Parental Integrity

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How do you, as a parent, pass on your faith to the next generation? One of the reasons that the Lord’s church is not growing as fast as it once did, is the loss of our own children either to the world or to false religion.  Is there anything that can be done to change this?  Where would we begin?
Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, on the basis of their groundbreaking National Study of Youth and Religion data, say, “Contrary to misguided cultural stereotypes and frequent parental misconceptions, we believe that the evidence clearly shows that the single most important social influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents” (Vern Bengtson, Familes and Faith, p. 7).
Parents have the responsibility to nurture the souls of their children for eternity with God in heavenly places.  Abraham is a good example.  God trusted Abraham in the parenting task. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19).  God knew that Abraham would command (lead, teach, train) his children to love, fear and follow God.  God knew Abraham would lead his family to do justice and judgment (what is right in the sight of God).
Parents must examine themselves.  Below are three questions to get started:
First, What do you know about God and His truth?  Your knowledge of God is the content of what you will teach your children about God.  If your knowledge is insufficient, what will you tell your children about God?
Second, What do you believe about God and the truth?  Knowledge and belief are not the same thing.  However, faith is based upon knowledge of God’s Word (Rom. 10:17).  My faith is my own acceptance of what God Himself has revealed in His Word.
Third, What is your character?  Does your character match God’s truth?  This is the beginning of integrity.  Integrity involves the integration of my faith (which comes from God’s Word) into every aspect of my life.
The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy.  If I, as a parent, do not practice what I know to be right, I will fail as a parent in guiding my children in the pathway of righteousness.
When we ask, “how do we pass our faith on to the next generation?”, we must also ask, “what type of faith do I have now?”
Is my faith weak or strong?  Is it authentic or fake?  Is it little or great?
Parental integrity demands that I embrace all of God’s will for my life and not just pick and choose what I think is appropriate.
Parental integrity demands that parents who know the truth apply it in the discipline of their children.  Parents who know the truth and then permit their own children to disobey it will fail.
Parental integrity demands that when we teach our children that God comes first, then, when conflicts arise with worldly activities, we say no to those activities and demonstrate that love for God is supreme.
Hypocrisy will defeat the very goal of parenting:  to nurture the souls of our children in the paths of righteousness so that they will come to know God and love Him and desire to be with Him forever.
The parenting task is a soul-winning task.  Parents must be converted to Christ and committed and consecrated to Him before they can be successful in leading their children to God.

The Importance of Love in Parenting

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Researchers have discovered that one of the most important elements involved in transmitting one’s faith to children is emotional bonding or love.  Within tight-knit religious traditions, the chances of passing on faith are highly dependent on the quality of parent-child relationships.  This may run counter to advice about effective religious socialization in these communities that emphasize parental piety as the crucial factor–setting a good example, teaching the right beliefs and practices, and keeping strictly to the law.  Without emotional bonding, this is not sufficient for transmission.  A distant or non-affirming parent-child relationship–particularly with the father–is a catalyst for conversion to another faith or dropping out of religion altogether (Families and Faith, pp. 78-79).
Emotional bonding involves feelings of love and warmth.  A child must feel connected to his/her parents in a meaningful way.  Cold, distant, authoritarian parenting or ambivalent or mixed-messaging parenting (sometimes cold sometimes warm) is not sufficient.  Strained or preoccupied parenting won’t work either.  This occurs when parents are distracted by marital, financial, health or substance abuse problems.  The bond of love must be real and must be felt strongly in both the parent and the child.  Parents should read I Cor. 13:1-13 to learn how to love in a dynamic and effective way.  Authentic love must be shown in a personal and impactful way in the home.
The gender of the parent also plays a significant role in religious transmission.  Having close emotional bonds with the father is strongly associated with transmission of one’s faith to the next generation.  Fathers must lead spiritually in the home.  “And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).  Fathers must take the lead in demonstrating love for mom and for children in the home.  Love must be more than lip-service.  Love must be communicated both verbally and through concrete actions that leave no doubt about the strength of the emotional connection.  Through authentic love and fidelity to God parents have the greatest opportunity to transmit their faith to the next generation.

