window of time. So the day we release our children, our arrows, we must release
them into the world without letting our fears hold us back. When we let them
go, they need to be prepared to aim toward the right target, like real
Moses’ Parents and Their Hall of Faith
Take the example of Moses’
parents. We can learn precious lessons about taking every opportunity to raise
our children from a couple that lived four thousand years ago.
What set them apart was their
perception of God’s vision for their son. First of all, they risked their lives
for their baby because they realized that he was not an ordinary child. Being
fearful of the Pharaoh’s mandate to extinguish every first-born male, they bravely
went against the king’s orders and hid baby Moses for three months (Heb 11:23).
What a faith they must’ve had to devise such a plan for Moses’ rescue!
Standing on the river bank, they
released their baby into God’s guidance as he waded across the water. Much to
their surprise, God intervened immediately and brought him to the Pharaoh’s
palace. Moses’ mother, seeing such a grand opportunity, offered to be a
caretaker to this adopted baby of the royal family. Over the years, she taught
him all the ways of God and raised him as a true Israelite. This was her hall
So the question is: “Do I really
have influence over my children?” Yes, we can significantly influence our
children with godly values and directions. Undoubtedly, teachers, grandparents,
friends, the media, and society will also influence our children’s lives, but
it is God’s purpose for parents to carry out this title role, and we need to
bravely assume it.
While we are raising young
children or teens, we might not know what our children will grow up to be. But
with God’s guidance, we can raise them with the wisdom, strength, and vision
that come from God. He already knows their purposeful life. So it is our duty
as parents to help our children discover the amazing plans our heavenly Father
has prepared for them.
WHAT SHOULD A PARENT DO?
As a parent, one of our goals is
to raise our children to be morally and socially responsible. Eventually, they
will go to college. At that time, will they do the right thing even after they
have left our supervision? With God’s vision and with persistent prayers, they
will, because of what has been instilled in them in their upbringing.
According to many studies, a
child’s primary relationship is with his parents in the first phase of life.
Children care a great deal about what their parents think and do. Basically,
from infant to about pre-adolescence, their lives circle around their parents.
Then, there comes a point during
adolescence where the primary relationship shifts from parents to friends as
they learn to interact socially. Some parents fear letting go. However, it is
healthy for them to learn to interact with others in a mature and constructive
way. The more assuring way to do that is to have confidence that we have
influenced them in a godly and spiritual manner over the years.
Sometimes, we will feel inadequate
in one way or another in influencing our children’s lives. But focus on a few
areas at a time. God yearns for us to make Him our foundation, upon whom we
build our children’s faith. Even though many Christ-like qualities bear so
little impact in our society today, we know that they matter tremendously in
the kingdom of God.
There seem to be so much to work
on: submission to parents and to God, obedience, respect for authority, growth
in their faith, wisdom, courage to do the right thing, self-discipline,
integrity, moral purity, overcome temptations, love, perseverance, a heart of
discernment between truth and falsehood. The list can go on.
Rather than overwhelming
ourselves, we can choose several areas to focus on because certain topics
become more relevant than others depending on the age and the maturity of the
child. Our goal is to divide and conquer—one attitude and one behavior at a
From Infancy to Pre-adolescence: Setting Rules,
Guidelines, Boundaries, and Discipline
For young kids, the first step is
to mold their character while their will is more bendable. Some parents set
rules and guidelines for behavior. I always tell my child to “listen and obey
Mommy and Daddy.” By that, I want my child to respond immediately and
respectfully. Of course, this is easier said than done because most children
will rebel some of the time, and especially the strong-willed child. But
parents should instill in them what obedience is all about.
When my child was younger, he
always challenged me by playing before doing homework. It took us a long time
to instill in his heart what obedience is—doing things without complaining.
Memorizing Bible verses is also a
power tool for young children. When they memorize and learn the verses in the
early years, it will survive them through the turbulent teenage period. We
don’t need to have a doctorate degree in theology in order to teach biblical
concepts to our children. Children have very simple faith, and they just need
to believe the words of God and obey His teachings.
One of the worst things that can
happen to a child is parents who send mixed signals about what is acceptable or
unacceptable. This usually happens early on because one parent may have
experienced a stern upbringing and the other a tolerant childhood. As a result,
they resist doing the same thing to their own children and end up with
What we want to achieve as parents
is to agree on one set of family rules and reinforce them over and over again,
especially at a young age. Of course, it takes a lot of patience and hard work.
But it is something that will pay off in the long run.
From Pre-adolescence to Young Adults: Fostering
Loving Relationships and Responsibility, and Making Wise Decisions
At about 12 or 13 years of age,
it’s as though our child is constantly telling or hinting to us they want the
freedom and power to make decisions. The little child we embraced in our arms
for years now thinks he is like an adult and he wants to have some control of
No wonder many parents feel they
have already lost when it comes to the battle of raising teenagers. One thing
we need to keep in mind at this age is that the peer group has become the most
important influence to our children. Also, peer pressure from friends forces
them to seek an identity of their own.
