by Ann Iorg
This can be done in a variety of ways including having a yearly parent training event, inviting a guest speaker on child training, organizing a book study about teaching children at home, hosting a parenting conference, or developing a parental mentoring program (where older parents coach new parents).
No matter the method chosen, here are three key aspects of training parents to teach their children to thrive in the new marriage culture.
1. Train Parents to Affirm Their Child’s Identity
Teach parents to affirm their child’s identity—early and often! Teach parents to speak positively about gender distinctives and differences.
Help them develop a greater comfort level in discussing gender issues with younger children and answering sexuality-related questions as children get a little older. Ultimately, provide some healthy tools to fully educate older children about their emerging sexuality as puberty nears.
Encourage parents to participate with their children in gender-based events like mother-daughter parties or father-son campouts. These are helpful to build a sense of belonging with one’s own gender.
They are also helpful for presenting different models of women and men to girls and boys; so they observe a variety of healthy expressions of their gender. Creating strong gender identity will make it less likely a child will feel the need to change identity later in life.
Opposite gender events, like a father-daughter activity or a mother-son outing can also be helpful. These are opportunities for parents to celebrate their opposite-gender child and affirm their child for who he or she is and is becoming. This can be helpful in overcoming cultural stereotypes.
Being a woman is not about being frilly or weak but about using God-given relational skills to be a helper to humanity. Being a man is not about being bossy and controlling but about using God-given drive and strength to provide and protect.
Making sure your child experiences various expressions of these gender strengths from different models helps reinforce their gender identity.
2. Train Parents to Model Biblical Family Relationships
We must help parents understand what the Bible says about family relationships so they can teach and model these truths at home. Hopefully this will reinforce what is also being taught at church.
Most parents want to be good parents and good spouses, but many do not know how to teach these concepts to their own children. Many parents have never had any training in child development and need help knowing what is appropriate for each stage of development. We can help parents by providing training opportunities.
We can also reinforce for parents their “on the way” role of teaching children as life happens. In some cases, the church must provide biblical counseling for parents so they can be emotionally healthy and thus give their children an emotionally healthy home.
3. Train Parents to Answer Tough Questions
God planned for every child to start out safe and protected in his/her mother’s womb. But as parents soon learn, every child quickly grows up and has to live in a chaotic, imperfect world.
Too many Christian parents react by trying to overprotect their children. A better strategy, however, is preparing to answer tough questions and providing consistent teaching to equip children to thrive in this environment.
Helping our children move from a safe home environment to the broader sinful world where they will make their impact for Christ is difficult. Children need to come gradually to understand our imperfect world and how to keep it in perspective.
As part of this process, they need someone to answer their tough questions and help them make sense out the messiness of our world. The best strategy for helping children survive this transition is steadily, patiently, and honestly answering their questions and addressing their concerns.
Teaching children biblical ideals is not enough without also helping them process the hard reality the world is far from ideal. Likewise, if we just show them the problems and not the ideals, they accept the problems as normal.
When we fail to help children process difficult experiences, we short-circuit their spiritual development and limit their ability to cope with the difficulties of life as adults.
We need to let children experience life, talk with them about the everyday problems they are experiencing, and help them put things into perspective based on the Christian worldview we are trying to develop within them.
ANN IORG is a contributor to Ministry in the New Marriage Culture from which this article is adapted. Used with permission from B&H Publishing, 2015.