If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
“If” – Rudyard Kipling (1895)
What Christian parent does not hope against hope that their progeny will rise to the nobility and virtue of these words? Written more than 120 years ago, Rudyard Kipling’s poem has captivated the hearts of parents for over a century. “If“…could a more fitting name be given to such a poem? One can hardly read this text and neglect to notice how much is wrapped up in “if“. If this, then this: that is the pattern we see unfolding as we read. Good old Cause and Effect! How can I raise my child to understand this?
As parents, we long for the reassurance that our efforts are worthwhile. That we’re not completely messing this whole parenting gig up. That our son won’t turn out to be some devious ladies man. That our daughter won’t end up another teen pregnancy statistic. That our children won’t end up living under a bridge snorting cocaine. “Father, please!” we pray in desperation, “I’m so weak and pathetic in my efforts. I don’t want to lose my baby to the world. Can you help me to get this right?”
Our Lord is more than willing to help us as parents…but He won’t mollycoddle us. He’s not going to reach down and zap obedience and good sense into our children so that we can sleep better at night. The fact is, the majority of the weight falls on us as parents.
Proverbs 29:17 admonishes: Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.
Just recently, I read this passage with a new set of eyes. He shall give thee rest. I can not believe I’ve never read this in the literal sense before. If we are diligent in “correcting” our children, no more sleepless nights! No more senseless worrying! No more throwing up our hands and crying out in anguish over the souls of our offspring! Our children will literally give us rest…because we can rest easy with the delightful child we have invested in.
So how do we go about this correcting? Resting easy sounds all well and good, but what do you do when correcting doesn’t appear to have any effect? What do you do when you’ve spanked, grounded, threatened, guilt-tripped, etc. and you’re still not seeing any real results?
Many times, when we think of correcting our children, we think of punishing them. While there is a time and place for punishment, that is not going to be the focus of today’s lesson. What I want is for us to leave our pre-conceived notions at the door, and consider what correcting really means. A quick dictionary search tells me the definition of the verb “correct” is: to put right. To rectify. To remedy. To repair. The definition of the original Hebrew word in Proverbs 29:17 (yasar) includes, but is not limited to: admonishing, disciplining, instructing, teaching, training…as you can see, there is more to correcting than merely punishing. Correcting demands diligence. It demands proactivity. It demands a lifestyle.
For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. – Proverbs 3:12
There are three things our children need from us if they are going to grow up to be sons and daughters that give us rest. I hope that these three tips I am going to share with you today will assist you in your very own preparation of progenies…
1. Children Need Our Time.
Time is one of the most valuable assets a parent can offer to their child. From the moment a child is born, the physical demands for his parents’ time are obvious. Babies need fed, held, changed…everybody knows these simple facts. Yet the needs of a child don’t end with physical contact and care. A growing child’s mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing also utterly depend on time spent with parents.
“Daddy, watch this!”…”Momma, look what I can do!”…”Daddy, can I hold the screwdriver?”…”Momma, will you read me a story?”
Children crave our time…their pleas for attention and affection make this abundantly clear. However, fathers and mothers have become busier than ever in the present day rat race. How can we fit Junior into our busy day? How can we not lose sight of our precious progeny in the midst of the chaos?
First of all, something needs to be said about priorities…let’s be honest. Sometimes the truth of the matter is that Dad and Mom aren’t so busy as they are poor time managers…
Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity. – La Bruyere, Characters (1688)
If time with your son or daughter is lacking, the first thing you’ll want to ask yourself is, “what non-essentials can I cut to spend more time investing in my kid?” Am I working excessively to the detriment of my child? Am I selfishly spending too much time with my own hobbies? Am I investing too much time in an outside ministry that leaves my own home in shambles? An honest look at priorities is illuminating.
Sometimes priorities are in check, yet your schedule truly leaves little leeway for free time to spend with your offspring. In this situation, remember this popular but important phrase: quality over quantity. Make every moment with your little man or woman count…
• When they speak or show you something, don’t merely nod your head with a “that’s nice, dear” sort of response. Look your child in the eye, smile genuinely, and offer a sincere word of praise. This will go a long way in warming your child’s heart to you.
• Even if you only have a little time, spend it doing something your child loves to do. Twenty minutes a day spent playing a game or roughhousing on the floor can take you from “absentee parent” to “best dad/mom in the world!”
• Sometimes something as simple as inviting your child alongside you in your simple activities can make them feel special…”I’m going downstairs to grab something out of the freezer, wanna come along?” You may be surprised at how fast their faces light up and they come running! They just want to be near you, parents.
He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length. – Proverbs 29:21
This passage shows us the importance of time and affection given to a child. These two ingredients can either make or break a relationship. I have heard it said that “he who has the heart has the child”. Who has your child’s heart? If we are not diligent in taking the time to cultivate strong bonds with our children, we will lose their hearts to someone who will.
Children that miss out on time from Dad and Mom are far more likely to neglect the faith as they grow. After all, if we didn’t give a second thought to them, what makes us think they will give a second thought to our God?
…a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. – Proverbs 29:15b
On the flip side, a child who has time lavished upon them by a Christian parent will hardly be able to help being influenced toward a bright and shining future for the Lord.
Time makes more converts than reason. – Thomas Paine, Introduction to Common Sense (1776)
Prepare your progeny with the gift of time.
