Is there a right way and a wrong way to parent? And if there is a right way, can we parents expect favorable results compared to the results of parenting the wrong way? I get the feeling that parents resign themselves to the notion that getting a child to become a follower of Christ is like throwing dice, a matter of luck, which means the parents aren’t to blame one way or the other. But that’s not a true representation of how parents view how their children came to be what they are. The truth is that if the children became Christians, it is attributed to intentional parenting with unyielding determination see it happen. But, if the children didn’t become Christian, it was due to forces outside of parental control. I believe in my heart and known that most parents can and should do better.
Telegraph Parenting. I’ve never seen a case where a child wasn’t going exactly the direction the parents were telegraphing for their children to go. In sports we hear how the boxer telegraphed that he was about to throw a left or a quarterback telegraphed his throw was going to a particular receiver. That telegraph gives away the intention and the real game. The offensive play can be set up to give the appearance of run, but a telegraph will communicate to a perceptive defensive player what’s really happening. A parent can claim to be a Christian but the children can tell if you are by your television and movie viewing habits. What are you telegraphing? Are you kind and loving or are you telegraphing something else? Kids learn to watch for what is the real message. If parenting is like a sporting event, every parent is telegraphing something. A dedicated Christian parent will always be living his or her faith. The children will perceive every message being telegraphed and they will act accordingly. Telegraph Parenting refers to the real intention of the parent. As a parent, what are you telegraphing to your children?
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3
Folks, we want and need to take our children from point A to point B, which is to say from childhood to adulthood. And here’s the wonderful thing. Whatever you are telegraphing by the values and interests you focus on is the “point B” you are telegraphing for your children to go. Now if we did nothing in between the two points, that “nothing” is still something which will result in children grown into adult bodies but it won’t result in them being mentally, emotionally and, most importantly, spiritually equipped for adulthood. The children that are a heritage from the Lord require constant guidance and maintenance. It’s a full-time job raising children into adults. The hands off approach to parenting is not an option when we understand what makes an adult in God’s eyes. The end-game is too important so mind what you are telegraphing. A child’s eternal destiny is in the balance.
Parents with grown children who are not walking with the Lord can take offense at this message, and they might even get defensive. Understand that I’m not attacking you. We are imperfect. If you made mistakes, correct them where you can. Start now at being the best example you can be. This message is true and it’s aimed at those parents with children who are in between the point A and point B.
Christians measure success differently than the world. The world feels successful if the child stayed out of jail and is in college. The world measures success by the things accumulated. But Christians measure success by whether children are walking with the Lord, Jesus Christ. Success to Christian parents is seeing the spirit of Christ in the children. When children are compassionate, forgiving, moral people who hope for a reward in heaven, then that’s success.
The Apostle said, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”, Eph 6:4. This seems a mystery to many people. The words are simple enough, but actually doing them is to many parents as foreign as a new language. But it’s not as hard as that. To “bring them up in” anything needs to be the thing parents walk and talk about. The “discipline and instruction of the Lord” needs to be telegraphed in every area of the home. This idea is only foreign because it’s not the language and focus of the parents. Dads focus on sports. Moms focus on makeup and fingernails. [Ha, how’s that for stereotyping! But I’m making a point, so stay focused.] Dads are bringing their sons up in the interests and values of the secular world. Moms are bringing their daughters up in the pop-culture of a world that hates God. Our children are being brought up in something, but it’s not in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Young parents, where do you want your children to end up? I don’t remember where I was, but I saw a circle of women gossiping about someone they knew. The venom and meanness was embarrassing. I was embarrassed for them as they should have been for themselves. The young children in the group received the message being telegraphed: be nice to people’s faces but cut them to pieces behind their backs. If we want to be successful in parenting, we need to telegraph that seeing Jesus Christ is the most important thing to us. Telegraph in our speech kindness and love for others. We need to put worship and reverence towards God first before every sporting event. We need to make sacrificial giving come before another weekend shopping trip. “Daughter, are you going to spend all of your money on yourself? Do you want to rob God?” (Mal. 3:8). And if you yourself speak sacrifice to God, then telegraph it also with actual sacrifice of your time, your money, and your talents. We need to speak more of compassion and forgiveness and let our children see that mean gossiping is unbecoming of Christians.
