How Do You Measure Success as a Parent?

(I started writing this and I think I’m going to break this into 2 pieces.)  As our eldest daughter prepares to graduate from high school in less than 6 months, I’ve had this post brewing in my mind for a while.  We will soon have successfully taken the first of seven children through K to 12th grade of homeschool.  She’s even started her own blog, just like her old man.

As a husband and father of 7 children, I don’t take lightly the fact that there are 8 people in my home that depend on me not only to provide a roof, food on the table, and clothing on their backs, but most importantly, the family needs spiritual direction.

As a follower of Christ, I recognize that none of this is possible on my own ability, apart from Him.  It is only by the grace of God, that I’m able to do anything.  This is no small detail.  Christians may fall into a trap of losing the meaning of this word because we say it so frequently.  I literally cannot do anything apart from Him.  Scripture tells us that all things were made by Him and through Him.  I cannot wake up, breathe, eat, bathe, prepare a meal, go to work, or tie my shoes without Christ.

When it comes to my family, we’re definitely a peculiar bunch.  Everywhere we go, people take notice of us. It’s hard for a family of 9, Asian-American Christians to go unnoticed. We drive a huge, 12 passenger van.  We don’t curse, (at least we teach our children not to).  We don’t wear particularly fancy clothes. In fact, most of our children’s clothes were probably used or handed down.  And that might be what others see in us initially.  The exterior.

But then you start to notice some of the subtle differences in our family because of the values we’ve instilled in them.  If you’ve ever spent any time with my children, you’ll see that they like each other.  They deliberately include everyone in their activities. They speak kindly and respectfully to each other, offer to help one another, and talk to each other.  Now don’t get me wrong, tiffs will come up.  Arguments and tempers erupt.  Someone will push someone else’s buttons or get under someone’s skin.

My children don’t cower away from speaking with adults.  They know how to greet someone, introduce themselves, listen and have a conversation.  I’ve been told countless times that it’s amazing how comfortable my children feel, even the youngest 6-year-old, when speaking with adults.  I can’t even begin to tell you how often we’ve been approached by friends and complete strangers about how well behaved and mature my children are.

I don’t write these things to brag because, as I’ve already stated, none of it is by my own doing.  I write these because they are important to me and my wife.  We’ve made these things a priority.

My wife and I had chosen to homeschool our children pretty much from the firstborn.  We’ve lived in 3 different states where homeschool laws vary.  Though I completely reject the State’s presumed authority over the education of my children, we comply with their rules because I recognize the reality that the State could come into our home with guns and take our children forcibly away from us.  And though morally we would be justified, my children would be better served with parents that love them and are there to raise them.

Central to everything we teach our children is the Bible and our faith in Christ.  Reading, writing, spelling, literature, math and science – all these subjects are taught from a Biblical worldview. For almost 2 decades, we’ve raised them by teaching and living out our faith.  I’m not as close to their daily education as my wife.  We always say that I’m the Principal of our school and she’s the Teacher.  So it’s amazing to me when I realize just how much of our teaching is sinking in, to see our faith become their faith.

It occurred to me on a couple different Sunday mornings when I was sitting with one of the younger boys and the preacher would reference a chapter and verse in Scripture.  Not too long ago, when a book of the Bible was referenced, they would have to go to the Table of Contents to see where to find that particular book.  But now, they know (or at least have a general idea) where to look.  They know if it’s in the Old Testament or the New.  If it’s Old, does it come after Proverbs or before?  If it’s NT, is it one of the gospels or a letter from Paul?

And even more recently, I’ve heard about my children defending their faith, with Scripture. When challenged with new or unusual gospels, they rightly go back, not to their feelings or what someone told them from the pulpit, but to what they’ve read in their Bibles.

So I ask parents out there reading – how do you measure success for your children? What is it that you want to see most from them in their lifetime?  For some parents, getting their children into an Ivy League school or graduating with a 4.0 GPA or getting them into medical or law school represents the pinnacle of success.  Other parents may have aspirations that their children make the football team or earn 1st chair violin in the symphony orchestra.  Still others may have family traditions that are important like enlisting in the army or running a family business.  

Some parents say the thing most important for their children is that they grow up to be happy.

Or married.  

Or happily married.  

Or rich and happily married.

I’ve always believed my role as a parent is to train up our children in righteousness.  

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 NKJV (http://bible.com/114/pro.22.6.NKJV)

You shall teach [God’s law] to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  – Deuteronomy 11:19 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy11:19&version=NKJV)

We teach our children how to behave in society and in the home, to communicate with others, to live peaceably, to love one another.  We teach them that God provides so that we must, in turn, be generous and good stewards with the things He has given us.  We fill them with Salt and Light so that someday they can go into the world to be Salt and Light.

We teach our children that although I go to work every day, my job does not define who I am.  Jobs will come and go.  Paul wrote – “… for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  – Philippians 4:11b-12” 

As obvious as it may sound to read, our success as parents depends greatly on our presumed goals.  If you haven’t determined what your goals are, you are guaranteed to fail.  If you let the State dictate what your goals for your children should be, I have a strong conviction that you and your children will end up disappointed, depressed, anxious, and woefully unprepared to face the challenges of daily living.  In my next piece, I will touch on Education, Job Skills, and Return on Your Investment.

 

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