Five Secrets for Raising Great Children
By Philip & Segatha Matthews
Let's make this quick so that people will actually read this. After raising 7 biological children, helping with 14 grandchildren, 11 foster children, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, and operating several Christian schools and teaching at several public schools through more than 41 years of marriage and family ministry, we have learned a thing or two about kids. By no means would we call ourselves trained experts, but we do have a few key principles to share.
First, As a Parent, Become a Whole, Healed Person Yourself. This has nothing to do with children per se: You can start this before you have a single child. But the key truth is this: If you are a hurting, fractured, broken person yourself”and almost all of us are in some way”then there's no way you can raise an emotionally and spiritually whole child. Your first order of business is to start getting yourself healed. How do you know if you are fractured? You know you need healing when you are constantly dealing with insecurity, fear, emotional instability, jealousy, resentment and unforgiveness, anger problems, low self-esteem, pride and perfectionism, addictions and compulsive behaviors, depression, suspiciousness and mistrust, materialism and misplaced priorities, inability to maintain peaceful, close relationships, inability to show love to others, strong desires to be controlling and manipulative, defensiveness and self-protection, pouting, etc., etc., etc. If all this stuff is affecting you, rest assured that it will greatly and negatively affect your spouse, your kids, all your relationships, and your entire life. The negative, misery-causing stuff that happened to you during your upbringing is not something you want to pass down to the next generation. So seek healing and wholeness through your church or the following resources:
Show Unwavering Unconditional Agape Love to Your Child. This kind of love requires you always to do what is best for your child, even if they don't like it, you don't like it, you're tired and don't feel like doing it, nobody else is doing it that way, etc. This kind of love is unconditional because agape love comes from God through you, so it doesn't depend on the circumstances, which child it is, how the child looks (pretty children often get the best treatment), what he or she has done, etc. It is unwavering because you are just as faithful with your love as God is with His love for you. Now you can see why healing is so important: Only a whole person can love like God. Everybody else mixes in some kind of selfish impurity, personal needs and fulfillment, and ulterior motives with their so-called "love. Living under your agape love will build your children's self-esteem and confidence and enable them to go out into the world as "secure connectors instead of desperately wounded victims driven by their cravings for attention, security, and significance. But once again remember: You can't give them agape love if you, too, are being driven by your own selfish cravings for security and significance.
Train Your Child to Respect Authority. Authority includes you as the parent first of all, but then extends to all those having responsibility for the child's well-being, development, and social integration. You must demand first-command obedience, respectful responses, and positive attitudes after correction. Training goes beyond teaching, lectures, negotiation, bribery, making deals, deflection, reward systems, and other similar methods. The child should be under subjection to you”even if no rewards are earned. Thus, training always requires some kind of age-appropriate painful consequences. A child who is respectful to others is usually well-liked and can go far in the world of human relationships.
Train and Prepare Your Child for Independent Living. The quality of your child's future depends greatly on how well you prepare him/her for it, starting in the cradle. "Don't expect Mom to clean up the mess you made. Has she learned to share her stuff? Can he read? Don't wait until he goes to school to teach him how to read. That's way too late. Children who can't read or make it in school, especially minority boys, usually move next door”to the prison. Don't depend on the public school to educate your child. God gave the responsibility to you, and you must be careful to whom, if anyone, you delegate this task. Children must have some kind of marketable skill, knowledge, or training that will enable them to be independent after high school. Did you instill enough self-discipline within them so that they can even stay in college or trade school till it's done? Expecting to make it in art, music, singing and dancing, video games, and basketball is always a long-shot, no better than your chances at winning the lottery. So train them for a more realistic life-career. Can your girls and boys cook and organize a home? Can both genders perform basic maintenance tasks outside of the home? Do they know how to ride the bus and get around independently? Can they fill out a job application? Do they know how to spend their money wisely and balance a budget? Can they endure difficult and uncomfortable situations without walking away or acting like a spoiled brat? Can they get along with everybody, or does the whole world have to cater to their whims and wishes? This is all life-training that parents are responsible for.
Help Your Child Develop a Living Relationship with God”the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This means they need more than nice religious teachings about God, pat answers about life, and Sunday School platitudes. They need to know God for themselves asap. They need to know what they believe and why they believe it as early as possible. They must be able to hear from God's Spirit and receive revelations of what is true and false, right and wrong. They need their own moral convictions straight from the Source. These are convictions of right which they will die for rather than compromise like the children of the world. They need to experience for themselves how much the Father loves them and how empty life is without that Love. Get them involved with a Christ-centered, Bible-teaching, Spirit-led church having a loving, alive church family of disciples with biblical values. If you can't find one, then start one yourself in your house. If your children have only religion, they will leave this when they get grown and life challenges it. But if they have the true, living, and loving God, they will never leave Him. In reality, what happens is that you are only a manager of God's child for a relatively short time, after which time you must pass him back to God, his true Father and the true Owner of his soul. Hopefully you will do this successfully and not fail in your eternal charge.
We heard Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) or someone else once say, "Parents should keep in mind that, when raising their children, they are actually raising their great-grandchildren! This is true: When your children really buy-in to the godly principles you raise them by, they will train their own children in a similar manner. Then their children (i.e., your grandchildren) will receive the same timeless principles of life you put into your children. Finally, your grandchildren's children”your great-grandchildren”will be privileged to receive those same timeless truths. This was the way things were originally supposed to go, so that the knowledge of the Eternal God would never be lost from generation to generation.
June 16, 2014