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How Do I Protect My Child in a World Full of Danger?
It was about 8pm when the phone rang and I picked up the phone. My sister was on the other line, telling me that she was pregnant with her first child! We had been praying for this day and it had finally come. This was a surreal and exciting moment to experience with her! But I’ll never forget something she said on that call to me: Jess, having this child will be like raising a soldier for God! This initially seemed to be a really atypical conversation to have when you first announce to someone the news that you’re having a baby, but I appreciated my sister’s perspective in that moment. It was evident to her that the world can be a very dark and dangerous place, and so, as with many soon-to-be parents, the thought of bringing a child into such a dark world can be quite frightening and uncertain.
Parents will only be able to watch out for their children up to a point. Negative and ungodly influences can come through friends at school, the neighbour next door, the TV, books, the advertisement at the bus stop, the list goes on. And yet, for parents, God has called them to be the gatekeepers and shepherds of their children’s lives. This was highlighted in Pastor Dave’s sermon this past Father’s Day weekend. The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Ephesus about the relationship between parents and children:
Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. 2 Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God’s Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. 3 And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing. 4 And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice. (Ephesians 6:1-4 TLB)
There is invariably a lot we could say that is important for protecting children in our dangerous world today, but I believe these 3 things are of the utmost importance:
- Introduce your child to Jesus; pass on a biblical worldview
- Foster a stable home where God’s love is central
- Be engaged in your child’s life; ask questions and listen well
Let’s get right into why each of the above points have Biblical significance, as well as life-long practicality.
1. Introduce your child to Jesus; pass on a biblical worldview
The Bible is very clear that primary spiritual formation for any child begins in the home. In Proverbs 22:6 (GNT), King Solomon writes, “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.” Now this is a sobering thought for every parent, but it is not meant to be a burden. Perfection is not the aim, rather, obedience and attentiveness to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life when it comes to instructing and training your child is key. How a child is to live in the world requires learning a worldview that will help them navigate the different phases and seasons of life. As followers of Jesus, we want our children to have a biblical worldview, with a clear understanding of creation, purpose, godly identity, godly principles and values. These will help guide a child even when their parent is not always around.
According to research by Barna Group, training in this worldview begins at an early age and is typically set by the time a child reaches the age of 13.1 All the more reason why we must be intentional about cultivating our own faith and passing it on to children when they are young. Faith is passed on not simply by talking about it, but in how we live our lives every day, how we interact with others, the priority we give to growing our faith through Bible reading and prayer, what we do when we’re sad or mad, what or who we turn to when we have challenges, how we use our money, what we watch or listen to, the list goes on. As previously mentioned, not only do we have the Holy Spirit as our faithful guide, but we also have help through church community to guide, pray for and encourage us!
2. Foster a stable home where God’s love is central
When my nephew started acting out and being disobedient at home, I remember my sister being alarmed because her child wasn’t like that before. It seems influences from school and fickle friends had a role to play in my nephew’s behaviour. My sister realized that what her son needed was not more birthday parties or time with his friends, but rather, stable, consistent and caring time with his mom and dad at home. While my nephew’s school environment didn’t necessarily change, his behaviour changed drastically after more intentional time with his parents. Every child may be different in their personalities and needs, but having a strong foundation of love at home will provide a base for a child to grow and go out into the world from. In addition to learning about Jesus and observing the faith of others, a child needs to experience the love of God at home.
Jesus made it clear in Matthew 7:24-25, “Anyone who listens to my teachings and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against the house, it won’t collapse because it is built on a bedrock” (NLT). Fostering a stable home where the teachings of Jesus are followed is central to helping a child build their lives on solid rock. When the storms come, they will be able to stand firm. This could mean having family rhythms like a morning family Bible time, an evening stroll together, showing care and affection toward your spouse for your child to see that mom and dad are united, being consistent in your praise and correction, not going to bed upset, the list goes on.
3. Be engaged in your child’s life; ask questions and listen well
According to Focus on the Family Canada, “kids spend hours apart from [parents] each day during the school year, and naturally, you want to know how they’re doing in the classroom and in their interactions with their peers. More than that, you need to know, because those experiences are shaping your kids emotionally, spiritually, relationally and academically.” 2
The only way to know how your child is doing is to spend time asking them good questions and taking time to listen to them. A good question is typically more open-ended and specific so that kids will hopefully have more to share and will also have an easier time answering. A few categories that Focus on the Family Canada suggest asking kids about are the following:
- General questions (e.g. What was the most fun/difficult thing that you did today?)
- Social interactions (e.g. Who did you play with at recess or lunch?)
- Points of confusion – academic, social or moral (e.g. Did you hear or read anything today that confused you? How are you feeling about what you’ve been learning?)
- General academics (e.g. Did you learn anything today that surprised you?)
- Preparing ahead (e.g. Is there anyone who could use some kindness right now? What could you do for them? Do you have any forms I need to fill in?)
Just as much as it is important to learn about your child through asking questions, and of course passing on our faith as mentioned earlier, it’s just as important to listen and understand as well. Proverbs 18:2 tells us, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions” (NLT). It’s important that children have a safe space to be heard and understood. If they don’t receive this at home, they will look elsewhere and that can be detrimental depending on who they turn to. Active listening by reflecting back what you hear and exploring how a child feels about what they are sharing is key. Help them explore their emotions and guide them through asking questions, sharing your life experiences, and giving timely wisdom as the Lord leads you.
The greatest gift we can give kids is our faith in Jesus, a biblical worldview, a stable home where God’s love is central, and our engaged selves. As my sister put it, raising a child is like raising a soldier for God – not necessarily for a physical battle, but for a spiritual one. The Apostle Paul went on to write to the believers in Ephesus:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV)
How significant that the armour of God is mentioned shortly after godly parenting is described in the same chapter. The enemy knows that if he can get parents to miss the mark on teaching their children according to God’s ways, the likelihood of that child being able to stand strong in the storms and dangers of life is low. But that doesn’t have to be the case for us! We can begin now, no matter the timeline of our parenting journey, and with the help of the Holy Spirit as our guide.
1 Barna Group, Ltd., “Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years,” March 9, 2009, https://www.barna.com/research/barnasurvey-examines-changes-in-worldview-amongchristians-over-the-past-13-years/.
2 Focus on the Family, “After-school questions to ask your kids,” https://www.focusonthefamily.ca/content/after-school-questions-to-ask-your-kids