How do you define success? How would your child complete this sentence? “What Mom and Dad want for me is...” Chapter five is entitled “Examining Your Goals.”
We are bombarded with the cultural push toward ultimate goals for our children that are unbiblical. Sports, self-esteem, good behavior, participation in family worship, getting the child to pray the “sinner’s prayer,” or the American Holy Grail of a good education are worthy pursuits. However, they are not worthy end goals for parenting, ultimately.
Parents want children to be successful so they can “do well” and live happy, comfortable lives...We want them to have adult lives filled with opportunity and unfettered by problems. However we define success, we wish it for our children.
Tripp addresses many of the main goals in American parenting. Consider the following and see if you see your goals.
In hustling children to baseball, football, soccer, swimming, piano and dance classes, is the measure of success the number of skills developed? Will involvement in these activities have biblical content? Will true success depend on the skills which these activities teach?
What about the promise of children with strong self-esteem?
Books and magazines pander to these parents. They promote the latest pop psychology - all tailored to insecure moms and dads...Have you noticed that no books promise to help produce children who esteem others?
Is this biblical? How does esteem for self function in God’s kingdom where it is the servant who leads?
What about the preoccupation with “getting your child saved”? Many Baptists, who do not believe in infant baptism, will teach their children to put their trust in a “decision” they made when they rushed down the aisle at four years old after a week of Vacation Bible School. They forget that Scripture instructs us to “examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.”
There will be many who cling to a false faith, crying “Lord, Lord!” Does this not innoculate our kids from earnestly “work[ing] out [their] own salvation with “fear and trembling,” by looking for growth that proves “it is God who works in you to will and to work according to His good pleasure?”
What about the goal of having “well-behaved children”? There are such things as social grace, making the guests feel comfortable, poise, easy conversation, and all of the other skills we know are necessary for success in our world.
[H]aving well-behaved children is not a worthy goal. It is a great secondary benefit of biblical childrearing, but an unworthy goal in itself. You cannot respond to your children to please someone else...Every parent has faced the pressure to correct a son or daughter because others deemed it appropriate...If you acquiesce, you parenting focus becomes behavior. This obscures dealing biblically with Junior’s heart. The burning issue then becomes what others think rather than what God thinks...If your goal is well-behaved kids, you are open to hundreds of temptations to expediency.
Tripp further considers the outcome when mastery of all of the social graces is severed from biblical servanthood. The child is then able to engage in classy manipulation of others and harbors disdain for those with less polish. Others rebel against the sham of the form over substance and reject the hypocrisy of the cultural conventions. These become brash and crass in their rejection.
Tripp lists other misplaced goals as well. But, the list above is sufficient to get us thinking about these things. All of these cultural goals are insufficient ends for the Christian parent. “It is one thing to be painfully aware of unbiblical objectives...it is another thing to embrace biblical objectives.” The chief end of our lives and the training of our children, is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” as the old catechism states. If we rely on cultural goals to train our children, we fail in the chief end in that teaching them to rely on their own abilities apart from Christ will turn them from glorifying God and garner self-reliance instead.
How do we do this? We pander to their desires and wishes. We teach them to find their soul’s delight in going places and doing things. We attempt to satisfy their lust for excitement. We fill their young lives with distractions from God. We give them material things and take delight in their delight in possessions. Then we hope that somewhere down the line they will see that a life worth living is found only in knowing and serving God.
By doing this, we ignore the chief end to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our objective in every context must be to set a biblical world view before our children. The next chapter addresses how to restructure our goals to a biblical world view.