"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life, and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."
- Proverbs 3:1-3
A Call for Help
Help. I'm completely overwhelmed. I feel as though I�ve been doing everything wrong. I have several young children and they are out of control and I'm totally frustrated. I want to change things, but don't know how or where to begin.
Just One Desperate Mom
Although I have answered many pleas like the one above in the recent years, when I first began putting down in print the things I believed about childrearing, I did so primarily for my own family. I wanted to have a record of what I�d learned, to pass on to my children after me. I felt my purpose in life was as Abraham�s was: �For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice�." - Genesis 18:19
We never know for sure what the Lord has in store for us, so I wasn�t positive I�d be around when my children began raising their own children. Even if I was, I don�t have the best memory in the world, so I wasn�t positive I�d remember how to deal with a toddler or preschooler by then. I thought that while I was still in the trenches, I better begin writing down the basics of what I�d learned and had come to believe, and how I�d applied it all to my own children. I wanted my children to have this record to help guide them with their own children someday. After typing away in notepad for awhile (I�m not very computer savvy), I asked my oldest son, then about twenty years old, if he could set me up a website to make it easier for me to organize my sound bites of parenting knowledge.
Although I never promoted or advertised my website in any way, word got around. Soon emails from desperate moms seeking parenting advice began consuming all my writing time, so the next step was a message board. I�d participated in several others and I thought it would be easier for me to handle questions via a forum where members could learn from each other�s questions and I could address multiple parents at the same time. My message board membership quickly grew to several thousand before the shear size of it forced me to close it to new registrations except by referral. Knowing that I could never respond to everyone who wanted help, I turned back to the task of writing down at least an overview of what the Lord had taught me about parenting, looking toward eventually turning it into a book. This time it would be aimed not just toward my own family, but toward making this information available to any mom interested in raising godly children.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
- James 1:5
If I could tell the mom who wrote me the letter above, just one very practical thing to help her get going, it would be this: Keep your children close to you one hundred percent of the time. I call this Tomato Staking, and I�ll talk about it more later in the book, but it�s really not much more than what in the olden days of the 50�s, used to be called �watching your children,� with
a good dose of fellowship and mentoring added to it. If you do this, you�ll be able to see everything they are doing, and you�ll be able to encourage it or stop it, as desired. You will get to know your children and will learn to recognize and understand what is going on inside their heads and their hearts. You can not know and train a child who is not near enough to you to be known and trained. Keep your children with you. This will provide you with the opportunity to be the kind of parent you�d really like to be.
Your goal should be godly children. That means training their hearts to think like God thinks and their bodies to do what God would do. Keep them right with you (the younger and most untrained ones by your side, the older and better trained ones at least in the same room until they are absolutely trustworthy elsewhere). Love, nurture, encourage and educate them constantly. Teach them who God is and what His ways are like. When they disobey, or display a bad attitude, or do anything a godly child would not do, correct them promptly and require them to repeat what they did in godly manner. Once they have obeyed you with at pleasant attitude (never proceed until they do), go back to loving, nurturing, teaching, mentoring, apprenticing and enjoying your children as you were before. Watch your children.
"The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good."
- Proverbs 15:3
Focus on the Heart
Sadly, since starting my parenting website in 2002, I have received hundreds of internet appeals like the one above. These parents are sincere in wanting to raise their children for the Lord but don�t know how. The psychology based parenting methods so popular today, are not working for them. Most have floundered for a few years, trying different failing methods, and now find themselves with a small band of rowdy young ones who do not respect them, do not obey them, and are headed toward disaster rather than faith in the living God.
It is my hope that this book will reach and help many young parents in this situation. I have focused primarily on toddlers through grade school aged children, but have touched on older children in later chapters. I have used many of the questions I have received via email or my website message board to help explain the concepts I want to share. I�ve tried to give examples and suggest dialogs where I thought they would be helpful. Although teaching basic obedience is the starting point, the heart is always the real issue. Raising godly children is impossible without knowing how to reach and address their hearts, therefore I have tried to promote a focus on the heart throughout this book, over and above anything else. As you read my suggestions, do not take them as strict step-by-step rules. Instead, try to understand the principles underneath the rules, then be creative and wise as you apply them, so that they will best reach your own child�s heart, turning him toward the Lord and toward you.
"And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul��
- Deuteronomy 11:13