My wife and I have four young children. As any parent knows, raising kids is hard work. It’s rewarding when we see progress in an area we’re working on—a character quality we’re trying to build, a habit we’re trying to establish, or a spiritual lesson we’re trying to teach. But sometimes progress comes slowly.
At a family Thanksgiving a few years ago, a relative who has children with similar ages as ours asked if our kids do a good job of eating vegetables. The honest answer is that one of our little guys was really struggling with that, so I said, “It’s a work in progress.” Then I added, “Sometimes more work and less progress!”
That’s the way it goes sometimes. I could list other areas of life where our parenting efforts appear to be marked by more work than progress. You can probably relate.
For those of us who find ourselves in that season of the parenting journey, I’d like to share a few thoughts (and yes, these are as much for me as for anyone else!).
I firmly believe that faithfulness over time is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. We’ll never be perfect parents, but with God’s help, we can be faithful parents. I believe that faithfulness, spread across the years of parenting, goes a long way toward smoothing over our frailties and imperfections.
Our children need us to faithfully invest in their lives. They need us to faithfully model the Christian life for them, to show them what a godly Christian marriage looks like, to be an example of integrity and decency on a day by day basis. They need to see us living out our values day in and day out—not perfectly, but consistently. That’s huge.
When we’re in a season of more work and less progress with our kids, we can remember that staying faithful to what God has called us to do is vitally important.
We Can’t See Everything
I think it’s also good to remember that we can’t see directly into our children’s hearts and we don’t know everything that’s going on in there. At a time when we don’t see much progress, perhaps it’s simply a matter of time before visible changes start happening.
Have you ever planted seeds and waited for them to grow? We can’t see beneath the level of the soil, but things are happening down there we’re not aware of. And one day, if we faithfully take care of them (there’s that faithfulness again!), we’ll wake up one morning and see a little seedling popping up where just plain dirt was the day before.
In a season of “more work and less progress,” remember that things may be happening in the soil of your children’s hearts that you don’t fully realize.
God is able to do what we cannot. He’s able to reach directly into the hearts of our children and work on them in ways that are beyond our ability. Yes, He chooses to use us as our children’s day-to-day teachers and caretakers, but we need His power to be at work in their lives.
It’s good to pray for our children in a broad and general way, but we also need to pray for their specific areas of struggle. This is something I need to grow in. It’s easy to ask God to bless my kids and to help me be a good father to them, but I need to bring their specific struggles to God more consistently.
We also need to continually ask God for wisdom and guidance in our parenting journey and for the strength to parent our children well. After all, we need God’s working in our own lives as much as our children need it in theirs!
Training is a Process
If you’re working in your own life to change a bad habit or start a good one, how quickly do you see results? How many times do you fail and have to get back on track? How long does it take for someone else to notice your progress?
The fact is, training is a process. Growth is a progression. That’s true for both adults and children.
Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart and co-author (with his wife) of Instructing a Child’s Heart, emphasizes this truth when he points out that training our children is a process, not an event. As much as we might prefer to be able to explain something to our children once and then expect them to “get it” and never make that mistake again, that’s not the way it works. We need to embrace the process and realize that patience and faith are valuable assets in the midst of the day-to-day challenges of parenting.
Sometimes we need to step back and evaluate how we’re handling a problem area with our kids. If we’ve given our current approach a fair trial and it’s not working, we might need to make some tweaks. Or maybe we’ve been inconsistent in our teaching, training, and correction, and need to step up our own efforts. Whatever the case, a periodic review can be useful.
Remember That God Cares
It’s easy sometimes to wonder if progress will ever come in a challenging area. And if you’ve got multiple children—each with their own challenges and struggles—it can feel overwhelming at times. In addition to the thoughts above, remember that God cares about you and your family. He loves your kids even more than you do. We need to trust Him to be at work even when we can’t see what’s happening.
Moving Forward in Faith
Like I said, these thoughts are for me as much as for anyone else. I’m reminded of my own failings and shortcomings as a father on a regular basis. Sometimes I look at my kids and feel like there’s so much work to do that it’s impossible they’ll ever grow up to be responsible, decent, godly human beings! But God wants to work—both in them, and in me and my wife. If you believe that too, then let’s move forward in faith, doing what God calls us to do, and counting on Him to bring the results in His good time.
A Night With Rev. Franklin Graham!
At this year’s annual IFI banquet, our keynote speaker will be none other than Rev. Franklin Graham, President & CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Christian evangelist & missionary. This year’s event will be at the Tinley Park Convention Center on Nov. 1st. You don’t want to miss this special evening!