Written By Ken
Lori and I had little doubt that our children would walk with the Lord when they got older. Perhaps most Christian parents feel this way, or perhaps it’s just a sense that comes from relying on God’s promise that if you “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Yes, we understood by watching other children of godly parents depart from the faith, that for some reason, there are children raised in wonderful Christian families who choose the foolish things of this world over a relationship with their Creator God for eternity. But for me and my house we were bound and determined to follow the Lord without wavering or doubt.
Recently we had a few terrific days with three of our precious grandchildren and when they are with us, we find ourselves doing with them many of the things that we did with our own children. Their mom just had number four, a beautiful and precious baby girl, so grandparents to the rescue. We stepped in and took the kids into our home. The truth be told, these kids do more for us by way of joy, fun, and enjoyment than we do for them. I can remember a few tears they shed, but most of the time was fun, games, and laughter.
So what is this training that we are to impart to our children and grandchildren that once they know the way to go they will not depart from it? Here are just a few ideas that we have done to raise four godly offspring who all walk faithfully and joyfully with their Lord. Perhaps it will give some of you a spark of ideas to add to your training tools as you embrace God’s promise fully that your children will walk faithfully with our God.
The top of our list for training is joyfulness. There is nothing worse than a bunch of crabby, crying, or difficult kids in a home. Very little training can be accomplished when a child is not receptive to joy but instead focused on selfish, fleshly things. Make sure the kids are fed well, get lots of sleep, and have no obvious reasons to be unhappy. Children by nature are generally very joyful and fun-loving, at least until they hit their teens, but if they are not, don’t put up with it. That’s right. We have a “grumpy” chair, (or the fireplace mantel when our children were young), where we just said the word and the grumpy child would run to the chair and sit on it until they are ready to return and choose to be joyful.
Insisting on joyfulness is not as hard as you might think, but it does take the discipline of consistency to train a child that if they are going to be in a bad mood, they need to have the grumpy mood away from the rest of us who don’t want to be dragged down by it. It is amazing what a couple trips to the grumpy chair can do so that all you have to do is ask, “Do you need to go to the complaining chair?” and the child breaks out in the most fake smile ever, yet they turn their mood around quickly. Too many adults today could have used the moody chair when they were younger to train their emotions so that they learned to control them, instead of being controlled by them.
Making a joyful noise in our home often means singing or squealing with laughter. I grew up in a home filled with Christian music as my godly mom was always singing. She had the prettiest voice that filled the home and it seemed that for each and every trouble we had she would break out into a hymn or song that would capture the answer to what we needed to hear. Who needs a lecture when Mom can sing you to right thinking and straighten out your mood with her joyfulness?
In our home, there are lots of fun things we do together. Just out of the blue it seems a child will be whacked with a pillow by Papa and the pillow fight is on. Three kids all attacking Papa as he punches back with a huge pillow on each hand. At other times, Papa hears grandma teaching the kids the song, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me…” and he comes down to this harmonious chorus to grab a hold of the littlest one and dance with her. Then the march begins and we march step-by-step around the rooms singing the song as loudly as we can!
Lori was always great with getting our children playing outside during the day. She now opens the garage door and pulls up a lawn chair and the kids play in the front yard. The next thing you know the other kids come running out of their homes and electric cars, scooters, and bikes are running everywhere. This can last an hour or two as other moms and dads join in. Getting our kids outside and exercising was very important to us as our kids played a lot of organized sports or danced ballet. But we feel there are few things better than going on long, regular walks with the children where great conversations take place.
I am still smiling inside thinking about our walk last evening with our grand kids. We got to the park and I told Lori to keep going our normal way and we would meet her after our detour. We went dashing down the grassy hills with other moms smiling and laughing at us. Our four-year-old grandson panting away holding his side saying, “Hold up guys!” and Papa responding, “No we have to go over the edge” as we flew over the small embankment with my precious cargo in the stroller howling with laughter. Then they insisted on running all the way home together, feet flying as fast a little three and five-year-old can go while Papa pushed an empty stroller. It is not by accident that the next morning two of the kids said, “I slept really hard last night.” Children need lots of outdoor exercise in order for them to be physically healthy .
When they rise and when they go to bed teach them God’s amazing promises and miracles. I am amazed how eager our grandkids are to go to bed at night. Seven o’clock rolls around and one was asking, “Is it bed time?” Then two others come over to my chair and say, “Papa, think of a story to tell us tonight!” Off to brush teeth then they all three hop in bed hiding under the covers. Papa comes in with a loud roar as he jumps on the bed and tickles them all. Then, it is story time. “Give me an age,” I say, and they pick the age of seven.
