How to Bring Up Children
The poet Coleridge was visited by a man who had a theory about raising children. The visitor stated, "I believe children should be given a free reign to think and act and thus learn at an early age to make their own decisions. This is the only way they can grow into their full potential." Coleridge made no comment but simply led the man to his garden. "Come see my flower garden," Coleridge said. The opinionated visitor took one look at the overgrown garden and remarked, "Why that's nothing but a yard full of weeds." The wise poet declared, "It used to be filled with roses, but this year I thought I'd let the garden grow as it willed without tending to it. This is the result." The visitor immediately understood the point.

Children, like gardens, will not automatically flourish. They need daily attention and care. If parents allow a child to grow up as he wills without tending to him, the results will be disastrous. In American society, examples are all too prevalent of children who seem to practically raise themselves, and the results are rarely positive. Many children see very little of their parents-often because their parents are rarely around for various reasons. On the other hand, it could be that the child is too busy with school, extra-curricular activities, spending time with friends, watching TV, playing on the computer, etc. In any case, traditional families where the husband provides for the family and the wife is a homemaker (giving special attention to the children) are not that common anymore. Both parents working outside the home is common. Divorce is common. Immorality is common. These factors, and others, add up to disaster in many homes, so far as bringing up children is concerned. In the busyness and stress of life, children today often are not getting the kind of nurturing and attention they need in order to grow up to be righteous, God-fearing individuals. Even parents who make an effort to take their children to worship God each week often see their children departing from the faith when they go off to college and enter into the independence of young adulthood.

Okay Stephen, so you've described a very serious problem, but what is the answer? Ephesians 6:4 - "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Children ought to obey and honor their parents (6:1-3), parents ought to love and respect each other (5:22ff), and parents ought to pour their energy and time into bringing their children up to be servants of God (6:4). Though fathers are primarily accountable for this training, it certainly cannot be said that mothers are excused and bear no responsibility in the matter. Fathers and mothers must work together to tend to their children daily. If they allow the cares of this life to dominate their time, their children will suffer. Metaphorically speaking, weeds will pop up in every child's life at various times, and parents are needed to pull them up before they overrun the child's life. Children need a lot of attention and guidance, and if they don't get the instruction and moral training they need from their parents, they will get it somewhere else-perhaps from their peers or television programs.

Admittedly, the title of this devotional is broad, and promises much more than I can deliver in our few minutes together. However, we've examined an exceedingly important fundamental principle. Parents, children will never reach their fullest potential in life or for the Lord if they are not carefully guided and trained from infancy. To merely feed your child, clothe him, and provide a place for him to stay is not nearly enough. Train your children to love God, His word, and His church. Train your children to love people, truth, and righteousness. This takes a lot of work and effort, but you must train your children while you still can. Children, like gardens, will not automatically flourish. They need daily attention and care. They need your time and love. They need you. Are you tending to them as the Lord would have you to?