God has a plan for your child but so has Satan- Who are you cooperating with? The Lord knows your child from before conception and none can foil His plan – remain firmly committed.
A conversation with the Family of this world
While watching the Indian movie “Three Idiots” two things glaringly hit you; first, the expectations of the parents and the resultant pressure to perform and second, excellence in the absence of such stress inducing demands. Right after birth we start comparing the looks of the child and this continuous assessment expands in relation to peers, relatives and every other person. Every failure is branded as a personal failure and the weight of these expectations one day buries the person. Any famous scientist or researcher would vouch for the hundreds of failed attempts that finally led to glory and many give up on the way. In the era of child rights and various restrictions placed on parents, teachers and other child care workers, Bible teaching and parenting as recommended by King Solomon, the wise one, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24), would appear archaic and redundant.
Where do the statistics lead us? Young age pregnancies, school shootouts, teenage crime rate, ever increasing divorce and single parent rate are all pointers to a deteriorating state of our thinking and parenting pattern, requiring a serious preview. But either the parent is too busy working to provide the best for the child or the child is rushed from one activity to the next to remain in the race, where to be a winner is tough indeed. The conversation long overdue is necessary to tackle this crisis.
My daughter opted out of the Architecture course from the top institute in India after two years on the plea that she was not keen to pursue this any further. It was a big blow to all in the family but I honored her decision and after more than ten the smile on her face reminds me of that moment of facing the questions- what will people say; what will she do now; can she get admission in another good institute, will the new choice work? She charted her own course and is happy teaching English language skills to people of all ages. We love our children so much that they get smothered by that and suffer all odds to please us- “Discipline yes, but with love” may be the better option.
What is the foundation? The Scriptures speak about God’s plan for all of us and the plan starts unfolding only ‘when we seek Him’ for He has given us a ‘free will’ and without our asking He will not interfere. Before conception even, God knows what He wants for the child and seeking His blessings starts right at the planning stage and speaking blessings on the child yet to be conceived is laying the foundation with Lord Jesus as the ‘master builder’. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). And this must never cease for our tongue has the power for the Word is categorical “speak to the mountain” and in this manner speak out the bad and speak in the blessings in to your child’s life. Also from childhood when he is fed the milk of Bible teachings, he will not go astray when old.
How and what to speak?-There are innumerable bumper stickers and books by ‘experts’ who are failures in their own homes to guide us. The basic question is “Who is the focus point of the whole family?” A family that has its focus right would generally go in the right direction only. Lord Jesus’ earthly family were led by their mother Mary is evident not only in the knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures of the boy Jesus aged twelve but also of His brother James and Jude. The maxim “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when ne is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) holds good today as well. In many faiths recitation of certain scriptures daily by a pregnant woman is mandatory since it is supposed to positively influence the child’s psyche throughout life.
An analytical study of two families in America has revealed startling evidence in support of this. Jonathan Edwards, the great Bible scholar from the 1700’s and Max Jukes legacy was compared and the former family tree includes one U.S. Vice-President, 3 Senators, 3 Mayors, 13 College Presidents, 30 Judges, 65 Professors, 80 public servants, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries.
Max Jukes’ legacy is equally impressive with 7 murderers, 50 women charged for debauchery, 130 other convicts, 310 paupers and 400 who were physically handicapped due to promiscuous living and the family cost the U.S. Government more than $1,250,000.
Parents’ leave an indelible mark on their children through their own life style, style and content of communication and discipline with love. We as fathers love our children but at times our expression of love gets misinterpreted by those whom we love. Disciplining in love is as essential as providing other basic amenities “For whom the Lord loves He chastens” (Hebrews 12:6). Fatherly love is felt and experienced by a child right from a young age and communication never becomes a problem in such cases.
My parents choke me with restrictions– The sunset curfew is the most resented restriction by children for every child deems himself to be mature enough to care for himself at a very young age. Children, do you read the headlines of the newspapers in the morning, where there is a daily dose of kidnappings, murders, rapes and many other crimes and induction into crimes of young children mostly by “friends”. Have you ever tried to share the concerns of the parents, especially single mothers where husband is away due to employment in a different city. How agonizing it is for parents to wait for the return of the child while dreading the delay of every minute. Is there any chivalry in not informing the parent about our whereabouts if getting late?
