"Stressed Out" part 5:
Surviving Your Child's Childhood
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 27, 2007

 

This morning, I’m going to talk about something I know nothing about. Not that that’s anything new, but at least I’m admitting it this time. Oh, I know about stress. I mean, we’re in this message series called Stressed Out, and I can talk about that because I’ve been stressed out. But there is one big area of stress that I have no experience in… and that’s parenthood. I don’t have kids, at least not yet. So perhaps I’m not qualified to speak on this subject. Maybe I don’t have the credibility to do that.

But I got to thinking… what if I waited until I was credible? Let’s see, I’d have to wait at least nine months before I could have a kid, I’d have to raise the kid through early childhood and up through the teenage years and on to college. I’d have to wait to see what kind of person they turned out to be before I could claim any credibility. And to really make sure, I’d have to wait until they got married, see how they treated their spouse, and watch them raise kids of their own to see if I taught them well enough to pass it on to the next generation. So at the earliest, I might have credibility in, what, 30 years?

Well, forget all that. I’m not going to wait until 2037, so I’m just going to take my chances today. Besides, I do have some experience since I’ve spent 15-16 years working with children and teenagers, I have a degree in youth ministry, I’ve worked in a nursery school, I’ve provided care for a couple different autistic children… I do have some experience with children and teens, just not as a parent. Plus, I had some pretty good parents of my own to learn from.

So if you’ll accept my disclaimer and let me talk about parenthood anyway, and how you can survive your kid’s childhood, then let’s get to it. Okay?

I want to give you six secrets for surviving your child’s childhood. And the first thing that I would say you need to do is…

 

Six Secrets for Surviving Your Child’s Childhood:

 

1. Establish a Spiritual Foundation for your Home

Sure, you’d expect me to say that. After all, I am a pastor and this is a sermon. But seriously, this will help to reduce stress within your family. How? Well, when you have a spiritual foundation for your home, there can be a unity in spite of all the other differences family members might have. There will be this one thing that you have in common. And that will contribute greatly toward the stability of the home.

A couple months ago we talked about how the Church is a kind of family. And we saw then that our common faith means that we can have unity even in spite of all the differences there are between people in the church. That’s true in the Church as a spiritual family, and it’s also true for your actual family. Having a spiritual foundation for your home will bring unity and reduce stress levels.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NLT)
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

Ephesians 4:3 (NLT)
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Doesn’t that sound good? Wouldn’t you want that for your home? So how do you establish a spiritual foundation? I’m glad you asked. You pray together. You talk about spiritual things and issues of faith. You buy what’s called a family devotional book with short readings for every day, and then you get together every morning or every evening and read it. Get into the Bible and apply the principles you find there to your family. Trust that God knows what He’s talking about.

And I’ve got to say this, too. Make sure you talk with your kids about their relationship with Jesus. Because going to church isn’t going to determine their eternity. Being a good person isn’t going to determine their eternity. Saying all the right things and doing all the right things isn’t going to determine their eternity. Having parents who love Jesus is not going to determine their eternity. Their eternity is going to be determined by whether or not they personally have a relationship with Jesus. God doesn’t have any grandchildren… your kids can’t inherit your faith. They have to receive Jesus by faith themselves. So talk with your kids about their relationship with Jesus. Make sure they understand who He is and invite them to decide for themselves if they will live for Him or not.

And by the way, don’t abdicate this responsibility to the Church. You have to talk with them. Sure, we’ll do our best to help. We’ll try to teach them about Jesus. We’ll invite them to receive Him into their lives. And that will make a difference. But you have the greatest opportunity to impact your kids in this area. We have what, 25 minutes with them each week in Sunrise Express? Sure, we have some influence, and maybe they will make some serious decisions here. But their greatest influences will be their friends, school, and you.

So use your influence to impact them where it really matters… their eternity. Establish a spiritual foundation for your home. Next…

 

2. Treasure your Children and Let Them Know It

You’ve got to treasure them. You’ve got to see them as a blessing, not a burden. Hey, when your kids know that you treasure them… that you love them, that you value them… then their self-esteem is going to be increased, they’ll be more confident, they’ll be more willing to cooperate with you, and there’s a good chance they’ll reciprocate and treasure you, too. And all that means that your family will operate more harmoniously which means less stress.

Psalm 127:3 (NLT)
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.

So how do you treasure them? How do you let them know it? You let them know it by showing it.