Eli’s Failure

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Eli was high priest at the time that Hannah and her husband Elkanah dedicated Samuel to the service of the Lord.  This was during the time of the judges in Israel.  Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  Both of them served in the priesthood.  However, they were evil men.  First, the Scriptures refers to them as sons of Belial and states that they knew not the LORD.  Second, they abused the sacrifices and took more for themselves than the Law permitted.  Third, they committed fornication with the women that assembled at the door of the congregation (I Sam. 2:22).  Eli rebuked them for their sin, but he did not restrain them (stop them from serving in the priesthood).
A man of God (unnamed) came to Eli and prophesied against him because he permitted his sons to do evil things without restraining them.  The prophet predicted that Eli’s house would be cut off.  The sign would be that Hophni and Phinehas would be killed in the same day.  Samuel’s first prophecy (I Sam. 3:1-10) confirmed the previous prophecy from the man of God.  God revealed His judgment against Eli and his house through Samuel.
Eli’s failure involved at least four things.  First, he rebuked his sons, but he did not restrain them.  Eli rebuked his sons, but they did not listen to him.  Eli should have removed them from the priesthood. Did his familial ties keep him from doing the right thing?  Eli’s failure to restrain his sons was detrimental to their spiritual relationship with God.  While he may have thought he could preserve his familial ties, he sacrificed something greater–their souls. Second, Eli failed to honor God.  Part of the indictment against Eli was that he honored his sons before God (I Sam. 2:29).  God said through the prophet, “Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (I Sam. 2:30).  Eli failed to honor God and God no longer honored him.  To honor is to hold in high esteem, to value or to favor.  Eli showed more respect for his evil sons that he did a holy God!  Third, Eli failed to uphold God’s Word.  Eli knew the law of God, but he did not uphold it.  To uphold it, he had to defend righteousness and put away evil even if it meant putting his own sons out of the priesthood.  To know what is right and fail to do it is sin.  Eli’s sons caused others to devalue righteousness and elevate and normalize evil.  They were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel.  To whom much is given, much is required.  Fourth, Eli failed to put God first.  When it comes to family or God, God must come first.  When it comes to a job or God, God must come first.  God does not accept second place in our hearts.  When we put other things ahead of God we make an idol out them.  When Eli honored his sons above God, he made an idol out of his own family.
Eli’s failure cost him his sons, his reputation, and his family’s future service in the priesthood. When you or I fail God, we lose.  That’s a huge lesson.


