By Contributing Writer, Terry Covey
Life’s Early Lessons
It’s an awesome thing to consider that God cares about our children even more than we do! And part of that care is the clear instruction in His Word for us parents on the relationships our children will have in life. A huge part of parenting is the process of teaching our children how to function in the world of relationships. The first quarter of a human’s life sets the stage for the myriad of relationships they will be involved in throughout life.
In those seemingly long years of growth and learning our children must understand the complexity of relationship between themselves and those they interact with. Many of these lessons must be learned at an early age in order to maintain a safety net for them to grow into adulthood. We parents have an incredibly complicated duty to fill as the caregiver, guide, custodian, and counselor for this process.
As we all know, this process of learning about relationships is a lifelong one. We must learn who to trust, who to listen to, who to question, who to obey, who to avoid, who to care for, and the list goes on. This process begins as we teach our children to obey mom and dad, give hugs to grandma, share with siblings and friends, be kind to neighbors, and more. Add to that the need for caution when it comes to being too friendly, or too open, or too social. It can be quite complicated, for us and for them.
Relationship With God First
In this small space, I can only capture a smidgeon of what God tells us in His Holy Word on the subject of relationships. But first we must understand that God’s Word can only do it’s job if we have relationship with Him. Do we know Him and are we passing that love onto our children? Our first priority is to turn your child’s heart to God and God alone.
Teach them to love His Word and to find answers for all of life’s questions there. Take time to study these verses and how they apply to our children’s relationships. It will be life to their body (Prov.14:30) and healing to their bones (Prov. 16:24)! Let’s begin at the very beginning, the foundation of all of life.
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil. Proverbs 19:23
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Proverbs 19:20
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11
A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it. Isaiah 35:8
Relationship With Parents
There is so much for us to observe and learn from the Scriptures and from the relationships we see around us. I know what I believe about raising children, and I also know I don’t own all the particulars about raising children. But God has blessed our family in that we have not lost children to the world, and I pray that will continue, but I do know that none of us are immune.
It seems epidemic, the many Christian parents who struggle with wayward children— children whose hearts are not in the home or with their parents—children who are enjoying the pleasures of sin for awhile, thinking they have the rest of their life to work hard and be serious.
Oh, that we would not let ourselves be deceived. The world—and the master of this world—are just waiting to lure our children away from the home, from the fellowship with parents and siblings who love them, and from the God who desires they serve Him. Satan knows how to bait the hook by making that world look brighter and more exciting than what is in their home and family.
Yes, there will be a time for our children to forge their path in this world on their own—but that time is not before they are well versed in the ways of God and the temptations of the world. They must understand Whom they serve and how important family is to their life. This is founded through communication and training; it is inculcated for all the years they are in their home.
Relationships Outside the Family
Proverbs has so much to say about wisdom and foolishness. This book alone will serve our children well as they seek to understand what makes a good friend or companion. We often used the book, Proverbs for Parenting as we guided our children to see the fruit of wisdom and wastefulness of folly.
The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it. Proverbs 22:3
The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly. Proverbs 15:14
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. Proverbs 19:27
The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway. A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother. Folly is joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight. Proverbs 15:19-21
The need to discern proper relationships and understand the severity of repercussions from bad relationships becomes imperative as our children reach their teens. One thing of extreme importance—we must begin training our children to listen to our counsel long before they reach their teens. If we wait for problems to occur in our relationship with them or in their relationships with friends or family members, we often will not have their ear. They will be listening to others who have taken the time to earn their trust, whether these friends are safe and trustworthy—or not.
There are so many families dealing with the heartache of losing their children’s hearts (and faith) to ‘friends’ and worldly endeavors. This problem often arises from giving our children too much responsibility for choosing their friendships before they show maturity and wisdom. This causes families to be torn apart as other influences enter in and steal their children’s hearts. Young adults can make unwise choices when they listen to other young adults who are immature and foolish in their actions. It is our responsibility to instruct and train before these critical years of adjustment to adulthood.
Just a few of the risks of unsupervised relationships early in age are: learning bad attitudes, seeing what young eyes shouldn’t see, molestation, disrespecting parents and authority, foolishness leading to injury, and overall foolishness. Open communication is a tool that reaps huge rewards with our children. If we teach them to be wise early on, they will more often be wise in adulthood. As we teach them to use their time wisely and to discern foolishness early on, they will discern accordingly in their adult years.
Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10
I asked my 19 year old daughter what she’d recommend on relationships. Here’s her quick list:
- Work hard at communicating as a family.
- Don’t be afraid to have a different opinion than others, even if they’re a friend or are your age.
- Practice being friendly and nice to people while you’re out in public. Don’t be afraid of what others think about you, or your choices in life. Be confident in who you are.
- Don’t just agree just to agree. Hear what others say and when you have time, research or study scripture to see what God says.
Can We Trust The Adults in Our Children’s World?
It’s easy to think the adults in our life are a safe influence for our children. But we need to consider that not all adults, even the ones we think we know, are deemed trustworthy to write in the pages of our children’s life. It’s too easy for children to think they can trust others simply because they are adults.
It’s a scary world, and it’s a shocking thing to realize that not everyone is honorable – not every nice neighbor, good friend, close relative, or even dutiful teacher. This is a basic fact and it’s imperative that we teach our children to be discerning and what actions to take if things don’t seem safe or right. It’s so important that we maintain open and honest communication so when things get confusing they can come to us with their questions.
Social Media and More
Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28
A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
It’s easy for our children to think that mom and dad aren’t ‘getting it,’ that they are out of touch with the real and changing world. But God tells us not to move the ancient boundaries. In our current world things are changing so fast it makes our heads spin. But the basics are still the basics. Let’s try to balance the changing world with God’s basics and God’s boundaries. Find balance for the fast paced, technological venues by filtering them through the Word of God.
The new technology of social media, texting, and the Internet bring even more questions to bat. There is much to discern about these medias. Scripture speaks of having too many friends and describes what a true friend is. When balanced with God’s Word, social media doesn’t measure up. Let the fruit, or lack of it, speak for itself. Share the realities and consequences of making light of friendships; consider that ‘friends’ and ‘un-friending’ is not how God desires us to love one another. Teach them to understand what a friend truly is and how to discern character. Without these tools your children are at risk.
Questions To Consider
My hope is that you’ll take time to consider who your children are associating with. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are the people in your child’s life trustworthy?
- Do your children understand the risk in relationships? Do you? It’s so easy to be naïve in trusting others with our children. There’s so much pain that can comes from the mistakes of wrong relationships.
- Who has your children’s hearts? Does God? Do you?
- What would it take to earn their heart’s devotion to their parents? How can you share the love of God with them?
Think hard on your answers. Then make a plan to help your children live fully and cautiously in their relationships. You will be blessed as you see the fruit of your efforts. You will give them the tools that will last a lifetime. Press on!