I'm not a parenting expert. In fact, I already feel like I don't have a clue what I'm doing as a parent. I may have only been a parent for a couple years, but I already know that being a parent is tough work. Joyous, wonderful, difficult work.
I am not writing as a parenting expert--that would be naive and presumptious. I am no expert. Many of my own theories have been proven wrong over the past couple years, and many more will be proven false in the years to come. Far from an expert, I feel more like a shipwrecked man, trying to grab on to a lifeboat, calling his fellow shipwreckees to find the lifeboat too!
I write today about a secret weapon that I believe is ordained by God as a parenting tool. It is a tool that is important for toddlers to teenagers to adult children. It is a tool that a parent yields even after the tool of discipline has outgrown its usefulness. It is a tool that can still be used long after a child has moved out, but is still useful to mold a young child. This tool is one we see in the very fabric of Scripture itself. Do you want the secret weapon? Here it is?
Tell your kids a story!
Think about this. In the earliest section of the Bible (Torah), we see a command that says this:
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deut. 6:6-7
Now, this command isn't all that unique to our faith. Most faith documents encourage parents to teach the law (the way of pleasing God) to their children. What is unique, is the method which they used to impress this faith on their children. Notice that Deutoronomy is framed as a story. It isn't a legal document just listing all the rules, it is a story showing how the laws came to be, and how they played out in the lives of faithful men and women in the past.
Most of the Bible is written in story form. That is not an accident. That is a God-ordained (and even God-breathed) lesson in how to grow in the faith and how to pass on the faith. Tell a story.
Our kids need more than the rules. They need the story. They need to know the story of God, and they need to know how God's story intersects and changes your story. Can I encourage you to share a few stories?
Share stories straight from the Bible. They need to hear the God-given stories. Root their life and faith in the stories that have shaped faithful men and women for thousands of years.
Share stories of faithful people from your lifetime. Share stories of those who inspire you. Visit with missionaries, or invite them to stay with you when they visit the church, and invite them to tell some stories. Stories of faithful people today help connect the Bible story with our modern life.
Share stories of failure and faith. The Bible doesn't show God's people to be perfect. Don't be afraid to talk about your failures. Don't be afraid to use your life to help your children and teens learn. If we are honest with our mistakes, and with the results of those mistakes, we help keep them from choosing the same mistakes.
Share fictional stories. One of my mentors would tell stories that always ended with a talking dog sharing a moral. Yeah, it happened. And it helped. Not every important story needs to be a true story. Tell you kids stories that inspire you--whether true or not.
Stories shape our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our life.
Tell your kids a story!