By Connie Goodson, Children’s Director
When I was 4 years old I wanted nothing else but to hang with my mom. I am pretty sure that I hadn’t had many days apart from my her and I was dependent on her being close by. Recognizing this, my pediatrician suggested to my mom that she start me in a preschool program so that I could be a little more independent to help me be prepared to leave her daily for Kindergarten. So…she enrolled me in preschool! I so remember the first day of preschool. To say I hated it would have been an understatement because I remember, even today, what that door looked like, where the house was located and how my mom looked driving off and leaving me. It seemed like an eternity before she picked me back up! (I think we now call that “separation anxiety” and I most certainly experienced that.)
On that day I remember thinking that I didn’t like the word “independent” very much and every time I heard it I knew that it wasn’t good news for me.
In Psychology Today magazine, Jim Taylor, PhD said, “One of your most important goals as a parent is to raise children who become independent and self-reliant people.”
Since I began working with children over 30 years ago, I have often wondered about the word INDEPENDENT. Is teaching our children to be independent the biblical approach to raising children? Lots of people think so. I did a quick search through the latest parenting articles and books and found the following:
- “Part of being independent is being able to make decisions for yourself.”
- “Raising independent children teaches and demonstrates to them that they can have control over their lives.”
- “Parents, you should provide guidance and then give them the freedom to make their own decisions.”
- “As parents, teaching your kids to be independent, always show confidence in your children’s capabilities.”
- “Teaching your kids, even your toddlers, to be independent will give them confidence in their own strengths and abilities.”
None of these are particularly bad statements until you place them in the light of what we read in Scripture. It seems to me that in a day and age when independence is praised, I wonder if it’s really a good thing when it comes to our relationship with God.
As parents, our first goal according to Proverbs 22:6 is to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” But how do we know what we teach them? How do we train them in the way to go? The Bible answers that for us in Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
And the instruction of the Lord is listed in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
There’s absolutely nothing in those scripture verses that says our goal should be to teach our children to be independent.
What about making those “independently-minded decisions?” As Christians do really want our children to think “independently” when they are making choices in their life or do we want them to rely on the truth of God’s word? Proverbs 3:5-6 leads us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Matthew 6 reminds us not to worry or be anxious about what to wear or what we’ll eat but to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” That truth in Matthew 6 says nothing about being independent from God, but being totally dependent on Him and trusting Him to provide all that we need. That’s opposite from how the world teaches us to be.
Our confidence should not come from claiming our confidence in ourselves. The Apostle Paul, who probably considered himself quite independent before he met Christ, claimed the strength that comes through a total dependence on God when he said God’s “power is perfected in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Several articles speak about teaching kids to “stand on their own two feet and be independent” yet in Micah 6:8 it says “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” What a beautiful picture that we don’t have to stand alone, but we get to walk WITH God.
I want to teach children to be dependent not independent. Dependent on God. Dependent on the provision of God that has been taught to me through the generations that have come before me. I want to be influenced by His words and changed by His grace given to us through Jesus Christ. I want to be an example of humility that is demonstrated through walking with God, trusting in Him, leaning not on my own understanding, and acknowledging my confidence and strength only comes through Jesus Christ. Always remembering that I’m not independent but that “I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (my own emphasis was added.)
I want to teach children to be responsible. Responsible children are capable of being trusted. Responsible children come to understand they are accountable for their behavior. I want kids who are responsible to honor their parents, to follow God’s word, to obey the authorities over them and to love and honor God all the days of their lives.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death even death of a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
It’s tough being a parent. There are so many messages out there on how and when and what to teach your children, but I am thankful that the Bible is always going to point us to the truth. When we allow the Bible to guide our thinking, we see that we don’t just want to prepare our kids to move out, get an apartment, go to college or get married. We see that we are to prepare them for eternity.