Parenting Advice: Balance
Being a father of five sons (ages 11 to 1) gives me plenty of opportunities to reflect upon my successes and failures as a parent. The Lord has blessed Ranae and me richly with these precious ones, but I know the heavy responsibility that is mine--particularly the approaching teenage years and the transition into adulthood (suddenly changing diapers isn't so hard after all!). I am not a perfect parent, though I strive to do the best I can. I try to be proactive rather than reactive. I try to learn from others, avoiding their mistakes and emulating their successes. I try to lead my family by the Scriptures. I suppose decades from now the fruit that is produced in the lives of my adult sons (whether it be good or bad) will be a stronger testimony to my success or failure as a father than anything I might suggest here. Nevertheless, I'd like to share some thoughts now that have been on my mind lately regarding balance. Perhaps they will be of some use to you.

Balance is vitally important in parenting, and achieving a proper balance is a perpetual challenge. It is easy to go overboard with various extremes in either direction as parents, whether it be sheltering our children too much or not sheltering them enough, being overly strict or letting them run wild, never being away from them or being gone far too often, etc. Ultimately, God puts the responsibility in the father's hands for the upbringing of children. He must train them in the way of the Lord (cf. Eph. 6:4). Each father must decide for his family (and give account to God) for the decisions he makes on various aspects of balance within the home. Scripture sets forth general guiding principles but working out the details is something parents must prayerfully consider, always being willing to adjust as necessary. And certainly, a proper balance with the above issues will be different for a 5-year-old than for a 15-year-old. The fact that children are ever-changing and growing up is what makes it difficult.

In my opinion, balance is about keeping the ultimate parenting goal in mind at all times, which is this: we want--above all else--to rear children who are faithful to Christ. Good parents will have many goals for their children, but this one is supreme. Certain aims may be abandoned or set aside for a season, but never this one! A child who is faithful to Christ is one who has the heart of a servant and is seeking first God's kingdom and righteousness (cf. Matt. 6:33) because he wants to--not just because mom & dad want him to (and there is a huge difference!). You won't achieve this goal, however, and your child will never be ready to go out and face the world on his own if you fail to gradually transfer more and more responsibility and decision-making to him with each passing year. Treating your teenager like an elementary school child is a recipe for failure. I am aware of children from strong, Christian homes who rebelled once they were out from under the iron-hand of their parents. Mom & dad set them up to fail (though not intentionally) by sheltering far too long, being overly strict, and never allowing them to make a decision or a mistake. Children that grow up in this type of environment will find it difficult to have their own faith because their parents dictate everything. The appearance of a strong home is maintained by means of strict authority and discipline, but the family is not close. As adulthood is approached, there is much resentment and anger between this child and his parents, and not nearly enough compassion and understanding. These children find freedom for the first time at college or living on their own, and they aren't equipped to handle it. This sort of approach is imbalanced and is unlikely to achieve the ultimate parenting goal.

On the other hand, the ultimate parenting goal won't likely be achieved if parents aren't mindful of the real dangers that are present in the world today (cf. I Pet. 5:8), and do not take appropriate steps to protect, educate, and lead their children away from sin in its manifold forms (cf. I John 2:15-17). I have seen parents who are too permissive and naive or simply too busy and uninvolved in their child's life. Their parenting approach is imbalanced. Children can easily get sucked into pornography or other forms of worldliness in their pre-teen and teenage years and some parents are irresponsible by not being around enough or by merely hoping their child will turn out okay (friends, hope is good, but it's not a plan for success!). Some parents forget about the ultimate parenting goal in the busyness of life and shift their family focus to temporal aims (e.g., paying off debt, getting a promotion, buying a new vehicle, planning a great vacation, etc.). They may encourage their children to be high achievers when it comes to academics, sports, or other extra curricular activities, but they fail to nurture spiritual excellence (though the potential is certainly there; cf. Matt. 13:22). Consequently, the hearts of their children are with the world, not the Lord. These children may be great successes in worldly terms, but they are lukewarm spiritually (cf. Rev. 3:15ff). This sort of approach is imbalanced and is unlikely to achieve the ultimate parenting goal.

We will share some additional advice on parenting in our next lesson.