Excuses for failure. When I think of examples people give for children going astray – peer pressure, predispositions, free will, prodigal sons, Jesus’ siblings – I see failure. I don’t see God’s failure, but I see the failure of human fathers. Prophets, Priests and Kings failed the children of God. Will God have grace for these fathers and leaders? Sure, if they are honest and humble about it. When I think about peer pressure taking children the wrong way, I see failure. When I see the siblings of Jesus not believing and taunting him to go to Jerusalem, I see failure. I gather no consolation from failure. God wants success and he’s given us parents 20 or so years to get it right. When I hear of children having a predisposition, if it’s evil, it’s a predisposition to be broken and discarded. It’s a war for the hearts, minds, and souls of our children. Will the world win or will we fight so hard for them that no excuse gives us consolation? In the end, the children will know who is fighting for them.
When raising my five children, with the help of my beautiful wife who is the ‘worthy woman’, I could detect a distinct moment in their lives where I personally sensed the child was somewhere between me and the peers/world. The world was pulling. I was pulling. I remember distinctly sitting down with my children at what I believed to be pivotal moments where I spoke with passion and love and reason to let me children know that I saw what was happening and that I wasn’t going to let it happen. I would remind them of God’s will. I would remind them that God has given me a job and I intended to bring them safely to Him. I would spell out exactly what was in the world and how their peers were not going to be around in four or six years, but that I would be there when they were marrying, when they were having their children. I would remind them of where true love was. My wife and I had the rock solid conviction that we were not going to lose one of our children to the world. I can say without any equivocation that you will not find very many people in all of your life who has the conviction that I’m talking about. “But Dan, you can’t control them. God gave them free will.” With God’s help, we let our children know the direction they were going to go and when they got there, they would be so happy and thankful that they chose that way. “Free will” isn’t really what children have when they still don’t know their right hand from their left. “Free will” is what you and I have as adults. Children left to their “free will” are like abandoned, unloved children, because they don’t have parents with the faith to telegraph in every way the right direction for their lives to go.
Final word. Parents, ask yourselves if you are going to heaven. Are you confident of that? Is Jesus your constant companion? Are you daily guided by His wisdom? Does your love for and faith in God bubble up and overflow naturally so that it makes sense and works for your children? Is your faith undissimulated and unadulterated so there’s not an ounce of doubt in your children’s minds that it’s real? Telegraph real faith and telegraph that your children are going to walk with God. Have in your mind that there’s no excuse for failure. We parents have an important job with eternal consequences. And I’m serious that every parent is communicating the “point B” they intend to take their children. Just make sure that in every way you are pointing your children to walk with Christ.
God bless you. Dan Mayfield
The following is from our third child, Heidi Cooley, the middle of our five children. It is her response to this post of mine:
Hi, I am Dan Mayfield’s daughter, the third of 5 children. I wanted to step in and give my perspective hoping to diffuse a little bit of the hurt feelings I see in some of the posts. My parents had 5 kids who could not have been more different in our personalities and in the ways that we needed to be disciplined. We were all very different. I was the most trying of all of the children since I hear the most about “Heidi” stories. However, there were a few constants in my family that wove all of us and our individual needs and personalities to a strong, unbreakable relationship with God. We had parents who loved God with ALL of their hearts. We knew without a shadow of a doubt where they stood on every issue because they were rock solid in their teaching and beliefs. We never missed a chance to be with Christians unless we were sick. We heard the name of God on the lips of my parents when they woke and when they walked along the way. It was constant. But more than words was our ability to see through the words to a genuine and humble heart of parents who were not perfect but who were following Someone(God) who was perfect. They never gave up on us. They were relentless in their checking up on where we were and what we were doing. At the time it was a little annoying as a teenager but now I see why they did it. As teenagers you don’t see the big picture. You see the here and now but thankfully we had parents who had a close watch on us and many prayers for wisdom and guidance going up on our behalf. With 5 kids, and just the luck of the draw you will lose some of them. With 5 kids and the determination and love my parents had for us and mostly for God, you will succeed. I am about to have my third child and if I believed for one second that there was a roll of the dice happening for their salvation I would be scared to death. I would probably stop having kids so that my odds would be better. There are a lot of half hearted Christians I personally know who have one foot in the world and another in the Church. Now some may say that they did everything they could to guide their children to God but seeing their children grow I will know otherwise. None of this is meant in judgment of anyone. It is a loving reminder that we have to KNOW as parents that we will do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. Pray and trust in God to lead the way.