One of the things my mom has said is that it is true you cannot force a horse to drink, but you can give him salt so he wants to drink. It would be lovely if I could simply tell my children what to do, and have them do it, all the time. But the Lord is showing me that this is not always a good thing.
As my children grow older, I’ve got to teach them the process of decision making. If they cannot find God’s wisdom on their own, they will be tragically handicapped when they no longer have a mother and father telling them what to do.
Many Christians react when they see an overly controlling parent. They might mistakenly think that the problem is the strictness rather than the neglect of an important process. If they make this mistake, they might cast off rules which might be in fact helpful for their children.
Other Christians might believe that “reaching the heart” is simply showing the child that obedience is right, showing them what God’s Word says, and helping them do it. They risk at best a spiritually sensitive young adult who has no ability to make decisions without a trusted adult telling him what to do.
The difficulty is that teaching children to make right decisions means at some point (and I cannot presume to know when), we must allow our children to make wrong decisions. That’s scary. The teenage years are naturally times of growing independence. When this natural inclination is not guided by biblical decision making principles, we often end up with rebellion. When the reality of this natural inclination is denied, we stifle our children’s ability to make wise decisions. Growing independence is not the same thing as willful rebellion. While willful rebellion is not a developmental stage, growing independence is.
I suspect there is a middle ground. Shouldn’t it be possible to teach biblical decision making and foster independence from parents while encouraging a greater dependence on God? How is this done? I don’t have all the answers. But I do want to teach my children how to find God’s Will.
Awhile back, I found out that Gary Friessen’s Decision Making and the Will of God was somehow a book frowned upon by some in my circle of Christianity (although I didn’t get that from my parents, who I later learned had a copy on their bookshelf). Of course that made me want to read it, and I found it quite helpful as a college student.
Years later, my husband and I found Step by Step by James Petty to be much more clear and extremely helpful as we sought the Lord’s leading for some major life decisions. The explanation of the relationship between wisdom and the will of God was a powerful biblical truth that has repeatedly been a blessing to us.
Nothing on a preschool level, though. Maybe that’s an upcoming writing project for someone. Any takers?