"Stressed Out" part 5:
Surviving Your Child's Childhood
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
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…
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.