The question, then, is what do we
train at this age? Reinforcing rules is still very important. Otherwise they
will not have any structure in their lives. But remember that, behind rules, we
have to have a good relationship.
One close friend of mine told me
that her parents always told her “No” without giving her a reason. When asked
about a rule, instead of saying, “Because I say so,” explain the reasons behind
it. Teenagers want to know the why’s behind the rules before they follow it.
Otherwise, it can turn into rebellion.
Always be there and tell them how
much you love them. Don’t assume they know it. When they get all the love they
need from us, they won’t turn to the world to satisfy their needs. If we have
been setting aside time during the day in which we pray with them when they
were young, this should also continue as they step into their adolescence.
Young people have a desire for
responsibility. It is a sign that they are starting to grow up. Give them more
chances to make decisions about what they want to do with their free time.
Start out with small decisions. See how they decide and what they choose. Once
they show themselves faithful in small matters (like going out with their
friends and coming home on time), we can allow them to make bigger choices. One
parent told me that their teenagers always come home on time because they have
learned to respect their parents and be responsible at a young age.
One of the biggest tasks is to
teach our teenagers how to make wise choices. Listen to what they have to say
after they’ve made a bad choice. Ask, “Well, if you were in the same situation
again, would you do the same thing? Why or why not?” Give them wise advice. Go
back and talk about those issues so that they can make better choices going
forward in their lives.
The biggest struggle as parents is
deciding what types of decisions they are allowed to make. For example, let’s
look at dating at an early age. Most parents will agree that they are too young
or not mature enough. We need to tell them the proper time to date and why we
want them to refrain from dating. When we see them grow in a mature and
responsible way, then we can let them make almost all the decisions about life
in their late teens.
PASSING ON OUR FAITH
Paul wrote: “I have been reminded
of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your
mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim 1:5). What a
great example to know that as grandparents and parents, we can set a good example
of faith to our children.
As parents, one of our goals is to
let our children see that our relationship with God is the most important in
our lives. If our children can see our genuine faith, it will have a tremendous
affect on their spiritual development. Let God be so naturally involved in
family conversations and issues that our children can identify God to be their
It has been said that the best way
to impact another life is to apply what one teaches. Even though we might have
been neglecting our faith before having children, it is not too late to begin
now. Jesus told us the parable about building the foundation on the rock. When
the flood and winds came, the rock was left standing strong.
What kind of foundation have we
been laying down for our children? Do we have family Bible reading time? Do we
pray together every morning and before we go to bed? Do we use teachable moments? For example, in
any given situation we can respond with God as the solution:
“God helped us when we prayed for….”
“Wow, God is amazing, He took care of us during…”
“Look at all the yummy food that we have for this meal, it is all God’s
“Sometimes, mom and dad can’t be with you at school or elsewhere, but God is
always available to guide you when you call on Him.”
One day, my son told me in the
car, “Mom, thank God that we have God to pray to. He is bigger than anything,
right?” What a blessing to know that we are building a lasting heritage. This
world we live in is so seductive and alluring, who knows how long our children
can be shielded under our roof?
We should continue to strive with
the help of God to educate their heart and mind about Him. Remember, God has
given us the gift of a few critical years to leave a legacy of faith and godly
character for our own children.
DO NOT LEAVE TRAINING TO CHANCE
Some parents make it their
priority to give their children the best education and learning environment
when it comes to school. But they just assume that religious education at church
should take the primary role to lead their children to God. The truth is: that
is not enough. Why? Remember that the very first institution God established
was the family—building a legacy of faith first before He established the
Of course, that doesn’t mean that
religious education at church is not important. It definitely plays a vital
role in our children’s faith, but why not give our children the best of both
worlds? Nothing is comparable to the eternal value of the saved souls of our beautiful
When our children show reverence
for God; when they pursue joy, peace, and love; when they resist sin,
temptation, and stand up for what is right even though they are standing alone;
and when they want to serve God not because you tell them to but because they
are willing from their heart, we will be glad that we invested much time and
energy towards their spiritual lives.
With all this said, I am not an expert
in this field and I often have to juggle the demands of parenthood and God’s
holy work. The only solution is to get on my knees, realizing how weak I am in
faith, and turn to God for strength and wisdom. I continue to ask God to
inspire us, regardless of how strenuous the days may look, and for Him to
empower us to pray anytime and anywhere with our children.
…Pour out your heart like water before the face
of the Lord.
Lift your hands toward Him
For the life of your young children… (Lam 2:19)
May God give us the wisdom to
mentor our children, and to aim high and train them diligently by the power of
God’s word. After all, “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until
the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil1:6).