A married couple conceives a child in a moment of pleasure. For nine months they wait patiently while a tiny life develops in the mother’s body. Finally, after hours of painful labor, Mom and Dad hold their new baby in their arms. No other joy compares.
Many years of pleasure, patience, and sometimes pain await them. The same darling baby whose every new accomplishment brings joy and pride might some day make them want to hide their faces in embarrassment. One day they’ll boast about what great children they have, ready to tell the world their formula for parental success. The next day they might feel like the worst parents who ever lived. They will laugh, and they will cry. Being a parent is a roller coaster ride.
Most parents expect their share of pain and patiently bear it, knowing there will be many hours of pleasure as well. But for some, parental pain far outweighs parental pleasure. The Bible tells us, “Children are a gift from the Lord: they are a real blessing.” (Psalm 127:3, NIV) If that is so, why do so many parents feel frustrated with these living gifts from God? Mothers and fathers who had the highest expectations for their children watch those expectations turn into disappointments.
We can find help in the Bible. It has a tremendous amount of wisdom for parents. That wisdom comes in three major forms: instruction, example, and commandment.
Sometimes we even find parental wisdom in unexpected places. That happened to me when I was reading something written by Paul, the apostle. In I Thessalonians, chapter five, verse fourteen, Paul gives condensed instructions to church leaders about how to care for the people, their spiritual children. His advice to spiritual leaders will help parents, too. In fact, this verse became our personal parenting plan. I have paraphrased this verse so some important words will be easier to understand:
“Now we encourage you, brothers, warn the unruly, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Notice the three different types of people Paul mentions: unruly people, faint-hearted people, and weak people. In one short verse Paul tells the leaders the most effective way to treat each type. He very wisely recognizes that people need special care for their special difficulties. There isn’t just one solution for every challenge.
Like the leaders in that church, we can learn to understand the reason for our child’s behavior and use the remedy that matches that reason. If we misunderstand the reason, we could choose the wrong way to address the problem. And that can damage our child and our future relationship with our child.
In the next few sections we will look at each of the three possible reasons Paul gives, and apply them to our children. As you read them, why not ask God to speak to you about you and your child? His wisdom is never outdated, and will help us become effective parents for the twenty-first century.