2. Children Need Our Training.
If we intend on having children who will rise up to be men and women of God, it’s going to take a whole lot of training. I know this may come as a surprise to some, but children do not train themselves. I say this tongue in cheek, but sadly, many children are left to their own devices in life…and the consequences are not pretty. Children are foolish by nature (see Proverbs 22:15). This is not an insult, but it is a fact! “Foolish” can be defined as “lacking good sense or judgment/unwise”, and certainly these are true of children. They are relatively new to this thing called “life”, and it is the job of parents to show them in the way they ought to go.
And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. – Exodus 18:20
There are three simple truths in this passage…
• We are to guide our children’s lifestyle.
• We are to guide our children’s leisure.
• We are to guide our children’s labor.
In other words: train them to love the Lord, train them to make good use of their time, and train them to work diligently! If we can accomplish these things, we have a pretty great chance at raising up Christians. Easier said than done, right?! How can we do this?
We lead by example.
In the Bible, Luke says that he wrote his gospel to show us…“of all that Jesus began to do and teach”. (Acts 1:1b) Keeping our own parenting in mind, consider the following excerpt from a child rearing book concerning this passage:
Notice the sequence. First Jesus did, then he taught. Every effective parent does likewise. Children seldom internalize the teaching of hypocrites. But the teaching of those who live what they preach pierces deeply into our children’s hearts.” – William P. Farley, Gospel-Powered Parenting: How The Gospel Shapes And Transforms Parenting (2009)
Want your child to love the Lord? Love the Lord.
Want your child to make good use of their time? Make good use of your time.
Want your child to work diligently? Work diligently.
First he wrought, and afterwards he taught. – Chaucer, “Prologue”, The Canterbury Tales (1387-1400)
Now, hear me out (this part is key): Our children must be included in these activities to internalize them.
Is your child going to learn to love God simply because you are reading your bible while they are outside playing football? Is your child going to learn to crave wholesome hobbies as you knit and they beat each other over the head with a stick in the other room? Is your child going to learn the value of hard work while they sit in front of the television as you mop the floor? No, no, and no. Observation alone can not do the job of training. Rather, training comes from a healthy mix of observation and participation.
Read the bible with your children. Invite them to sit on your lap and let them try knitting a few stitches. Show them how to mop a floor, even if it takes twice as long. Like Jesus, first show them how it’s done, and then let them give it a go! When we do such things as these, we are investing in our children’s future. We are raising adults who will thrive.
My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. – Proverbs 23:26
Prepare your progeny with the gift of training.
3. Children Need Our Teaching.
Teaching is the final step for preparing your progeny. Now hear me out, parents: it is crucial that this step be used in conjunction with the other two steps, or it will be rendered completely useless. (Remember Jesus’ sequence in the previous point?) Children are not apt to hear the teaching of one who has given them little to no time or training. Honestly…who can blame them?
I maintain in truth, /That with a smile we should instruct our youth, /Be very gentle when we have to blame, /And not put them in fear of virtue’s name. – Moliere, The School For Husbands (1661)
Children learn best from a parent that they know is in their corner. I know from experience with my own two progenies that the more time and training I give to them, the more willing they are to soak up the words of teaching that I speak. Yet just as time and training must precede teaching; teaching must succeed time and training. All are necessary for our children’s Christian development, and must be taken as a whole (in their proper order). To neglect even one will be a great detriment to your child’s growth.
Do you want your children to be established in life? Do you want them to have peace? Do you want them to be fearless? Let me tell you how:
…all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. – Isaiah 54:13-14
Did you catch that? If you want your kids to grow up to be established individuals with great peace and fearlessness, make sure they are “taught of the Lord” – for He is the only legitimate source of these blessings! Only in Him will they find ultimate success and freedom.
So how do we go about teaching our children? Well, in the spirit of Deuteronomy 6:7, we will teach them whenever and wherever! We will strive to bring God “down to earth” in ways our children can understand at their current level. Science is one of the best ways to reveal God’s majesty to your progeny. You don’t have to be a certified teacher for this one – simply grab some books from your local library and check out God’s amazing creation with your child. From the human body, to the animal kingdom, to unique plant life, to fantastic natural landforms…nature is an excellent tool to speak to the power of our Almighty Creator. (Romans 1:20) Another way to teach your child about God in a practical way is to teach them the principle of cause and effect. Help them to understand the consequences of sin, and the blessings found in righteousness. Constantly look for ways to contrast a life outside of Christ, versus a life in Christ. You might be surprised at how quickly young people can spot the difference and choose to root for the latter. My final tip is simply to read God’s word with your child on a regular basis. There is no substitute for the saving power found within its pages!
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. – Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
Prepare your progeny with the gift of teaching.
Do you wish to see your very own progeny prepared for a bright future in Christ? Wish no longer. You have the keys for unlocking your child’s full potential, parents. Give them your time, give them your training, give them your teaching. Put in the effort now, and you just might find yourself the delighted parent of that notable man (or woman) that Rudyard Kipling’s poem spoke of, in the years to come. God chose you for the preparation of your progenies, and He will see you through if you trust in Him and faithfully put your parenting hand to the plow. Purpose today to be the parent you were born to be! You can do this, friends.
And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. – Hebrews 2:13
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.