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McManus – Ethics & Religion

December 24, 2007

Column #1,374

(second of a two-part series)

“Revolutionary Parenting” – Part II

By Mike McManus

            It’s New Year’s Resolution time.  If you are a parent, I suggest that you forget the trivial stuff and consider becoming a Revolutionary Parent who is committed to raising children who are “spiritual champions.” I feel so strongly about that vision that this is my second column based on George Barna’s brief but path-breaking new book, “Revolutionary Parenting: What the Research Shows Really Works.”

            Barna interviewed a thousand exemplary young adults and hundreds of their parents to learn what was proven most effective, according to two generations, in coaching a child to become a true spiritual champion.

            Revolutionary Parents must first love God with their whole heart, mind and soul. Second, your children “must see you investing in your own spiritual growth before they will accept the importance of their personal commitment to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.” As their coach, you must show them unconditional love and total integrity.

            With nearly two-fifths of babies born out-of-wedlock, it is crucial to be married and one of you should be a stay-at-home parent. Also, the fewer children you have, the more likely are you to produce spiritual champions. The more children you have, the less time you can devote to each.

            As a grandfather I used to encourage two sons with three kids each, to have another. No longer. Research shows that Revolutionary Parents spend 90 to 120 minutes with each child on a typical day. By contrast, the average American parent spends only 15 minutes in direct parent-child conversation. That’s a puny one-sixth of what’s needed.

            A substantial hunk of that time must be focused on spiritual matters, such as spending time as a family several times a week exploring God’s word and praying. One reason that so many children give into the world’s temptations is that they are poorly prepared morally or spiritually for their future. They lack what Barna calls “a well-defined philosophy that guides their every move.”

Why? Most parents leave spiritual instruction up to the church – the Dump and Run strategy. Not Revolutionary Parents who assume primary responsibility.

            Three-fourths of Revolutionary Parents set concrete and measurable goals for each child – about 15 times the proportion of other parents who do so. For example, one goal is to teach their children to think independently, basing their choices on core principles. Kids also learn to challenge assumptions and statements of fact. 

However, some things cannot be questioned – the preeminence of God, parental authority, civic duty, marital fidelity. Violating those God-given boundaries has serious consequences. Spiritual goals include learning to pray, how to study the Bible and how to worship.  Chapter 8 lists 47 key Scriptures as foundational: David & Goliath (I Samuel 16-17); Prayer (Matt. 6:5-15); Jesus’ resurrection (Matt. 27:57 – 28:15), the early church (Acts 2); Spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12.)

Instead of over-scheduling a child in too many activities, Revolutionary Parents said their most important focus is their children’s development  of a godly character - such traits as honesty, kindness, gentleness, compassion, discipline, patience, love, humility and perseverance.

By contrast, average parents set two dominant goals of developing skills (as in sports) and acquiring information. They assume that skills and information will lead to character development. Barna calls that “one of the great lies of the age."

Many parents try to become their child’s best friend, which means they become too lenient. Not Revolutionary Parents who set and consistently enforce rules. They assign household responsibilities and similar duties in church, as citizens, to extended families and team membership. Godly parents also identify a dozen key rules.

·        Always tell the truth, regardless of circumstances, striving to be known as honest, reliable and trustworthy.

·        Never cheat or steal that brings dishonor on yourself

·        Always show respect to other people.

·        Help others as servants.

·        Control your tongue: swearing and angry words are inappropriate

    Another is to accept a curfew.  When transformed young adults were asked about  the most common parenting mistake, it was a failure to identify and enforce clear rules.

     Revolutionary parents protect their children from negative influences, such as limiting their exposure to media. They are also sacrificial, giving up activities, careers or promotions that take them away from parenting

Ultimately, it comes down to love. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (I John 3:16). Especially for our children.

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