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John White discusses the important topic of relinquishment in his book, Parents in Pain.  Relinquishment is the remedy for parents who are co-dependent.  To relinquish our children is to set them free.  The earlier we relinquish them the better.  If we unthinkingly view them as objects designed for our pleasure and happiness, we may destroy their freedom.  In the process, we may cripple ourselves.  Having made our children necessary to our happiness, we can so depend on them that we grow incapable of managing without them (p. 164).
What is relinquishment?  First, consider what it is not.  It is not avoiding our parental responsibilities.  Nor is it failure to teach respect and gratitude.  It is not abandonment of our authority as a parent.  Neither does it mean to abandon our children.
Second, consider what it is.  Relinquishment is giving our children back to God.  It means to release those controls that arise from needless fears or from selfish ambition.  Have you ever met a super controlling mother or father?  Sometimes we call them “helicopter” moms or dads.  They hover over every little detail of their children’s lives.  They live vicariously through their children.  Their happiness is so intertwined with their children that they cannot imagine life without them.  They manipulate their children out of their own needs and fears.  White lists eight aspects of relinquishment that every parent should consider.  I have intermingled some of my own thoughts with his ideas.  These concepts must be considered with regard to the age of our children.  Parenting involves a progession from the total dependence of our children on us when they are first born to their independence as functioning adults.  As parents navigate this transition, they must continually change and help their children grow to maturity.
(1)  Relinquishment means to forsake the right to be proud.  It is normal to want children you can be proud of (rejoice in), but you do not have the right to demand that they fulfill your dreams.  Some parents want to realize in their children’s lives what they failed to realize in their own.  Parents must learn to admit and control their own anxieties and fears.  They must control their jealousy in the presence of parents whose children have succeeded where theirs have failed.  They must learn to boast in God’s goodness and the privilege of being parents rather than their own parenting prowess.
(2)  Relinquishment means to give up the right to uninterrupted enjoyment of  your children.  Children bring both joy and pain.  We can poison enjoyment unless we are prepared to relinquish our right to it.  One father attempted to buy the affection of his children.  He purchased summer cottages by a lake for them so they would be close to him.  His children agreed to the arrangement thereby selling their independence.  He had clipped their wings.  They could not soar because his happiness was tied to them.  We cannot demand that our children contribute unselfishly to our happiness.  We do not have that right.  Joy in our children is a privilege not a right.  If I have thought it was a right, I must relinquish it.
(3)  Relinquishment means to give up my right to possess my children.  Parents do not and must not own their children.  Some parents cling to their children and make unbelievable demands on them.  A widow clung to her daughter until the age of 30.  She made demands on her daughter.  She told her she had to stay with her.  She made her obey her.  She told her daughter the tasks she had to carry out, the clothing she was allowed to wear and the time she could leave the house.  This is an example of parental abuse.  Parents must let go.
(4)  Relinquishment means to be willing to forego any repayment for what you have done for your children.  Parents sometimes make their children feel guilty for all that they (the parents) have done for them.  The apostle Paul teaches that parents lay up for the children not children for the parents (II Cor. 12:14).  Love freely gives expecting nothing in return.  Teach your children to be grateful, but do not demand gratitude.  Gratitude must be freely given as an act of love.  The heart must be free to express this love.  Parents, renounce your right to birthday cards, presents, Christmas gifts, anniversary surprises, etc.  If you demand these things, it will poison your relationship with your child.
(5)  Relinquishment means to give up your right to uninterrupted tranquility.  To have children means that you will almost always have problems.  The problems may be large or small.  They will arise when you least expect them.  They happen without regard to your plans, convenience, health, or finances.  Give up your pride.  Give up your immunity from gossip.  You can control your own behavior, but you cannot control the behavior of your children.
(6)  Relinquishment means to trust God about your children rather than your own ability to manage their lives.  Wise counsel is just that.  You cannot control your children’s decisions or force your will on them.  God does not control us like that.  Give them up to God.  If they give up on God, God will give them over to uncleanness, vile affections, and a  reprobate mind (Rom. 1:18-32).  Every sinner mentioned in the Bible was someone’s son or daughter.  All need Christ, because all need to be forgiven.  Imperfect parents do not raise perfect children.  Teach them God’s will and exemplify it to them daily.  By doing this, you can sow principles of truth and righteousness in their hearts, but you cannot force them to be righteous.  Every person must come to God on the same terms:  love and faith.  Don’t underestimate the power of God, the power of truth, the power of the love of Christ, or the power of hope.  It is not your power as a parent that will save them it is God’s.
(7)  Relinquishment means to allow your children to face pain, tragedy and even death.  Parents must allow children to face the consequences of their own choices and actions.  You reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7-9).  You cannot protect your children from themselves.  Some parents never let go.  A child can be in his/her mid-thirties and have been married and divorced  yet, parents still cover misdemeanors, court expenses and bouncing checks.  To relinquish your children is to let them face life for themselves.
(8)  Relinquishment is a giving up of your own delusions about your power.  Parents must give up the delusion that they have the power to determine the destinies of their children.  Sometimes we think that we can make our children different, accelerate their development, change their habits, likes or dislikes, but this is a waste of energy.  They feel the power we attempt to exert on them and resent it.  They feel unaccepted.  When we attempt to change our children through sheer force of will we usually end up in a battle of wills.  Parents will lose this type of warfare.  The greatest power parents have is love.  Unleash the power of love in  your home and you will see a difference.
Hannah relinquished much (I Sam. 1:1-2:11).  She gave up her right to possess Samuel.  She gave up her right to enjoy his early years.  She gave up her right to be proud before her rival, Peninnah.  She gave up her right to control Samuel.  She gave up her right to be repaid for all of her tears.  She did not know that her son would change the destiny of Israel.  She gave him up to God.  The fashioning of such a man was the work of God.  Parents are intruments of God to teach, guide, influence, and love their children for His glory.  But, all parents will ultimately give their children over to God.  Their children will either stand in God’s redeeming love or face His wrath.  In the end, children will choose and define their own relationship with God just like we did and do.  That’s the way it is with every person that comes into the world.

