Book Excerpts   

Foreword - 

“After 24 years of following Christ, I have to admit that I have seen few exemplary “second-generation Christians.” By that I mean, God-fearing believing children, who are the offspring of God-fearing parents. Although many Christian parents do love and fear God, seldom is the next generation quite as “hot” for God.

I see few even in the Bible. Think of King David. At least several of his sons didn’t turn out so well, causing him and an entire nation grief. Think of Eli the prophet. His sons brought disgrace to the name of God.

Why? Why does this happen? On the one hand, these stories can discourage me and cause me to think that perhaps raising a godly second generation is a little like spinning the wheel on Wheel of Fortune. Simply hope I get lucky. But on the other hand, I wonder if there are commands and principles in the Word of God that I can turn to in order to find answers, answers that will work.
I also wonder if we have not looked hard enough to find living examples around us who really are being successful in their parenting.

If I have had any success as a father over the past seventeen years, it is largely based on the example of other dads who are succeeding in producing a hot second generation. And I know that their parenting has been based on a careful, prayerful following of the Scriptures.
Rick Whitney is one of those men in my life. He has not just talked the talk, he has walked the walk. For years, I have admired his heart and his faith, especially concerning his family. But what has truly sealed it for me is the fruit in his children’s lives.

No doubt Rick would be quick to admit that he is not the perfect father, nor are his children perfect. But in his family I see something unusual, an unusual love, respect and devotion. Discipline, courage, and a strong work ethic.

A compassionate heart for the souls of others. A love for Christ.

His family is a rare commodity. Too rare.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As you read this book, ask yourself, “Am I following someone who has had genuine success in raising up a hot second-generation?”

- Brad Barrett, father, pastor, teacher, friend


Introduction

Now it seems like a long time ago. Over twenty-six years have passed since we had our little baby boy.

Actually he wasn’t so little. Fourteen months old and chubby as a sumo wrestler - he was the light of our life. We loved him and thought the world of him. Like all new parents, we couldn’t begin to describe what he meant to us. But he was a handful!
His behavior was often embarrassing. It was tough to have people over for dinner. Sometimes it was tough to go out in public, even to Wal-Mart. Often he didn’t like what we were trying to teach him, and he let us know!
How embarrassing.

A few years went by and we had a baby girl. A cute, precious, little girl.
But one of my favorite memories of her, beyond her wonderful smile, was the time I trudged up the stairs when I heard her crying. I walked into the bedroom and there she was, standing up in her crib with each of her little hands firmly clenching a rail, her face perched on the top rail, shaking the bars of her “prison” with all of her might. She was angry, very angry, and let me know it as soon as she saw me.
As angry as a little girl can ever be, I guess.

And then we had another little girl.
Have you ever had a child who was so sensitive that if you just looked at her cross-eyed she would start blubbering? Her lower lip would quiver and her eyes would puddle at the drop of a hat. Well, that little girl grew up over the years and now leads with her heart, first and always.

And then years later, we had another child. (Having kids was becoming a habit!)
We had just come back from a trip to see the grandparents. The older three were in bed, but my fourth child was still up, since she had napped quite a bit in the car that afternoon. I was working through a pile of mail on my desk and asked this sweet, precious, little two-year-old girl to run a letter down to her mom.
She had been sitting on my lap up until this point, so I put her down, handed her the letter and told her to scoot. Whereupon, she immediately dropped the letter and said just as clearly as can be, “No!”
What followed was a frustrating, exhausting hour – for both of us.

Have you ever had your young son ride off with a few of his buddies on their bikes and then half an hour later get a phone call from a neighborhood grandmother? That neighbor has just seen your boy in her back yard near her hen house, with a bunch of eggs cradled in his T-shirt!

Have you ever had a child who could easily crash on the sofa and watch TV for whole days at a time and think nothing of it? A child who could then turn to you when you walk in the room and point this out, and answer, “Wha..a..a..a..t?”
This one grew up and now likes to run everything. Would you like to know how we turned things around? I’d love to tell you.

Have you ever had a child who can sit in a room with two (or twenty-two) other people and quietly take it all in? She may never say a word and yet you know, deep down in her heart, that she is really scrutinizing everything, judging the whole, crazy circus swirling around her?

