My mother left her earthly home almost two years ago, and there’s not a day when I don’t miss her. As you’d expect, my thoughts are especially with her on Mother’s Day. I’m certain others who’ve experienced that same loss understand the void that’s created when your mother is no longer physically present in your life. Many of you are blessed to still have your Mom in your life on earth, and I encourage you to let her know how much you appreciate her every opportunity you have. I also, regrettably, recognize that not everyone has positive memories or thoughts about their mother, whether she is alive or not. In addition, I know that others mourn the fact that they may never have been blessed with children—or they have suffered the loss of death or are estranged from their children– so Mother’s Day can be an extra challenging day on their calendar. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you today, no matter which of the above scenarios, or even perhaps something else, is the case for you.
The role of a mother can’t be overstated. She has a critical role to play in the development of her child’s character, and whether that child will become a righteous, productive, God-honoring person or not. Her role not only can determine the course of her child’s life, but because of the impact that a single person can have, she has the potential to impact society as a whole and even history. William Ross Wallace said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. That’s why it’s very fitting that we set aside a day each year to honor mothers because their role in shaping their children— and therefore our world— is crucial.
I’ve been blessed to be a Mom for almost 39 years. Although I was a dedicated ‘career woman’ who hadn’t planned on ever having children, I’m so grateful to the Lord that in His infinite wisdom and grace He gave me the gift of being the mother to four children who have radically and positively altered my life. Immediately following the birth of my first child, I gained a greater depth of understanding of God’s unconditional love for me, His child. Since then, God has used my parenting role to teach me much about His character, His ways, and especially about His heart of love, which transformed my relationship with Him.
The Lord laid upon my heart to write and share some advice for mothers that I gleaned from my godly mother who taught me well by her words, actions, and life. Her example greatly influenced how I in turn raised my children, all four of whom are now God-fearing adults with families of their own. I hope and trust this advice will be helpful to you whether you have biological, adopted, or spiritual children. Some of the tips below I followed better than others. Unfortunately, I heeded fewer of them in my early years of parenting because of my own lack of knowledge of the Lord and His Word. I do believe all of them are essential for godly parenting; I wish I’d made them even more of a priority during the brief years when my children lived at home with us. This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it’s helpful:
- Make God the center of your life! (Matthew 6:33) Yes, love your child, but make sure they know that God is the greatest love of your life— not them, or anyone, or anything else. Love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and teach your child to do the same. Teach your children that God is not just a part of their life—like a slice of pie—but that He’s the whole reason for their life, and therefore He should be at the center of everything they think and do.
- Your life- and your child’s life— are God’s, not your own. Remember that you and your child were put on this earth for a purpose—to worship God and to live for His pleasure and His glory. You were created by God and for God. (Isaiah 43:7) The only way to live the abundant life He created you to enjoy is to know Him, to love Him, and to live in accordance with His will. Instruct your child from an early age on this vital truth: it will give them meaning, purpose, and direction in their life.
- Seek God, His kingdom, and His righteousness above all else, and teach your child to do the same; maintain an eternal focus. Help your child to learn to keep the purpose of life in mind at all times so their life will be fulfilled and they will experience the joy of rewards in Heaven. Help your child to make decisions in light of the eternal consequences, and to live for the praise of God rather than the fleeting praises of man. Instruct them in the truth that Solomon learned after seeking to determine the meaning of life and after having everything the world desires and craves: All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man. Ecclesiastes 12:13 AMPC
- Invite God into every aspect of your—and your child’s— life. Talk to your child about it and turn her attention to think about God throughout the day. Intentionally talk about God’s character attributes—such as His unconditional love, faithfulness, goodness, creativity, omniscience, and omnipotence— as well as His instructions for fruitful living— and weave such talk into your everyday conversations with your child. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) Make your child fully aware that they are never alone; that the God Who created them, Who ‘knows them best and loves them most’, is always with them, watching over them. (Joshua 1:9: Matthew 28:20) Teach them to pray to Him about everything that concerns them, and let them know that God cares and is ALWAYS available to hear them.
- Remember, ‘your’ child’ is first and foremost ‘God’s’ child. Out of all of the people in the world, God has entrusted you with the privilege and responsibility of raising His child! Do not take your role lightly. It is your job to raise ‘His child’ in a way that reflects His will and His desires. Recognize that raising the child He gave to you is way too big of a job for you to do on your own. The good news is that He is with you and will guide you as you look to and lean upon Him! Your role is to disciple your child in the truth and to teach him to follow and lean upon Jesus, ’the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Although you want your child to trust and learn from you, your greater goal should be to teach them to fully trust in, look to, learn from, and lean upon God.
- Make it a daily priority to read and study His Word so that you can fulfill your God-entrusted role to disciple your child in the truth: His Word is the truth. He has made His will known to us through the Bible, His ‘love letter’ to us. In it, He’s given us instructions for living so that we can please Him and glorify His name. He desires our good, which we can only have by obeying Him and His Word. It’s also through reading and studying the Bible we come to know Him, His character, and His ways, and to have a personal relationship with Him, the Source of abundant and eternal life. (John 10:10; John 17:3) You need to know His Word for yourself for your own good, and also so you are able to teach God’s Word to your child and thereby equip him for righteous, godly living. (2nd Timothy 3:16-17)
- Realize that your child was born with a sinful nature and needs to be trained in righteousness. As adorable as children can be at times, they are not ‘good’; no one but God is good. (Mark 10:17-18) Do not flatter and fawn over your child and instill in them the false sense that they in their flesh are ‘good’. Sinning is what will come naturally to them; you don’t have to teach them to sin, but you do need to be intentional about training them in righteousness. The only One Who can set them free from their sinful nature is Jesus. So teach your child to love Him and trust Him from an early age so that your child will put HIs faith in Jesus and desire to surrender his imperfect will to God’s perfect will.