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). How do we provoke our children to anger, since every discussion turns to a slanging match? A child’s behavior pattern is the biggest indicator of the problems he is facing and the changes may be due to any of the causes including sexual/ physical abuse, a traumatic event like rejection by a friend, failing performance at school or hobby class, death or shifting of a close friend or peer pressure to indulge in some activity not acceptable to the child. A change of this nature may get sorted out by itself after sometime but persistence desires definite action by the parent in a most unobtrusive/invasive manner as an act of reassurance of love and compassion. This may require repeated gentle efforts or even professional counseling help in extreme cases. An attitude of blaming the child for failure and continuous criticism would cause alienation and ‘provoking’. A parent can and should be a friend of the child for either one to share their concerns with each other.
Be prepared for attacks from the ‘deceiver’– Satan is first the deceiver and then accuser. He fears those who stand firm on the Word of God and uses all types of lies to lead them astray. It is thus imperative to maintain a healthy relationship with your child to reiterate what was discussed in the younger days to reinforce the message. If we are attentive to the conduct of our child, we shall definitely be able to identify changes in the behavior pattern of the child and start corrective action. Look out for the ‘accuser’ and be very careful in laying the blame on the child without finding out the reality. And even then, he is in need of help and not an accusing finger.
But they are always on their phone– An advertisement of a mobile phone app providing teaching of difficult subjects in easy to understand steps comes to mind. While all around were suspiciously keen to know the friends name from the teenage girl- the answer naming the app stunned all. There is an age when a child wants some independence and the best option is to discuss the ground rules including strict enforcement for any violation. Most of us keep feeling that the child is too young to be made aware of our concerns and expectations until it is too late and he/she feels neglected. This feeling of neglect does not take root overnight but is a result of prolonged refusal to communicate with each other.
Parents look for signs of frequent crying, puffy eyes, changed social pattern, lack of interest in personal appearance, expressing hopelessness, isolation, sudden and unexplained mood swings- since these could be indicators of a very serious issue which may cause suicidal tendencies. In such a situation, attempt to involve the child, through gentle and loving persuasion, in to worship and prayer, encouraging him to place his concerns before the Lord, alone or with you present. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). It is important not to smother the child with such an intrusive heavy dose of care and compassion that it may appear repulsive.
He has no time for me– A young university student I met, had not been to his parents’ house; barely two hours travel time away, for more than six months. While discussing a few questions that he had about the Bible, he was then a non-believer, he shared his problems. The basic grouse that most children have is that their parents have no time for them; either they are busy with their professional advancement or trying to earn enough to provide for the child’s needs. Today’s child is well aware of the financial issues and is willing to explore various other options available to finance his studies but desires more attention from the parents, especially working parents. If I as a parent am not there for him, he will look for some other source, including internet buddies and land up doing something illegal or shameful and getting blackmailed. Be there at every moment of joy or pain of your child to show him, you care.
How do you help? – This is for both parties and for a parent it is important to “show compassion” allowing the child to ask as per his timing while ensuring and convincing him of being available always. For children “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). In the fast changing world providing various technological advantages, it may be that a parent may not be right all the time. It is better to accept lack of such knowledge and lead a child through discussion to a correct analysis and proper decision. A child feeling rejected and dejected may think of taking extreme steps and in such situations the better option is to encourage sharing of concerns with attentive listening, without being judgmental.
It is not that only an adult may face such a situation, since a feeling of personal failure, guilt, fear and rejection may affect a parent also and the teenage child may have to be the ‘savior’. In either situation no one wants an ‘agony aunt’ giving unsolicited advice but a natural humane shoulder to rest on. Expression of personal opinions may cause clamping up and do more harm than good whereas genuine appreciation of the person’s concerns will always help. We have the general tendency to start narrating our own tale of woes, giving no chance to the other requiring help. Help the person look for options without being preachy.
Seek help of “Your Heavenly Father– The promise of our Lord and Savior “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 & Hebrews 13:5) is not just a few words. It is a promise and what better time than to call out to Him for help when our child needs a guide to lead him out of a mess, of self creation or otherwise. Pray earnestly to Him and He will answer for the Will of God for our lives is to see us as Kings and not as defeated and wounded losers. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Prophet Malachi exhorts us to “test God” (Malachi 3:10) and repeatedly God has emphasized the point- ask Me, seek Me an d I will be found by you. Seek His help to bless your child for “He has a good plan for him, a plan with future and hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) and He cannot abandon His plan and let it be foiled.
Everyday declare blessings on your child for “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21) since you have the power to defeat the devil in his plans against your child. Our Lord is Faithful and He will fulfill His promises!!