Eventually all seven of them all started growing up. (Thankfully, they do that just kind of naturally and fairly quickly.)
Then one day, one of those sweet, young angels turns to you at sixteen, puts her hands on her hips, and states fiercely, “Dad, sometimes I don’t think you love me!” You see the fire in her eyes and know that what she really wants to say was, “Dad, I hate you!” What do you do? Well, we’d better know what to do.
These kinds of situations – where the rubber meets the road – are what parenting is all about. Do we have the right answers for these times? We will need answers desperately, if we are going to keep our sanity and help these kids grow into mature adults.
I want to get right into real life on the home front in this book. I want our stories to encourage you, and I believe they will.
Just how do you write a book on parenting? I’m not sure. I’ve never done it before.
Why even write a book on parenting you ask? Well, here’s my reason for writing it:
I believe that God gave our movement – the Great Commission Association of Churches (or GCAC for short) – a unique perspective on parenting. We recognize that all godly parenting must have an outward focus, a purpose that glorifies God. We believe that purpose is the advancement of the Great Commission in and through our marriages and our families.
That is why I am writing this book.
Many Christian parenting books and child-raising curriculums seem somewhat selfish. The unspoken assumption in many of them is that we can somehow train our kids and “save” them from our corrupt society, and yet ignore this lost world.
Our Lord addressed this selfish attitude when He said, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it. . . ” Our “life” obviously includes our marriages and our children.
Our Lord continued with, “But whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” These Scriptures warn us that if all we care about is keeping our children and families safe, we are headed for heartache.
There are probably a hundred books on the topic of marriage and family down at your nearest bookstore. But I have yet to read one that recognizes that the advancement of God’s Kingdom is the key to raising successful, Christian families.

Raising givers, not takers
Recently I read a column by Becky Hart in the Rocky Mountain News entitled, “Uber-parents turning out kids who are not so super.” In her piece, she notes that many parents today are so child-focused and obsessed with their kids, that they are actually doing their kids a disservice. She quotes Patricia Dalton, a clinical psychologist and mother of three, who describes these parents as “uber-parents.”
As Dalton puts it, these folks “decorate their children’s rooms in stimulating colors, buy educational toys, forgo playpens and give baby massages. They sacrifice personal time, friendships and their own interests… and perhaps most important, they take every opportunity to build up their children’s self-esteem.”
She concludes, “Today’s children may love themselves, but in the end the biblical ‘Do unto others’ is like a foreign language to them. They are takers, not doers or givers.”
She proposes two reasons for this: 1) the smaller size of families and 2) our greater affluence here in America.
But whatever the reason, she confirms that it is possible to give too much attention to your kids. “Child-centered-ness can easily become child idolatry,” she writes. Her remedy? “Uber-parents” need to get their children off the pedestal, for their sake and for the sake of their children.
Dalton goes on to suggest that families that are not so obsessively child-focused are probably happier. Those more balanced parents are, in her words, “certainly more likely to raise kids who will be individuals who care more about the needs and happiness of others.”
Isn’t that just what we are looking for with our children? Don’t we all want to raise kids who are oriented towards others and involved in reaching out to this dying world?
We Christian parents can easily treat our children as idols. But God has given us the solution: an outward orientation. We need to get involved with our families in a great and noble cause, the advancement of His Kingdom.
Thankfully, God has given this vision of “families on a mission” to our team of churches. We believe this vision is vital to the ultimate success of our families. In the chapters that follow, I would like to share with you just how this vision can work itself out in practical ways within a real American family.
We will look at several other topics besides parenting. We will look at topics that relate to peace and purpose in our homes, God’s vision for our marriages, the different roles of men and women in a family, and the over-arching, God-given duty and calling that God has entrusted to each of us in our homes.
We will discuss what I feel is critical for parents to know, understand, and appreciate about raising kids. I want to write about the main things that I have learned with my own “brood” and to share them, hopefully, with a little humor. I will cover the principles that we have taught many times to thousands of couples in over fifty churches during our weekend parenting seminars.
In his book Halftime, Bob Buford concluded that, “Men spend the first half of their life looking for success. They spend the last half of their life looking for significance.” Might I again suggest that apart from success within our families, there is very little lasting significance to our lives.
These chapters are weighted heavily towards dads. It is an honor for me to talk to other dads. I hope that every mother who reads this book will find encouragement in what I say. But I am a father, and I have written much of this material for other fathers, for my fellow “brothers on the wall.”
My prayer is that each of you will be built up as parents through this book. That you might have stronger hearts and stronger willpower. In the chapters that follow, I want to share my heart, my passion and my conviction that every parent can succeed in raising great kids!

· The first few chapters will deal with children under twelve and the first basic
foundations that need to be established in their hearts.

· Then through the rest of this book we will deal with our youth who are now
teenagers - maintaining good attitudes and imparting our vision to them.

As you read through each chapter (almost a collection of essays) and mull over the discussion questions, know that my first purpose in writing this book is that you would be deeply encouraged.
We all have questions. I pose several hundred and try to answer them. I thought about entitling this book, 1001 Questions that Parents Ask.
But when you finish reading this book, my prayer is that you will know the only question that really matters as a parent - and have an answer for it.

I have shared the following statement often, with all the passion I can muster, over and over again for over twenty years:

“I believe that the greatest need in becoming successful parents is to have strong hearts and strong willpower.”

This is where we have to be at the end of the day, and I believe this book can help. So I hope you read it. I trust that you won’t be disappointed.

Keep pressing,
Rick