Parental Burnout

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     James Dobson cites Dr. Joseph Procaccini and Mark Kiefaber on the topic of parental burnout in his book, Parenting Isn’t For Cowards.  Procaccini and Kiefaber identify five progressive steps of parental burnout.  They are:
     1.     “Gung-Ho” –stage one.  This stage is the new parent who determines to be “superparent.”  Everything focuses on the children.  Parents deny themselves in order to provide everything they think their children need and then some.  This parent is headed for burnout because he/she is expending more energy than is available to burn.  When parents fail to take time to rest and renew their energy levels, they are headed for burnout.
     2.     Stage two is “persistent doubts.”  At stage two, parents know something is wrong, but haven’t quite figured out what it is.  They are often drained and fatigued and wonder why they are tired all the time or depressed.
     3.     Stage three is called the transition stage.  This is a crucial point in the parenting process.  Parents either recognize the downward path they are on and make changes to reverse it, or they will continue their plunge toward chaos (p. 136).  Parents experience fatigue, self-condemnation, great anger, and resentment.  For the first time parents openly blame their kids for their discontent.
     4.     Stage four is identified as “pulling away.”  In this stage, the parent withdraws from the family and becomes unavailable to the children (p. 137).  Fantasies of “slinging the brat against the wall” or “bashing him good” may occur in this angry parent.  This is one step removed from physical abuse and is a dangerous point.
     5.     Stage five is called “chronic disenchantment.”  It is characterized by confusion and apathy.  The individual has lost all meaning and purpose in living.  Identity is blurred.  Serious problems are imminent.      
     Parenting is challenging.  Parents must learn to use the resources available to them in order to cope with the demands of parenting. Beginning September 5, I will be teaching a class on Biblical Principles for Practical Parenting at the Church of Christ, 5626 Groveport Rd., Groveport, Ohio.  You can access the church’s web page from this site.  Just click on Church of Christ under “Blogroll.”

Setting Boundaries

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     Allison Bottke has written a good book on setting boundaries with adult children.  The book deals with adult children who are not being responsible for their own lives.  She uses an acrostic to present her message:  S-A-N-I-T-Y.  Some of the main thoughts she presents are as follows:
     S-     STOP.  Stop your own negative behavior. 
              1.  Enabling behavior.
              2.  Ignoring your own personal problems.
              3.  Being alone in your pain.
              4.  The flow of money.
     A-     ASSEMBLE.  Assemble a support group.
              1.  Self-help support groups.
              2.  Professionally run support groups.
              3.  Online support groups.
              4.  Codependent support groups.
              5.  Six-step SANITY support groups.
     N-     NIP.  Nip excuses in the bud.
              1.  I’m just too tired.
              2.  But mom, things are different today.
              3.  You just don’t understand.
              4.  I’ll start Monday.
              5.  It’s not my fault.
     I-     IMPLEMENT.  Implement rules and boundaries.
              1.  We are responsible to each other and to ourselves.
              2.  Responsibility and accountability are important.
              3.  You reap what you sow. 
     T-     TRUST.  Trust your instincts.
              1.  Trust whenever your gut tells you something is wrong.
              2.  Trust whenever your spiritual perceptions are alerted.
              3.  Don’t fail to listen to your conscience.
     Y-     YIELD.  Yield everything to God.
               1.  God is in control.
               2.  God is present with us.
               3.  Trust God and His Word.  God has answers.
               4.  God is greater than any enemy who would destroy us.
   (see the book by Allison Bottke, Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children).  The message of this book may help you manage irresponsible adult children in a scriptural manner.