Tripp explains that every parent wants kids who are happy and successful. We differ in our definitions of success, but whatever our definition is, that’s what we want for our kids. Tripp proceeds to examine several unbiblical goals that many parents have for their kids:
1. Developing Special Skills
We get our kids involved in all kids of different activities so that they can learn different skills. Parents must consider whether they measure their own success based on the number and different types of activities they provide their kids. Do we judge our kids’ success based on the number of skills they develop? Is little Johnny a failure if he’s good at soccer and basketball, but struggles at football? It is important that we consider whether all the activities we get our kids involved in have biblical content.
2. Psychological Adjustment
Two words on this one – “self esteem.” Every parenting guide in the world claims to know the secret of building self-esteem in your kids. Tripp observes, “Have you noticed that no books promise to help produce children who esteem others?” Which is the more biblical goal?
3. Saved Children
Many Christian parents are preoccupied with getting their kids saved. Obviously as Christian parents, this is one of our deepest wishes for our kids. The problem is when this becomes the ultimate goal. Salvation is the beginning of our walk with God, not the end point. When parents start to believe that getting their kids saved will solve all of their problems, then it becomes an issue. Tripp points out that this is a sensitive areas because:
- We can never know with certainty whether our kids are saved; and
- The fact of a child being saved “does not change the basic issues of childrearing.”
4. Family Worship
The key here is to remember that, even though family worship is a noble and valuable thing, it is not a substitute for true spirituality.
5. Well Behaved Children
There is pressure in our culture to raise well behaved children, and many well-meaning parents succumb to that pressure. As discussed in prior chapters, having well behaved children can not be the utlimate goal. It is a great side effect of raising our kids based on biblical standards, but it is not a worthy goal in and of itself. When behavior is the goal, the issue becomes what other people think rather than what God thinks. The patience needed for godly correction is not available when parents succumb to the pressure to have kids who behave immediately.
6. Good Educations
While a good education is not inherently evil, you need only look at the throngs of overly educated and thoroughly broken people to know that it is insufficient in and of itself. This can’t be the measure of true success.
Some parents simply want to control their kids. The goal is “manageable” kids – not godly kids. Like well behaved kids, the goal is convenience and public appearance rather than Godly kids.
Tripp moves from this list into a warning against giving into the influences of our culture. As he points out, “You must equip children to function in a culture that has abandoned the knowledge of God.” If we teach our kids to do anything but glorify God, we succumb to the pressures of our culture. Tripp offers this insight:
“How do we do this? We pander to their desires and wishes. We teach them to find their soul’s delight in going places and doing things. We attempt to satisfy their lust for excitement. We fill their young lives with distractions from God. We give them material things and take delight in their delight in possessions. Then we hope somewhere down the line they will see that a life worth living is found only in knowing and serving God.”
In order to counteract this, we must teach them from their earliest years that they are image-bearers of God and created for his glory. In Tripp’s words, “They must learn that they will only ‘find themselves’ as they find him.”
My oldest son plays soccer. He is almost 16 and has been playing since he was about four. As you sit and listen to other parents at those soccer games, you can’t help but be struck by a couple of things:
- It is amazing how seriously the parents take the games; and
- The mothers seem to spend quite a good deal of time talking about how busy they are running their kids from one activity to the next.
Now that three of my four kids are involved in their own individual activities, I face two significant struggles:
- How do you redeem the time you invest in those activities and make sure that the time is to the glory of God; and
- How do you keep it from becoming all consuming and the center of our family life?
I will be the first to admit that it is a struggle. I do find that time spent at practices, etc. is a nice quite time to do some reading of scripture of studying God. Keeping extracurricular activities from becoming the center of family life is a daily struggle. It is important to have some hard and fast guidelines. For example, in our family, Wednesday nights are for Awana at the local church. The kids go to Awana and my wife and I serve. Although we do miss sometimes for various reasons (that is inevitable), it is a priority. Serving others must never take a back seat to serving ourselves!
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