“Godly Parenting: Structure!” overflows with practical wisdom and application for today’s families. Biblical counselor Sherry Allchin, M.A., founded Biblical Counseling Center with her husband Dr. Ron Allchin, D.Min., in 1989 and has counseled thousands of families over three decades. This is the second of two parts. Read Part 1 now. At the end of this article, click the link to download a valuable parenting resource.
As Biblical counselors, we have heard from the beginning of our training that no one can blame their environment for their failure to walk the Christian walk. We cannot blame our home, family, friends, culture or country of origin, our church, school, or teachers, even though these do impact every child’s early formation.
As parents, however, we must look at the need to structure the environment for better parenting of our children. As counselors, we must be prepared to help parents understand the principles of effective parenting.
Structuring the environment is a key factor in successful parenting.
How Do Parents Help Kids Develop Character?
Just as our Father helps us through difficult circumstances, we should build character-shaping opportunities into our children’s environment, giving them a chance to practice making right choices while still under the tutelage and guidance of parents. Then we teach them through the struggles and problems, and celebrate their victories and success.
Friendships: It is essential that parents structure the environment to guide children in evaluating friendships. At times, parental controls on those friendships are a necessity. A watchful eye is always prudent. Paul warns in 1Cor 15:33 about the deception of thinking that our children can have saved or unsaved friends, and that those friendships won’t impact them either for good or bad. Evil companions corrupt good character. Failure to structure our children’s friendships allows them to choose close friends who are not walking with the Lord and who may encourage rebellion.
Activities: Another area needing structure is entertainment and activities. Our Heavenly Father calls us to purity, to not set our hearts and eyes on worthless things. We guide our children to be careful as they choose to participate in various activities and entertainment (2 Cor 6:16, Ps 102:3, Eph 4:3, Php 4:8).
Schooling: A big part to structuring the environment is determining who will teach the children and what their educational opportunities or limitations will be. Our educational approach is to train thinking children who choose to walk in the way of wisdom, and who can articulate what they believe and why. Education must challenge them to think clearly and to embrace what is true. There are many options and one size does not fit all! Every parent must evaluate their child’s needs and gifts and then choose what best fits the child. Structure will encourage developing the mind to the best of that child’s ability, while holding him responsible for his own schoolwork.
Church: God commands us to separate from false teachers and not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly nor be taken captive by empty philosophies. Our structure, which includes both home and local church, must include encouragement to hunger after the pure milk of the Word of God . Youth ministry must be more than just social interaction; youth must be challenged to live out their faith (Ps 1, Col 2:8, 1Pe 2:2).
Parents need to be asking themselves a few very important questions. What ungodly influences are your children exposed to that you must wisely control and limit? What godly influences do your children need to be more exposed to? What are you specifically going to do about it?
How Routines and Habits Can Help
A well-structured environment establishes routines to help the children develop disciplined habits. God is a God of routines; He is not a God of disorder. God has a purpose, and He works it out just as He wills (Eph 1:11). We help our children set goals that will produce structure and discipline in their routines, such as making their beds first thing upon arising each morning. The first two chapters in Genesis show God’s routine, both in an orderly creation and in His communication with His children. His Word accomplishes His purposes in a very systematic way.
All children need routine and habits, and it is the parents’ responsibility to establish those early, as in bedtime routines, eating habits, care of the body, exercise, study habits, habits of personal hygiene, and rest times (1 Tim 3:4). Children need responsibilities such as household chores or care of family pets. All of these routines help develop godly character. As he matures, the child can take on more and more responsibility for maintaining this structured routine. These habits help the children to be better stewards of their time and to faithfully develop all their gifts and talents.
Children must be encouraged to use those gifts to love God and to love their neighbors in a timely and structured way (Eccl 3:1). Human nature is naturally bent toward selfishness. Yet, when a family develops organized projects together, the whole family benefits and enjoys each other while providing great service to the church body and community. One family may pack lunches for a group like “Feed My Starving Children,” while another cleans house for an elderly widow in their local congregation. Both are serving God and others.
Another form of structure is to develop routines that develop habits of personal sanctification. A routine of spiritual nourishment includes times of individual Bible study and prayer, family worship, and Scripture memory that become a normal part of a disciplined life. A family who serves God and grows together becomes a strong and stable structure that can withstand the winds of culture.
Too-Busy Kids Lack A Healthy Balance
Extracurricular activities, like sports, hobbies, and other talents and interests that the child may have all need to fit within the routine of a structured environment. Sometimes families overfill the schedule, and routine turns to chaos! Being too busy creates chaos and stress which destroys the benefits of those activities. As in all of life, there is a healthy balance to be maintained. Rest, relaxation, and “down times” also are part of a good structure.
One great motivation is that God rewards faithfulness with greater opportunities and future usefulness. Parent should be sure to teach their children the parable of the talents, encouraging each child to use the talents God has given them. The result is that everyone who develops what he has, whether two or five, will be given more in abundance. Wise stewardship of time is a factor. Those who faithfully use and multiply their talents will find that God will reward their faithfulness.
In conclusion, God controls everything in life to promote change in our lives (Rom 8:28,29). The controlling and shaping influences He allows give us opportunities to mature. From the beginning He established routines; parents are called to do the same with their children.
Parents, do not provoke your children, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, (Eph 6:4).
We structure the environment to the best of our ability to promote opportunities for our children to mature.
Friends, be sure to read the the first part on godly parenting by Sherry Allchin. It focuses on next steps in godly parenting. Below is the promised download for parents and biblical counselors.
DOWNLOAD: Get this download on behavioral goals for kids.
COUNSELING: Is your child running the home? Is he or she in emotional distress due to poor sense of self-worth, bullying, or major life changes like parents’ divorce? Why not schedule a time to talk with one of our certified biblical counselors? We offer in-person appointments for folks in the Chicago area and Skype appointments for people outside Chicago, even overseas. To learn more about counseling, please see this page or simply self-schedule an appointment.