- Expect and train your child to be immediately obedient. God tells us in His Word that if we love Him, we will obey Him. (John 14:15) He also tells us that blessings follow obedience. (Leviticus 26:3-10; Isaiah 1:19) As a mother, obey God’s word yourself and teach your children that it’s essential for them to obey Him too if they love Him and desire to be blessed by Him. Over and over again in the scripture, God gives us clear instructions regarding what we are to do, and He lets us know there are always consequences for disobedience. As parents, we too must give clear instructions to our children. We also must be willing to mete out consequences when our children disobey so they will learn that like God, we mean what we say, and we expect obedience because we as their God-given authority know better than they do what’s best for them. Teaching your children you mean what you say also means expecting immediate obedience per your instruction. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Parents who give instructions and say things like, “One…two…three… and then…”I really mean it!”…” One, two, three”…are teaching their child that it’s OK to ignore the parent’s word and to ‘obey’ when and if they want to, not when the parent has given them an instruction to obey. That is communicating to the child that they are in charge, not you and that you don’t really mean what you say or expect them to obey. I remember instructing my children on the importance of immediate obedience by letting them know delayed obedience could be the difference between life and death, such as in obeying a command to flee a burning house. We want our children to know that they can trust every word and promise of God, and if our children know that we are trustworthy in all that we say and do, there is a greater likelihood of them trusting all that we tell them regarding the truth of Who God is.
- Speak and treat your child respectfully; expect your child to respect, honor, and obey you. I remember telling my children that because I loved them and wanted what was best for them, including long life, I had to expect them to obey all of God’s commands, and in particular, to hold them accountable to obey His command to: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) If you desire good for your children, you will instruct them to honor you and you will discipline them when they dishonor you by disobeying you; by speaking disrespectfully to you; by being ‘demanding’ with you; by talking back at you; by pouting or whining when they don’t get their way, or any other demonstrations of dishonoring you. Do not tolerate disrespect and dishonor, and teach them how to speak and act respectfully to you so they can learn what honoring and respecting you and God means.
- Love your child as God has loved you. God sacrificed His beloved Son for you and He is the trustworthy Source of everything you and your child have. You need to ‘die to your selfish interests and be willing to sacrifice for your children’s true needs, like getting up with them in the middle of the night when they’re sick, even when you don’t feel like it. You also need to provide them with the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. You are to give generously to them as God has so generously given to you. However, that doesn’t mean at all spoiling them and providing for all of your child’s ‘wants’. Their greatest need is not for material things, but for intangible things such as love, time, discipline, instruction in righteousness, and their life’s purpose… Consider, that “…godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)
- Extend God’s lavish grace to your child as He has done to you. Teach your child to forgive by expressing your sorrow when you sin, and make sure to ask for their forgiveness when you sin against them. Do not make excuses or try to rationalize your sin by blaming them or others for such things as your outbursts of anger; take ownership of your sin. God understands that we will make mistakes, and He is full of grace and mercy when we do, even though that doesn’t mean we won’t have to face the consequences of our sin. We are to parent our child as He parents us; never compromising the truth, but always being rich in love and mercy. A great scripture to apply as you parent your child is found in Colossians 3:12-14: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
- Teach your child to be grateful at all times and for all things, giving thanks to God! (Psalm 34:1-3) A grateful heart is pleasing to the Lord, and gratitude leads to a joy-filled life. Encourage your child to look for new things for which to be grateful every day—that will have a huge impact on her attitude toward life! At our family’s bedtime prayers, we would all come up with three new things for which to thank God. For instance, I remember us thanking God for running water, flush toilets, and the intricate designs in the wallpaper in my daughter’s bedroom. It caused me and them to look at God in wonder and awe as we considered all that He has made and given to us!
- Teach your child he was put on earth to do works that God created him to do: God has a purpose for his life, and life has meaning. (Ephesians 2:10) Regularly encourage your child to consider what God’s assignment might be for him by asking him questions about his interests and passions, and by fostering his God-given talents and abilities. Give your child age-appropriate chores to do which will instill in him a healthy work ethic, foster discipline, give him a sense of accomplishment, as well as help him to know his life has a purpose and he is an integral part of your family. Pray together with your child and together ask God to reveal to him His specific kingdom assignment for his life, in addition to the one God’s entrusted to all believers ‘to know Him’ and ‘to go and make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
- Teach your children they can do nothing apart from God, but all things through Him. (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13) Instruct them in the beauty of humility, as Jesus evidenced by submitting to His Father’s will at all times, even when it led Him to a shameful death on the cross. (Philippians 2:1-11) Also, point out to them the danger of pride and how it was Satan’s downfall and is a snare Satan sets out for every person to entrap them as well. Encourage them to be bold and courageous as they look to the Lord and lean upon Him and His strength as they pursue His will and assignments for their life. (Joshua 1:9) Let them know nothing is impossible for God! (Luke 1:37)
- Pray for your child, no matter their age! One of the most important things you can do for your child of any age is to pray for them! Pray for their salvation if they have yet to give their life to the Lord. And for such things as for them to know Him and to love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength; to look to Him at all times and for all things; for them to increase in their faith, and for them to understand the depth of His great love for them. I love the following quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”