Children need our protection and care, especially those suffering from poverty, crime, and abuse. This post is not about them. This post is about children like mine and yours who have attentive parents and very comfortable lives.
It occurred to me recently that nowhere in the Ten Commandments did God say:Honor your son and your daughter. Nope. The 5th commandment says, Honor your father and your mother. God places a high priority on children honoring parents and I think there are some essential ways to make that happen.
By putting marriage first. After kids arrive, many marriages begin to die. In the name of putting children first, wives often focus way too much on what the children need. I get this with my whole heart, having had seven new babies over the course of 13 years. But I was unaware of the ways my marriage took a back seat to breastfeeding, then home school, then my inability to pull myself away to be a wife, lover, and friend.
In the same spirit of commitment to family, men often put their jobs first. It costs money to raise a family and men who work long hours deserve high praise. But marriage should not take a backseat to saving money for college or other immediate, child-centered needs.
One of the best ways to put your kids first is to put your mate first. Children need parents who invest the family’s discretionary funds into date nights and kid-free vacations. You and your mate need a getaway alone more than the whole family needs a trip to Disney. Same money. Marriage first.
By putting mom first. No offense to dads, but the pleasurable deposit they contribute at conception pales in comparison to the burden of sustaining and delivering babies. For years after the pangs of childbirth, we moms put the children’s needs above our own 3 zillion ways.
But there has to be a limit to the sacrifices. Going for hours without eating and drinking; going for weeks without a break from child care; going for years without pursuing personal interests is a recipe for a frazzled, burned out mother. At mid-life, you’ll have an empty nest and no clue how to enjoy it.
Sometimes, you just have to put yourself first, Mom. Children need mothers who invest time and energy into self-care, hobbies, work, and volunteering. I am not suggesting untamed freedom. I’m saying that if your children can take piano lessons, why can’t you? If you can fork over thousands of dollars for every manner of camp and tutoring for kids, why can’t you go on a retreat or get your degree? Same enrichment. Mom first.
By putting God first. Children are a gift from God, but it’s amazing how their presence in our lives keeps us from putting Him first. Can we figure out how to shift this? It may mean getting up earlier than the kids do, so God can be first in our day. It might mean balancing the evening news with the Good News, so God’s truth can be the first place we turn for wisdom. It might mean assessing Sunday sports so we can put the church first.
I know your schedule is already packed, but too busy for God is just plain sin. Kids need mothers with spiritual ambition, godly standards, and a bank of verses to share when life gets hard. We already require our children to attend school, ball practice, and dance rehearsals. We invest incredible amounts of time carting our kids to these activities. Can we not also invest time at church or in the community sharing God’s love? Same time. God first.
Isn’t it amazing how children shape our lives and priorities? By putting our own needs first in these ways, we actually position the children well to obey all of the 10 commandments as they see us honor God and as we train them to honor us.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
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