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Starting Point: Keys to Unlocking Your Child’s Heart

Updated: May 14, 2019

By Michael and Tiffany Ross

While we all want childhood to be a carefree time for our kids, the world has become a more dangerous and stressful place. Gone are the days when it was safe for a kid to ride his bike endlessly up and down the street or disappear all day at a friend’s house. Tiffany and I cringe when we think about our twelve-year-old son walking home from school alone. While he’s a big, tough kid, some bigger threats lurk in our neighborhood.

“Dad, what’s a gangster?” he nonchalantly asked us when he was seven.

“Where’d you hear that word?” I asked, my heart skipping a beat.

“At school.”

“Was it in a book you’re reading—or a story your teacher shared?”

“Nope,” Christopher said. “This boy told me his brother is a gangster—and that he’s going to be one, too.”

I groaned. Here I thought moving from a city to a small town would protect my family from stuff exactly like this.

Remember the days when making the basketball team or the cheerleading squad was among a kid’s greatest challenges? But the world in which our son is growing up is filled with more insidious and unpredictable threats: kidnappers, shooters, terrorists, bullies (physical and virtual). . .and, yes, Midwest gangs. Every day he’s hit with repulsive messages that bombard him in cyberspace.

For some of his friends, life isn’t any better or safer on the home front. Financial uncertainty and joblessness have torn families apart. And there’s more, so much more: addictions, eroding values, gender confusion, “political correctness,” lukewarm faith. . .the list goes on and on. All this stuff chips away at the foundation of civilized society: the family unit.

Here’s how sociologist Daniel Yankelovich explains our plight:

Americans suspect that the nation’s economic difficulties are rooted not in technical economic forces (for example, exchange rates or capital formation) but in fundamental moral causes.

There exists a deeply intuitive sense that the success of a market-based economy depends on a highly developed social morality—trustworthiness, honesty, concern for future generations, an ethic of service to others, a humane society that takes care of those in need, frugality instead of greed, high standards of quality and concern for community.

These economically desirable social values, in turn, are seen as rooted in family values. Thus the link in public thinking between a healthy family and a robust economy, though indirect, is clear and firm.

1. Your kids want a deeper connection with you. They need to hear “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” and “I won’t give up on you.”

They need you to be there for them.

Most of all, they need you to guide them into a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. Many children are stressed. Many are anxious. Far too many feel constant pressure; now, more than ever, they need change. They long to be accepted by their peers, but most important, whether or not they’re in a place to admit it, they hunger for family support and connection.

2. They’re counting on you to teach them, protect them, and look after their well-being in this often frightening world. They need you to equip them to navigate life as Christ-followers, secure in their true identity and trusting in the promises of the one true God. My (Michael’s) mom did everything possible to shape me into a man who was ready to face the world with confidence. She planted seeds of faith in my life and sparked in me a vision for my future. The influence my mom had on my life was utterly irreplaceable—and it’s the same in your home.

Here are two key ways a parent influences the lives of their kids:

Parents Nurture the Abilities of Their Kids

When I was seventeen, Mom bought me a camera. On other occasions, she had given me a typewriter (encouraging the writer in me) and an oil painting set (sparking the artist in me). She seemed to zero in on my talents—then looked for ways to nurture and develop them.

Likewise, moms share with their husbands the important role of developing a child’s abilities. A parent is both a coach and a mentor.

A coach teaches, inspires, demands, encourages, pushes, and leads. Good coaches can create great performances in ordinary people. A mentor is a tutor and a model—a person who takes a special interest in the life of another. A mentor possesses the skill to teach and a willingness to do so.

Pause for a moment and think about your child. Who is this kid? What abilities has God given your child? Now think of ways that you can nurture those talents.

Please avoid a common mistake: Keep in mind that nurturing the abilities of your child doesn’t mean fitting your child into your ideal image of who you think he or she should be. Help your child to discover God’s will for his or her life, then encourage your child to strive for excellence.

Parents Plant Seeds of Faith

In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul writes: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Even though Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was Jewish, she had married a non-Jewish man who was hostile toward the things of the Lord. Timothy’s father would not even allow him to be circumcised (Acts 16:1–3). It appears that Eunice shouldered the entire responsibility of raising her son in the faith; she often thanked God for the support of her own mother, Lois. Right from her son’s childhood, she made sure that she taught him from God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:15), and Timothy ended up becoming a dedicated Jewish man.

Every godly parent is a Eunice to their kids. They set the spiritual tone and provide the example and instruction children need.

That seemingly clueless kid who leaves his dirty socks on the bathroom floor could one day change his generation for Christ (all because he has a God-fearing, praying parent). God is using you to mold your child’s character. And whether or not you realize it, your child is tuned in to what you’re teaching.

Each entry offers four creative ways to connect. . .

· Family Quest—easy-to-follow activities based on scripture

· Talk It Out—questions to get your child talking

· Parent-Child Connection—key points to cover and tips on leading a kid-friendly devotional lesson

· Talk to God—ideas for how you can pray together

© 2015 by Back to the Bible


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