Will my kid…? Every parent asks some form of this question as they watch their child grow. Will my kid go to college? Will my kid get married? Will my kid be a good person? Will my kid…? You finish the question. I know you have already thought about it. You’ve already asked it at least a hundred times. The question pops up when he surprises you with a random act of kindness or when she acts selfishly or when their behavior seems eerily similar to yours. It happened to me the other day when one of my boys pulled away to read his bible and pray. He didn’t announce it (I’m not sure anyone else even noticed), but this act of faith made me think Will my kid always desire to hear God?
As I watch my boys grow into young men I often wonder what kind of people they will be? I’m not necessarily referring to their career choices (although I can’t help but think about that sometimes). I primarily wonder about their character. Will my kids be godly men? Ultimately, it is their choice, but there are forces in this world vying to have influence over their decisions. Society wants people to think and behave a certain way. And unfortunately, it is usually in contrast to what God desires.
I pray for their character. I pray for their hearts to belong to God, but I also hope my life in front of them will earn me the privilege of being a person of influence in their lives. I want to have a voice in their life for as long as I can. I have learned (and I’m still learning) this is goal…to gain influence…to keep my voice with them. Sometimes we parents loose sight of this. We sacrifice the opportunity to gain influence for the satisfaction being in control (that is, to get our way with our kid). When I do this I usually win the battle at hand, but it is a strategy that sets me up to lose my voice with them over time.
To complicate things for me personally, I’m learning that what worked with my biological sons may not be successful with my adopted sons. Not only do my strategies of gaining influence need to change for them, but I also don’t have as much time to do it. My biological sons have been with me since their birth. My adoptive sons will be with me for less than 10 years by the time both of them reach legal adulthood (BTW…just because someone turns 18 doesn’t mean they are an adult…but it is the benchmark our society uses). To gain long time influence in a person’s life is a challenging task, but to do it quickly requires divine intervention.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I’ve heard people use this verse as some type of biblical guarantee for raising a moral kid. I’m pretty sure it is not that. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. Children will grow to make their own choices and the parent will have to sit by and watch. In those moments, parents do not have any control, but remember that is not the goal. The goal is to have influence, and that is what this verse is talking about.
The phrase, “Train up a child in the way he should go” is a word image. It is the picture of a mom trying to get her newborn baby to learn how to suck. Before hospitals, baby bottles and formula moms delivered their children at home with a midwife. It was imperative the infant learned how to suck milk from its mom’s breast. The child’s life depended on it. Granted most children picked up this skill naturally, but sometimes things would not go as planned. What would a mom do with a child that did not naturally know how to suck? She would have to train that little person how to do it. She did this by taking a grape and gently crushing it over the infant’s mouth. The sweet juice would run over the baby’s lips and trigger the skill to suck. The mom would then place the child on her breast. By doing this, the mom had started the journey of gaining and maintaining influence in the child’s life.
When it comes to raising moral children…no, godly children, we have to be like that mom. The child didn’t know how to suck and the mom could not make it suck, therefore, the mom had to change her strategy. Many times we think our kids should already know right from wrong, good from bad, and selfish from kind. After all, they are watching us? They should be able to learn by proxy? But, many times things don’t go as planned. The little person just doesn’t know what they don’t know. Guess what? That process never ends. Just because they are a pre-teen or even a teenager, they still need parents “crushing grapes” over them. We can’t make them be godly people, but we can strategize and hopefully influence them to follow God on their own.
Now for me, I’m still in process. I’m still strategizing. My boys are still home. I still have time. I realize that what I do today may not work tomorrow, but I must resist the urge to try to “make them” be good people. Instead, I must find new ways to gain influence. Every moment, using both my attitude and my habits, is an opportunity to crush grapes over my kids. I pray God’s Spirit will fill me and empower me to do this. I pray my life of faith will be attractive to my kids so that they will want a life of following Jesus…and it was their choice.