- Dallas Willard
My wife and I have six children: five outside the womb, and one coming in September.
I kid you not, we always get compliments from waitresses, strangers, and friends about how well behaved our children are. It never gets old, despite how often we hear it.
I take zero credit for that. Seriously. My wife, Brandi, gets all the kudos for our kids' behavior. She's with them all day, every day. She instills the fear of the Lord in them every day. She is in the trenches, doing mommy stuff that involves correction, discipline, and teaching. Sure, I help some, but she's the one who has made all the difference in their lives.
So occasionally we get the questions, "How are your kids so good?" I'll offer a few practicals here, so take them for what they're worth! (These are in no particular order.)
- So point number one here is that our kids aren't perfect. Not even close. They're flesh-filled sinners just like anyone else. They have to be disciplined. They have to be corrected. They have to be taught to die to their sinful desires. It's a daily thing, really.
- Point number two is that Brandi and I aren't simply about behavior modification. We don't want good kids who have no heart for God. We want kids who love God with everything, and whose good behavior comes from a heart attitude, not from external force or fear. We have a long way to go here, but we're on our way.
- We have kept them, by and large, from TV. We don't have cable. If we want to watch something on our TV I have to go outside, grab the cable that goes to the antenna on our house, open the window by our TV, and then plug it into the TV. We purposefully make it a cumbersome task. (Only did it, I think, about 3 or 4 times last year in order to watch some Baylor football.) Our house is filled with the sweet silence of zero TV noise. It's a great feeling. Very peaceful. We also have not allowed them access to violent games, handheld Internet devices, or questionable books.
- We have been very intentional about who our friends are and who their friends are. There is no going over to Billy Bob's house unless we know exactly who Billy Bob is and who is parents are -- even then, it is not guaranteed. Do not be deceived, evil company corrupts good habits. <-- Paul said that.
- For the most part we eat dinner together every night, around the table.
- We go to church every weekend, have home group every week too, and try to do ministry as a family whenever we can. All of those things build a strong family identity, based around Jesus.
- My wife and I are in the Word every morning. We pray, read scripture, and try to obey what He's saying. Our kids see that. We have also required them to spend time with God and to memorize scripture passages. I think Brandi has recently had them completely memorize the first two chapters of James.
- We recognize that we are in Babylon. That's a good first step in understanding what to do about the fact that we live in that kind of culture.
- We homeschool them. I realize this is not for everyone, but for us it's worth the sacrifice.
- We live in the country and have a number of chores that they are responsible for. At last count we had 90-something chickens on our farm, and they are by and large responsible for them. My two oldest boys get up at 6:30 a.m. every day to weed the garden.
- We have kept them well stocked with books, and they know how to request books from the library for us to pick up. Brandi and I both read like crazy, so they are always seeing us read.
I'm sure I'm missing some major points. There is no magic bullet, but if I could just do a couple of things I'd say: 1) Love Jesus (through his church), and 2) minimize media consumption. Those two things will at least give any kid a chance.
I'm sure some parents would see our methods as, perhaps, over the top? I'm not saying we are doing everything right. I know we're not. But in my mind our children are like plants in a garden: they're growing; they're vulnerable. It's up to us to pull the weeds, provide them access to sunshine & water, and to build a fence to keep out the animals.