Four Focuses of Effective Parents

Cary Schmidt

I love being a parent! If you have children, I hope you do too! We live in a culture that divides the home—if not physically, then relationally. A casual look at many American families would lead you to conclude that parents don’t like their children, and children don’t like their parents. From parents who neglect family time for work or personal interests, to kids who hole up in their bedrooms to “hang out” on Facebook—it appears that some families do everything possible to avoid each other. I challenge you to resist—to reverse this trend. Like a fish swimming upstream, choose to develop your family differently.

Effective parents fight the trends and keep family first. They focus on biblical priorities, and draw clear boundaries around their home life. They fight for closeness, for transparency, and for strong relationships. They understand their mission and embrace it with biblical understanding and clarity. In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to share four values that I see in effective parents. These are values I’m still learning and developing, but I’ve seen them often in the lives of parents who have effectively raised their children for the Lord. What do effective parents do well?

Effective Parents Delight in Their Children.

Proverbs 3:12 states, “For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” Again the Bible says in Proverbs 29:17, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” It’s easy when reading those verses to focus on the correction or discipline, and miss the delight! Do you delight in your children? Do they know that you delight in them?

The word “delight” means “to be pleased with, to have favor toward, and to accept.” Delight shows up in a warm smile, words of praise, sincere admiration, accepting laughter, physical affection, and personal affirmation. Delight delights! You can’t imagine how your delight delights your child’s heart. Having your approval and acceptance is one of their deepest longings in life.

If you delight in your children, you will like them. You will enjoy them. You will laugh with them. You will relax with them. You will “hang out” with them and treasure every moment. You will photograph them, video them, praise them, and pray for them. It’s impossible to hide delight. Delighting in your children involves planning family fun, budgeting family fun, saving energy for family at the end of a busy workday, noticing the right things they do, and making a big deal of success. Effective parents always delight in their children, and children find it much easier to receive correction from a parent who truly delights in them.

Effective Parents Disciple Their Children.

Deuteronomy 6:7 gives every parent a tall order— “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” This passage speaks to parents of teaching and training our children in the ways of the Lord. God’s command is that our relationship should be one of constant discipleship—constantly explaining and making sense of God’s laws and the principles of Scripture.

It’s easy to miss teaching opportunities. It’s easy to dismiss them for fear that we don’t know what to say. It’s easy to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit moment by moment. But effective parents embrace this role. They see themselves as the perpetual mentor of these young lives. They see every day as a new teaching opportunity. And they are constantly shining the light of biblical truth upon every circumstance of life—helping their children to authentically develop a biblical world view.

Discipleship requires time and intentional training. It makes all of life a classroom, welcomes any question, and brings God’s principles into practical application. Discipleship determines to have even the toughest conversations and difficult talks that most parents would rather avoid. Discipling parents don’t leave their kids alone to struggle with any topic or temptation. They prepare them. They train them. The preempt the wicked one with deliberate and focused teaching in every important matter of life. They recognize that kids can handle the truth when it comes from a compassionate, nurturing parent.

If you wonder what to teach your kids, I challenge you to do a few things. First, read good parenting books. These books will fill your heart with subjects and principles to transfer. Second, consider what you struggled with at their ages—the things you wish someone had talked to you about—and then go for it. Finally, consider where they are in life and what’s coming next, and prepare them. Look at the road ahead for the next couple of years and help them know what’s around the next bend. Give them biblical principles that will help them know how to think and how to respond.

Dad, have you talked to your son about the struggles of his particular age, coping with crushes, the development of sexual desires, the changes of the teen years, what God might be preparing him to do, what his biggest burdens are in life right now, how he is struggling spiritually right now, how to navigate tough things like friendships and the teen social scene, how to be a spiritual leader, how to take a stand, how to rely on God for help in every area of life, how to use the internet safely, etc.?

Dad and Mom, have you talked with your daughter about physical changes she will experience, why she should value her body and be modest, how to avoid the world’s message of making her appearance all important, dealing with sexual issues, relationships and friendships with opposite gender, seeking to honor God in appearance and behavior, dealing with peers and pressure, asking God for help in every area of life, what God is preparing her for, what her gifts and strengths are, becoming virtuous, staying pure, etc.?

If they don’t receive the truth from you, your children are exponentially more susceptible to deception! Effective parents always disciple their children.

Effective Parents Develop Their Children.

Ephesians 6:4 teaches, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The command is to “bring them up”—to nourish them to maturity. Yes, this includes discipling them spiritually, but it also includes developing them practically. The state of the family today lends to neglect, which lends to teenagers merely vegetating their way through life—playing video games, skateboarding, facebooking, and generally just hanging out.

Effective parents seek to involve their children in opportunities that will grow and prepare them for life. They minimize things that merely distract or entertain. They limit video games, movies, TV, and social networking; and they maximize opportunities for growth, service, and the development of personal gifts and abilities. Effective parents constantly ask themselves—is this child developing or vegetating?

Developing our children requires discernment of their gifts, interests, and abilities. It involves the sacrifice of finances and time to support those gifts. It involves patient investment over years, but the commitment is always worth it!

Effective Parents Discipline Their Children.

Proverbs 19:18 states, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Discipline is the process of bringing my child’s behavior into obedience to the Heavenly Father—teaching my child to live in submission to the authority of God and His Word. It is not merely controlling or modifying my child’s behavior. It is not punishment for doing wrong. It is not limiting the embarrassment that my child causes me in public. Authentic, biblical discipline is chastening, which involves nurture and training. It’s is always developmental and motivated by selfless love.

Effective discipline should always be restorative rather than punitive. In other words, it’s motivated by a desire to restore the heart not merely punish it. Effective discipline should always flow from an obedient, humble heart—not an angry frustrated one. In other words, I discipline my children because God commands me to, not because they anger me. Finally, effective discipline should include prayer and Scripture. The end of a discipline moment should include affection, expressions of love, and a transparent moment before the Lord in prayer together.

Probably the biggest mistake parents make today regarding discipline is that they are too tired to deal with it! Real, biblical discipline takes energy, time, and training. It’s easier to send them to their room, ground them, and forget about it. Effective parents don’t operate this way. When we are too tired to engage in biblical discipline, we are saying “Go ahead and destroy yourself… I don’t care.”

So there you have it—the job description of a biblical parent in four statements, even alliterated! The effective parents that I have watched over the years—those with a track record of success—always had these four focuses in place. They delighted in their children. They discipled their children. They developed their children. And they disciplined their children.

Now here’s your assignment. Sometime in the next few days, sit down with your spouse in a quiet moment. Read through this article together, and evaluate. Ask yourself, “How am I doing?” Then determine to make some changes or improvements. Decide to make these four focuses a reality in your parenting this week!