Remember that love is spelled T-I-M-E. So do things together. Quantity of time is important. Don’t cheat your kids of that time together with you.

Also, ask their opinion on things. And listen to them. Value their input, and take it into consideration when making decisions. That doesn’t mean you have to always do what they say… you don’t have to be ruled by them… but at least consider what they have to say. And once in a while, it wouldn’t hurt if a decision did go their way.

In Old Testament times, do you know one of the ways fathers showed their sons that they were treasured? They would give them a blessing. They would call their sons together and would pray over them, or tell them what he sees in their future, or declare their support and belief in them. You can read about Noah doing that, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… they all passed on a blessing to their sons.

I suspect that was a cultural thing, so I think it’d be appropriate for you to do it with daughters, too. Plus, it generally happened when the parent was old and about to die. But I would suggest that you do it now and take advantage of key moments in the life of your kids. You know, their first day of school… when they achieve something great… on birthdays… when they graduate from different classes… just sit down with them for a little while and speak some words of wisdom and encouragement into their lives.

In fact, if I can suggest a book, you might want to pick up a copy of a book called “The Blessing”, written by John Trent and Gary Smalley. There’s even a copy at the library that you can sign out.

 

3. Recognize Your Child’s Uniqueness

The truth is, all children are unique. They learn in different ways, they have different interests, they excel in some areas and struggle in others, their personalities are unique. And you need to recognize that, understand it, and appreciate it. It will affect how you communicate with them, how you teach them, how you discipline them and how you encourage them.

I’ve asked Chris Harris to help me out this morning by telling us how this has played out in his family. He’s going to tell us about some of the struggles he and Rosita have faced as parents, and he’ll give us one example in particular of how recognizing Calem’s uniqueness helped them to teach him.

 

CHRIS:

Why? Why? Why? Now? How about now? Right now? Now? But it takes too long to learn patience! But I didn’t do it… Kovu did. OK, maybe it wasn’t Kovu… must have been the monster in my closet.

It reminds me of the joke about the young family getting ready for a very long trip. The van is all packed, kids are buckled and they are pulling out of the driveway. As they do, the mother turns to face her two young ones in the back.

“We are going on a very long trip; so long, that it will be dark by the time we get to Grammy and Grampy’s. Dad and I do not want to hear a single peep asking if we are there yet. Understood?”

Both children nod their heads. 20 minutes down the road there’s a little voice in the back seat, “Mom, is it dark yet?”

Ahhhh, parenthood… I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and when it’s one of those days when I feel like I could trade it for just one Twinkie, I only have to look at Calem to see how much he has grown and the direction he’s headed. That’s when I take it all back and share the Twinkie with him.

Yes, believe it or not, there is stress involved with being a parent. It starts the minute you realize there’s going to be a new addition to the family. After mentally preparing to become a parent, telling the new grandparents that you need a bit of space once the baby comes home, teaching the grandparents what not to do with baby, working together as a team, remembering to be a team, getting up several times in the night, potty training, first day of school… well, I thought things were going to get easier as a parent as my boy grew. My reasoning, “Hey, he’s getting older and is able to do more for himself and is becoming more independent.”

Yes, all seemed to be going so well, until…

“Dad, Mom… I want to learn to ride my bike without training wheels.”

Ah-ha! OK! This is good. Alright! We’ll get out there everyday. Let’s take those training wheels off! Support him every step (or should I say peddle/fall) of the way! Right! Bonding time!

Right?

Welly, welly, well… independence shines through. With independence, comes learning styles. Yes, God made us all unique and different… and He made that very clear during this new adventure.

Last year, we (we being all three of us) gave it our best, but based on learning styles, it was stressful. Frustration levels reached maximum capacity at times as Rosita and I tried to explain how learning to ride a bike was like learning to walk, but Calem has always been one to want to run before learning to walk.

I remember one time when he nailed it… a straight line for a good 10 feet before he tipped, and even then, the tip was well executed as he planted one foot down and pretty much caught himself; however, the next attempt did not go so well. Remember, Calem wants to run before learning to walk. It takes too long to learn patience. He was mad that he didn’t go as far as last time, and to make things worse, he didn’t catch himself when tipping and completely spilled. He was fuming! I let go too soon, but he told me to let go. That same rock was always getting in his way… even though I threw that same rock as far as I could; it always seemed to keep coming back. The wind blew too hard; well, there’s just nothing Mom can do to stop the wind. Yes, tempers flared, rocks kept coming back and the wind continued to blow.

