Do you ever tremble at the incredible responsibilities on your shoulders as a parent?
On one hand, you are called to protect the tender hearts and minds of your children, and on the other, you are trying to do so in a terribly perverse society and while exercising faith in God.
How do you balance both?
I preached a recent message on the love and trust Jocabed showed as Moses’ mom, and in it, I highlighted five commands from Scripture for parents regarding protecting their children. (You can see that excerpt from the message here.)
Although only God can give you the wisdom you need for specific situations, there are several clear instructions in Scripture regarding the protection parents are responsible to give their children:
1. Set boundaries.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.—Ephesians 6:1
God has vested authority into His institutions—including the family. As the parent, you are responsible to provide boundary-setting authority for your children.
Exactly where to set those boundaries calls for discernment, agreement between spouses, and faith. But to have little to no boundaries for your children (or to neglect to enforce the boundaries you’ve set) is to leave them without the protection God designed them to have.
Remember, God did not call you to be your child’s peer and best friend, but his dad or mom. Be a parent who builds fences of protection, even if your child doesn’t always appreciate it. It is up to you to say, “This is how it is” regarding what friends your child will have, Internet limits, respect to adults, homework, etc.
The exact boundaries may vary from home to home, but no boundaries points to an uninvolved parent who is too weak to protect the most valuable entrustment they’ve been given—their child’s heart.
2. Give warning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.—Proverbs 1:7
For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.—Proverbs 4:3–5
Some parents fear that if they set and enforce boundaries, their children will hate them. In reality, rules never hurt a child—so long as they are given with love.
Strictness does not ruin children; harshness does. So give guidelines, and don’t let your children cross them. But hold the boundaries in love.
No warnings and no enforcement of guidelines breeds insecurity in the hearts of children. But guidelines enforced with love instill confidence and assurance in their hearts.
3. Set an example.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.—2 Timothy 1:5
“Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work in parenting. God wants us as parents to live the example.
The greatest gift you can give your child is a godly example. Don’t just tell them the way—show them the way. Let them see in your life what it means to love God, love your family, work diligently, show gratitude, walk in purity, serve others, and every other value you want to instill in their hearts.
4. Be wise to that which is good.
For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.—Romans 16:19
Nothing burdens my heart more than to hear a little child curse or to hear a teenager use a vulgar innuendo.
Children today are losing their innocence at an alarmingly young age. Protect the innocence of the children in your home. Teach them wisdom concerning the good, and keep them simple concerning evil.
5. Teach the Word of God.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.—Deuteronomy 6:6–7
Some families are so addicted to screens or so busy in their schedules that there is no family life let alone devotional times.
Yet, teaching your children the Word of God is the most important aspect of your responsibility as a parent. This is why God instructs you to “teach them diligently.”
This calls for being engaged with your children when you are with them. It means as you go about your day, you point their hearts and minds to God’s Word: “Look at that sunset. God sure is an awesome Creator.” “What does the Bible say about how Jesus would want you to answer that friend who was mean to you?”
It may mean singing about the Lord as you drive to school. It certainly means having a family devotional time with prayer and reading God’s Word. But in any case, it requires being engaged and intentional.
Protect What’s Valuable
As a pastor, I grow weary of hearing parents abdicate their responsibility with statements such as, “Well, they’re going to be exposed to that someday; they may as well be exposed to it now.”
Every parent who cares about their children protects them physically. Why then do parents neglect protecting their children’s hearts and minds? If you don’t let your children run into a busy street, why would you give them unlimited, unfiltered access to the Internet? If you put a lock on your cabinet with cleaning chemicals, why would you allow your children to hang out with friends you don’t know?
Remember, God made you the protector of your child. If you neglect to provide authority and boundaries, there is no one else who will. Give their hearts and minds the protection they need while at the same time shaping their thoughts and building their discernment with the truths of God’s Word.