By Contributing Writer, Marcia Wilwerding
As difficult as it may be to envision, that sweet baby boy snuggling in your arms will most likely one day be married with children of his own. He might also be sporting a full beard and look something like Paul Bunyan, which is what I see now in our oldest son, Jonathan. Yet, we never could have imagined what he would become when we first welcomed that tiny bundle of joy into the world.
Parenting is like finding an acorn on a tree farm; it is hard to imagine it could one day become a mighty oak such as the one from which it fell. The landowner does not expect to grow an acorn from this seed, nor even a sapling. His goal is to grow an oak tree. In like manner, while parents are rearing their children, they must keep the goal of preparing them for adulthood always in their minds.
Begin With a Vision
As mentioned before, most of those adults will marry and have children. How they are brought up will ultimately affect the lives of not only their spouses and children, but also the generations to follow. Therefore, it is important to envision what kind of spouse, what kind of citizen, what sort of church member you want your children to become.
Do you want them to be lazy malingerers who avoid work, complaining of imaginary illnesses while perpetually burdening the government welfare rolls? Or do you want them to always choose honest, hard work and personal financial responsibility?
How do you see them treating their spouses and children, neighbors, friends, and aging parents? Do you see them living for and serving God through service to others, or pursuing worldly interests and associations in selfishness and greed? If you do not have a vision for your children, then it’s time to get one before it’s too late.
Your Example Matters Most
Yet, you can read all the child rearing books, attend all the seminars, listen to all the sermons, and still miss the most important aspect of parenting. The dirty little secret is that the example you and your spouse set will have the greatest influence on who your children become. Even absent parents have a lifelong impact on a child’s character development into adulthood.
That is truly terrifying when you think about it. Isn’t it?
They will not all turn out to be your clones. In fact, they will most likely be very different from you and from one another. Yet, they will pick up from the two of you some of the good, some of the bad, and maybe even some ugly. Therefore, if you see problems in your own character, it is paramount to get yourselves disciplined and grown up along with them.
However, it is not necessary, for instance, to clean and maintain the whole house by yourself in order to be a good example. Rather, by teaching them to clean with you and to clean up after themselves, they will learn to be responsible for their own homes. For instance, teach them after each meal to wipe their plates into the garbage and place them in the sink. Then have everyone clear the table and take turns doing dishes.
Practical Ideas For Equipping Future Adults
In the very beginning, it is important to lay the foundation of personal responsibility by teaching them to do as much for themselves as they can as soon as they are able. For instance, when your little ones attempt to dress and feed themselves, let them give it a try with your watchful assistance. Also, a mother should never have to clean her children’s rooms by the time they are five. Even putting away their own laundry may be done by this age with a little help from Mom in hanging things on high rods.
Financial responsibility may be taught with allowances or other ways of earning some cash. When your teens are able to drive, let them find work either outside the home or in the family business or household to pay for their own insurance. And, while they’re at it, they can probably afford to buy at least some of their own clothes as well. Teach them to be frugal, to save something for a rainy day, and to avoid debt like the Plague.
Children of any age who are making money should also be taught to not only provide something for themselves, but also to spend wisely, to save, and to give to worthy causes. Even if your family does not believe in tithing (giving 10% of all earnings to the church), there should be something set aside for others in need. If they do not work or earn money, they can still give their time and effort. This teaches them to have a servant’s heart.
The Bible has a lot to say about the personal responsibility of caring for aging parents and other disabled or needy family members. Discuss this with your children when they are young, and seek ways for them to assist you in helping aging family members and/or their caregivers.
If you are not the caregiver in your family or cannot find examples within your own family, be sure to thank those who serve in this way while in your children’s presence and praise them while discussing their service with your children.
In fact, working with your children in service opportunities is the most important way to prepare them to be adults who serve. Other than assisting aging family members you might help families who are moving, periodically babysit for mothers with many children, or offer to do yard work for someone who is unable to afford it or do it themselves.
If your church is cleaned by volunteers, this would also be an excellent service opportunity to do with your children. Look for a need, discern if you should be the ones to fill it, then do it together as a family.
These are only a few things which came to mind as I contemplated this equipping of children for adulthood. Yet, the most important thing wise parents will always keep in mind is that those babies, those children, those adolescents, will one day be full-grown adults. Everything done in their upbringing will culminate into that reality.
Consequently, much study, many prayers, and constant vigilance must all go into the process for the end result to be anything near favorable. As the Scriptures tell us, “A child left to himself will bring his mother to shame.” Have faith. Have courage. Your efforts will not be in vain in the Lord.