“Once upon a time a long, long, long, long, long long time ago when Papa was only seven years old …” out comes a story from my wonderful childhood growing up on an island in the Caribbean. Almost every story makes a spiritual point or draws a spiritual conclusion. Sometimes, I am asking the kids not to do what Papa did, or encouraging them to do the right things, and other times I am telling them about my love for Jesus at such a very young age. Stories about miracles that have happened in my life and the hard times of growing up with an angry brother who lost his arm in an accident, yet he came back to the Lord in his 20’s to be a missionary to France. So much spiritual training can be learned from what a parent did right or wrong, showing our children that we, too, make mistakes, but the blood of Jesus can cover us and make us whole again. The most precious stories are of the times when all seemed hopeless, yet God intervened to give His miracles.
Teach them God’s truths. Rarely does a day, sometimes not even an hour was spent with our children, and now our grandchildren, where we are not teaching them some spiritual principle or a life lesson. Parents, to train up your child in the way they should go is not a part-time job, but it should be constant and non-stop. How much time is spent driving in a car with your children which becomes the perfect opportunity to coach a captive audience. If it is not spiritual training, make it personal, and teach them English and Math. That’s right. Have a math contest: “What is five plus seven plus nine?”
Give them the gift of Discipline. If you could give just one gift to your children, it would be to teach them early in life, by age one or two, that “No” means “NO.” Teaching discipline early in life will be a gift that keeps giving at every aspect of life; College, Marriage, Career, the Law and all Relationships. Far too many parents confuse their children because “no” often means, “unless you keep nagging me and then I say yes.” What a disaster some parents have taught their children with their inconsistency and then wonder why their children end up texting and driving, drinking at parties, and getting sent to the principal’s office, all because they never learned that “no” means “No way.” Once this lesson is learned by 2-3 years old, life with children is so much easier. It does not mean we never change our minds, or you won’t find a child playing the two parents’ decisions against each other. But a home will be far more joy-filled when our children know the boundaries and choose to live within them.
Teach them about the four most important things in life. I can’t leave off one vital training tool in raising godly children. We must teach them what our family is all about. Imagine Jacob never sitting down with his boys and explaining to them “We are different as we love the One true God. The God of our Fathers. The God who walked and talked with Father Abraham and gave us such great and mighty promises. The promise that through our seed would come many nations. Never forget that you are a Jew, the promise of God.”
For the Alexanders, we set four main principles as our guide to live by. To this day, if you ask one of our children they can rattle them off. I would tell them that these four ideals belong to our family, but when they have their own family they will need to choose if they will keep them or change them. But whatever they decide, their children and grandchildren should know who they are and what life is all about. For the Alexanders this means we:
Love God and serve Him.
Do what is right.
Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
Be the best you can be.
Such simple ideals that allow a young mind to focus on what is most important in life. If we love God, we will do what is right by keeping his wonderful commandments. And the second greatest commandment of all is to love your neighbor as yourself. In doing these things, you must always strive to be the best you can be, because it is not the smartest, or the best looking, or the one with the best personality in life that has the greatest success, but the one who is willing to keep trying to be the best they can be by outworking and out loving others.
Don’t be afraid to show you are human and make mistakes. Yes, we made some mistakes along the way. Things we regret and would not do the same way again. The goal is not to be a perfect parent as that will just get you second guessing yourself all the time. The Christian life should never be spent second guessing but by reaching out and grabbing a hold of all of God’s promises, even those that are hard to believe. We train up our children in the way they should go and they will not depart from God’s ways that we have helped instill into them. But to do this, we had daily time in the Word with our children and Lori faithfully took the kids each Wednesday evening to AWANA where they hid God’s Word in their hearts by memorization.
Love them with generosity and lots of love with hugs and kisses. We clearly taught our children that we would always love them. Yes, no matter what they did, even if it was really bad, dad and mom would always love each and every child as much as we possibly could. Not equally, but according to what we thought was best for each child according to their needs and personality. We put a quick end to “It’s not fair!” as life is never fair. “You don’t want me to be fair with you, or treat each of your equally,” I would say to the kids. “I know the boys don’t want dolls for Christmas and the girls are not interested much in footballs. You must let your parents be generous towards you not just fair. If you want fair, we can only eat one meal a day like the rest of the world and live with just two pairs of clothing. No, God is generous towards his children, so we will be generous towards you and expect that you will be generous towards others.”
Shine Jesus to your children no matter what your troubles. I am convinced that nothing was a more powerful source of training for our children than for them to see our joy in Lord as we lived life prayerfully, joyfully, and playfully most of the time. Whatever marriage troubles we had were hidden from our children as we did not want our sins and bad habits to become theirs. No, we were bound and determined to train these precious gifts God had given us in His ways and with His joy. If you want to grow up kids quickly who understand what life is all about, show them how you handle personal sickness and troubles by keeping God and his promises first and foremost in your life.
We praise God that by His grace four families have spun off from the Alexanders who are all walking faithfully with our God. Our hearts are full of joy and running over, but as Lori’s Dad reminds us, “It’s not over yet.” So we keep them all in our prayers daily knowing that God is always good and true to His promises. And when we feel He is not? We must trust that He still is good and He has our children in His loving hands.
And you shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sit in your house, and when thou walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.