Day two: we all took a break. We kept trying, but stress levels always seemed to rise to levels that just took the fun out of learning for all of us and sucked the energy out of us as well. We kept trying though, but the stress could be felt even before the bike helmet was put on. Eventually, Calem stopped asking and we stopped persisting. No sense in pushing the matter. If he’s not ready, he’s just not ready

Let’s jump ahead to this year now. It has been three weeks. Calem is riding like a pro. He’s almost to the point where he can confidently take one hand off to wave as he passes by.

How did it work? What changed? First, Calem has put another notch on his year belt. Secondly, it helps to have a wife who knows kids inside-out and understands their learning styles. That, and she knows Calem really, really well… he enjoys the challenge of competition; the excitement of the win.

Rosita did up a chart. For every five 30 minute sessions of biking, Calem gets a sticker. After five stickers, he gets a bigger prize: something from the dollar store, a Happy Meal, triple allowance and finally, a bike accessory of his choice.

So, we have made it through this latest adventure that God put in front of us. Yes, stress was there throughout, but looking back, we all learned more about each other, we grew as a family, and yes… we learned the power of prayer.

So, all is getting back to a state of normality once again in the house of Harris, but I’m not fooling myself for one second that the stress is over. We have yet to face disappointment in test results, anxiety of completing the first big project, teenage years, learning to drive, first date, first break-up… you get the point. Parenthood can equal stress, but as a parent, I try to take it all in stride; one day at a time. I will not trade it for anything. The pros far out way any supposed cons. It is a gift and blessing; something to be cherished and nurtured daily.

Now, speaking of charts and prizes… I just need to get one more sticker and I can get a Happy Meal!

Thanks for your time.

 

Thanks, Chris. So you can see how even with something like learning to ride a bike, they had to adapt their teaching style to Calem’s unique personality. Before they did that, everyone was getting frustrated. But when they started to teach Calem how to ride the bike while at the same time taking into account his personality and learning style, it became much more enjoyable for everyone and they achieved success.

Just a couple other things about your child’s uniqueness…

You need to be careful not to expect your child to fulfill all your dreams. Let me give you an example. You hear of fathers all the time who had high hopes of making it big in, say, the NHL. But they never did. And so they put pressure on their own kid to excel and to make up for their own failure. If you have some failed dreams for yourself, don’t pressure your kids to make up for it. They have their own dreams. They have their own goals. Or at least, they will.

Plus, They have their own calling from God. Maybe you dreamed of your kid becoming a doctor. And that’s a noble profession. But if God calls them toward a different career in life, encourage them to pursue it. Whether it’s as a pastor, or a missionary, or a tap-dancer… if God calls them to something, encourage them to pursue it, even if it means they won’t have all the income or prestige or comforts that you wish for them.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

You’ll notice that this verse says to train a child in the way he should go. Not in the way you should go, or in the way you want them to go, but in the way he should go. And you can substitute the word “she” in there as well.

 

4. Understand that Change is a Necessary Part of Growing Up

Growing up is a process of maturing and self-discovery. Your kids are learning who they are and are hopefully getting a little wiser and gaining some clarity for what they want out of life and they’re discovering who God has made them to be. All of that means change. They’ll become more responsible. Their plans and their goals may change from time to time. They’ll gain the ability to make their own decisions. And there will come a time when they’ll require a better answer than “Because I told you so.”

You know one of the biggest changes that causes the greatest stress in families? Breaking away. As kids grow, they’re going to start to break away from their parents. They’re going to begin to assert some independence, and that’s a good thing. It’s a necessary thing. Your job is to not let it happen too fast, but to still let it happen. What the ideal rate is, I have no clue. But understand that they are going to break away, and that’s not a bad thing.

Now, there will be tension as they want to break away faster and you want to hold on longer. And the balance is someplace in the middle. There will be tension, and there will be stress. But as long as you understand what’s happening and understand that it’s normal, that should help you to cope with the stress and prevent it from getting the best of you.

Another change you’ll see is this: when a kid… let’s say a daughter… is a young child, they’re going to be fairly close to the parent of the same gender… in this case, the mother. But as they enter into adolescence, they’ll start to cross identify with the parent of the opposite gender… in this case, the father… and will become closer to them. And that can be a very difficult thing for the mother to suddenly not be the parent the daughter always relates to, or for the father to not be the parent the son relates to. But again, it’s just a natural part of growing up that helps prepare kids for dating and relating to the opposite sex. Can’t say it helped me a whole lot, but there you go.

