Learn how to deprive your children, and you’ll give them one of the best gifts of life. We’re living in a social era of dysfunctional families and entitled children. Families are as fractured as Humpty Dumpty, and you might as well forget about trying to put them back together again.
Nevertheless, I’ve got some ideas that might help families get a better grip on unity and strength. Two sources of my ideas are the Bible and a lifetime of experience.
I probably can boil down all my ideas into a few zingers on what to give children and what to deprive them of.
We don’t need to go back to the Great Depression or the more recent Great Recession and talk about poverty. Rather, we need to know what to give our children and what not to give them. We need to know how to give and how not to give to our children. I’ll try to get at the subject without going around the world of caveats about it. I’ve got a few stories to illustrate the points.
Bible truths are blueprints for families and parenting. Some biblical family truths stand out to me. God wants us to lovingly have children, raise them to know God and live by His will, and leave home. The Bible teaches that children are to love God, love their parents, and love others. Children are to learn and follow biblical values and God’s design for the family: namely, grow up to be independent, learn to work and support themselves, leave home when grown, and follow the pattern of their parents. Each home and each child is different, but these biblical truths basically hold for everyone from Genesis to Revelation.
I believe in the family and personally know a lot of family homes whose make-up matches God’s blueprints for the family. But news today from all over the world reflects broken families and individuals who don’t match God’s design. All the books in the Library of Congress and the wisdom of the world can’t fix the family, but a few zingers to go with basic truths might help.
A spiritual parallel for you and yours. My story has a spiritual parallel you, your kin, and others need to hear and commit to. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already got the “fix of eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior (Ephesians 2:8-10). You didn’t get saved by works but for works. And that’s where the parallel gets even stronger.
Learn what to give your children and what to deprive them of. In 1944 I needed a $3 pair of white pants to get to sing in my elementary school’s musical presentation. Anguished dad and mother told me they didn’t have any money except for basic food, clothing, and shelter. If I needed anything extra, I’d have to go to work and make money for it — at age 7. Well, I went to the local newspaper office and started selling papers for a nickel a piece and getting to keep half of it. But this is 2014 and not 1943, so let’s get modern in this business of buying, giving, and depriving.
A fine example is when one of our keyboarding sons went on a mission trip to Poland in the 1990s. He managed to stress the flight attendant enough to get his keyboard on board with him instead of checked with other luggage. In Poland he found a pastor and people so poor they didn’t have a keyboard. However, the pastor happened to play a keyboard; so our son gave his keyboard to him. Later, that same pastor got to visit the U.S. and visit in the home of our son Steve. Because Steve was so embarrassed about how many possessions his own three children had — compared to the Polish children — he told me he hid those toys in the attic before the Polish pastor got there. Embarrassed by comparative riches and beau coup toys! “Play it again, Sam!” Same song now.
We deprived our three sons of the gifts of cars, insurance, gas, and any tech toys available as they grew up. They had to buy their own and show they were responsible enough to own them. When the boys started wanting designer anything, I told them fine: I would pay for the second half of whatever they got. I deprived them of the first half. Somehow, they seldom ever called on me to pay a second half. They made their own way. But, again, this is 2014; and from the three sons and wives have come eight grown grandchildren now. Those eight grown grandchildren mostly have bought their own stuff or thrown in to help on it. I admit there’s been some slippage. And we have five great-grands: lots of slippage here, but the oldest is only about five. I hope they get deprived.
Failure to raise children biblically hurts the home. The biblical pattern of having kids, raising them right, and expecting them to follow the pattern of marrying and leaving home is right. I won’t deal with the caveats or exceptions. But today, millions of homes in America are grandparent-headed and the grandchildren living there don’t have either one of their own parents in the home. Too many young people get ahead of their hormones and ability to provide for their own independence. Then the young parents boomerang back home long enough to drop off the grand kids and skedaddle to live more of their indulgent lifestyle. I don’t mean to sound hard, but statistics back up what I’m saying.
Parents and grandparents are often the main culprits in this fractured home situation of our society. I’ve been nauseated most of my adult life when I’ve heard some parent say, “I just want my children to have what I didn’t have when I was growing up.” It’s the other way around: Parents should say, “I just want to be sure my children have what I had when I was growing up.” And what was that? Well, that included having loving parents who lived at home, meals together, shared work and responsibilities, respect and obedience, religious and social values, and the basic glue that God designed to hold families together and worship Him. But what I just wrote is a hard sale to 2014 youngsters.
Once — in the 1960s — I tried to settle an argument our boys were having over which TV channel and program to watch. I said, “You guys ought to feel fortunate to have TV channels to argue over; when I was a boy, we didn’t even have any TV programs to watch.” Middle son of about age 7 candidly asked, “Dad, was all they had commercials?” Don’t try to bring guilt into 2014 and tell your children what you didn’t have when you were growing up. It won’t work. Rather, model for them what you did have; and expect them to grow in wisdom and stature and discernment about how to hear God’s calling and say yes to God for all of life. Help the children know the Bible. Help them get a contemporary translation that puts the faith of the parents into the language of the children. They’ll learn what the Bible says about the family and all life.
About those zingers now. Fill a home with love for God and others, and it’ll take care of most of the personal problems. Scriptures? You know them: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Doesn’t say he won’t take a furlough along the way; but this proverbial truth is proverbially right and social proven. “Seek ye the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Priorities are in the zingers: what to give and what to deprive children of. I doubt the wisdom of taking away all their toys and telling them you’re going to substitute the kingdom of God for the toys. But in essence, that’s kind of what I’m suggesting you put your weight on. (Of course, many phones, pads, etc., help in the study of God’s Word today. That’s good.)
The family problem today isn’t as much giving things as it is depriving children of things or challenging them to get their own. The greater problem is to follow the highest biblical principles of family and living. These zingers are God’s; and they will help put the family back together again. Try it! Trust Him!
— Copyright 2014 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.