How to Love and Teach Our Children Well
by JeanAnn Wiggins
JeanAnn Wiggins is in her 7th year of teaching at Providence and her 9th year as a PCS parent. While most of her time professionally has been devoted to early childhood development and education, her love for history and passion for reading instruction pushed her to move to 4th grade two years ago. JeanAnn and her husband Mark have three daughters, Allison (freshman at Dallas Baptist University), Emma (10th grade), and Meagan (6th grade).
Jesus was a teacher. And so are we. As parents, we are always teaching. Knowing that my example for teaching and training my children is Jesus is simultaneously comforting and challenging. In fact, sixty of the ninety times Jesus was addressed directly in the Gospels, he was called Teacher. Author Ann Voskamp says our calling is “hard and holy work.” Indeed.
The Scriptures mandate that we teach our children. As parents, we are our children’s first and primary teachers according to Scripture. The word discipline has its roots in teaching, though the word often has a negative connotation and is most often used in the context of the punitive role as parents. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
When you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up; it’s like the author knows — we’re busy people! This “talking about them,” often takes place in the margins of life. The “talking about them” is teaching. It is seizing the teachable moments when they are presented and capitalizing on the opportunities to develop habits, character, and faith.
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So, how can we love our children well as we do this hard and holy work?
I am no parenting expert, but if I am called to teach my children and I see in Scripture that Jesus was a teacher, then I believe looking to His example is the best place to start.
First, Jesus was humble. Philippians 2:6-8 reminds us Jesus did not “consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage… but humbled himself.” We can display humility at home by being transparent with our children regarding our need for God’s wisdom as we pursue Godly and Christ-centered parenting. Humility moves us out of the way and helps our children see that we are relying on THE Father as we do our best to lead them “in the way they should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) And by the way, we are not fooling anyone. Our children know we don’t have all the answers. But we can love them well by reminding them that we are pressing in to the One who does.
Second, Jesus extended grace. We should do the same. What does this look like? Sally Clarkson, well-known women’s speaker and homeschool mom, writes this about her own childhood: “I remember how I had longed for understanding, for someone to help me piece together my half-grown heart without criticism and judgment. So, I chose to relate to my kids in a way that spoke grace to them as they grew.” Moreover, the Gospels record an interaction between Jesus and children. In Luke18:15, it says, “People were also bringing babies to Jesus to touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these…” Do not hinder them. I don’t know about you, but I know I have been less than gracious in my parenting at times. Luke 18 is a sober reminder that in my dealings with my children, I have an opportunity to either help my children onto the lap of Jesus, or I can hinder them. If I can remember how often grace is extended to me by my heavenly father, the overflow of my heart ought to be bent toward extending grace to my own children.
What is grace? First, let’s address what it is not. Grace is not an abandonment of God’s standards nor is it letting our children “get away” with sin.
We are called to address sin. But grace reminds us that our child’s sin is an opportunity, and more than a mere inconvenience. We get to call our child to more based on Truth. The goal is to preserve God’s Standard while simultaneously preserving our relationship with the child as well as his or her dignity as an image bearer of God. This requires incredible discernment. And time. But our children are worth it, and God has chosen US for this task. This means he has equipped us. We can do this with the help of the Holy Spirit.
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Grace ushers in patience with the process as we call our children to virtue.
Remember, our children have “half-grown” hearts. You could say the same of their minds. They are going to do foolish things. Proverbs 22:15 tells us “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” This becomes abundantly clear around the two’s when an otherwise happy child realizes things are not going his way, and he hits his head against the wall or the floor in protest of the injustice he has just endured. Foolishness! While the principles of child development tell us this behavior will eventually pass, it will only be replaced with other behaviors that are foolish and can cause pain beyond whatever perceived injustice the child has encountered. Remember our Father is patient with us when we “hit our heads against the wall” so to speak. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14.) If our Good Father remembers we are human, we can remember our children are children. As we remember our children are children, we can help them navigate the various ages and stages with all their accompanying challenges.
Grace takes us out of the picture and helps us remember that the inevitable unpleasant interactions between parent and child are not personal.
This means our children’s behavior is not about us nor should their success or failure be. The moment we become angry or frustrated, it has become personal. It has become about us as parents and not them or their character and certainly not about the Lord. Our children are looking to us to bring calm to their angst. When we join their angst, we are communicating. We are communicating that things really are coming unglued, just as they suspected. Worse still, it communicates that their angst is an inconvenience, that they are an inconvenience. But grace. Grace takes mom and dad out of the picture if we will allow the Holy Spirit to equip us to help our children to see that things are not falling apart because it is Jesus who holds all things together. “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)
This is hard and holy work. It is the primary calling on our lives, Mom and Dad. As we consider how to love and teach our children well, let’s look to Jesus as our example. We can do this. We can do this because He is making us able each day.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Note: For more resources regarding parenting, see the following:
Piper, John. “Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children”. Desiring God. 10/29/13. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/parents-require-obedience-of-your-children
Tripp, Paul. “Authority: A Gospel Principle for Parents”. Youtube. 5/9/17. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GP08WM7iV0
Tripp, Paul. Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. 1997.
Tripp, Ted. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherding Press. 1995.