The point is, change happens. Your darling little child will not always be your darling little child. They change. And so you have to change, too, in the way you see them and how you relate to them.

 

5. Provide Boundaries and Correction

Here’s something that becomes a hot topic from time to time. What rules do you have for your kids, and how do you discipline them when they break those rules?

We’re in an era right now where some people believe that you shouldn’t place and restrictions on children. I even know parents who refuse to say the word “no” to their kids. And I appreciate what they’re saying, but I think they’re wrong.

Rules are vital. Your child needs to know that there are boundaries, and that there are consequences for going beyond those boundaries. That’s true in real life, and children need to learn that within the context of the family.

And boundaries are important for other reasons, too. I asked around a little bit about what causes stress for parents. And one of the answers I got was, worrying about their safety. Well, you’ll never be able to guarantee their safety. But you can greatly increase their chances of being safe if you teach them about boundaries and if they learn that there are consequences for wrong actions.

I agree wholeheartedly with what it says in Proverbs…

Proverbs 13:24 (NLT)
Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

So you’ve got to discipline your children. Now, you should never retaliate and strike your child out of anger, but intentional, controlled, reasonable discipline is vital for your child’s development and understanding of how to operate in this world.

[After first sentence – In other words, don’t mistreat them, don’t abuse them, don’t be too restrictive. Don’t be harsh and unreasonable. Don’t rule your home like a tyrant.]

Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

So don’t mistreat them, but you do still need to discipline them and correct them.

Oh, and by the way, as they grow and as they mature… as they become more independent and more responsible and wiser… some of the boundaries you set for them need to increase… they need to be given more room to move and negotiate… they need more freedom.

Simplistic example: their bedtime can’t always be at 7:00. Sorry. You’re going to need to move it back to 8, and then 9, and then 10… maybe at some point you’ll get rid of it all together.

The boundaries you set are for their safety and are to guide them until they’re mature enough to make some of those decisions themselves. Make sense?


One more thing…

 

6. Set an Example for them to Follow

You know something? Your kids don’t become what you say; they become what they see. The example you set for them speaks a lot louder than the words you say.

Did you know that if a child grows up in a home and sees violence in the home… for example, the father abuses the mother… that kid is 6 times more likely to grow up and treat their spouse the same way. And if that kid experiences violence themselves, they’re 12 times more likely to use violence with their own kids.

Another example. If Mom and Dad both attend church, the child has a 72% likelihood to attend church as an adult themselves. If only Dad goes to church, the likelihood that the kid will continue to attend church drops to 55%. And if only Mom attends, it drops to 15%. And if neither parent attends, then 6% of those kids will grow up and become part of a church.
Source: http://gbcdecatur.org/sermons/DesperateFortress.html

Do you understand the influence that parents have on their kids? How the example they set impacts the people their kids become?

What kind of example do you set? How do you talk when you’re at home with your family? Do you handle each other with respect or contempt? How do you blow off steam? Do you abuse any substances? How do you treat your spouse, and how do you treat your children? What are your priorities? Does God play a prominent role in your life, or do you reserve Him just for when you come to church? Do you operate your life and guide your family using Scriptural principles, or do you prefer to follow principles of pride, selfishness, and greed?

You see, depending on what kind of example you set, you can avoid a lot of problems later on. A lot of problems families encounter arise when kids begin to emulate the bad behaviour they see in Mom and Dad. You can take a preemptive strike against all those stresses that might arise, if you set a good example now.

Here are a couple verses… not necessarily about parenting, but I think they’re applicable for parenting. First of all, look at what Jesus said to His disciples…

John 13:15 (NIV)
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Jesus set an example for His disciples. If you are a parent, then your primary disciples are your children. Set an example for them to follow.

And the apostle Paul expressed a similar thought when he said…

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

 

So there you have it, six secrets for surviving your child’s childhood. Parents, what would happen if you applied all these principles consistently? Do you see how they can help? They’re not going to eliminate every problem and every stress that comes with parenting, and they don’t guarantee that everything will work out the way you hope. But I do believe that these principles will help greatly. And I think those of you who are already operating with these principles will attest to that.

Parenting is a huge responsibility and a huge challenge. But it’s also a tremendous blessing and a wonderful opportunity. So let me encourage you parents this morning that, if you’re encountering a lot of resistance and stress, there is hope. You can survive your child’s childhood. God’s good, and He will help you every step of the way.

 

 

 

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