When I talk about being responsible to somebody, I mean having to answer to that person.
As children grow up, they find they must answer to their parents. Parents make the rules, and children are expected to abide by them. Initially, their experience tells them that they are ultimately responsible to their parents.
Children quickly learn that if they can successfully hide their inappropriate actions from their parents, they are not held responsible or accountable for those actions. And often they do succeed in keeping things from us; we do not always know what they have and have not done. Thus, in their minds, they get by with things. In reality, however, no one gets by with anything. . . .
Unfortunately, many parents fail to communicate this to their children. They fail to transfer their children’s sense of accountability from themselves to God. As a result, their children grow up thinking that when Mom and Dad don’t see what they do, and . . . when their other earthly authorities do not see what they do, they have gotten away with something. Consequently, an attitude develops that says, I am only wrong when I get caught. . . .
Helping your children transfer their feelings of responsibility from you to God is a process.
As we will see, it is a process that entails some risk, some pain, and great faith. But before we get into that, you must understand that this process must begin early . . . .
Children need to make this transfer in an environment of acceptance and love, an environment to which they feel free to return when they have been wrong. Since part of the process . . . is a gradual increase in your children’s freedom, there is a certain failure factor to take into account. They will need a place to regroup when they experience their first failures in decision-making and discernment, and I believe the home is the best place for them to find the security they need. . . .
When my son Andy was in high school, he began playing in rock bands. This was certainly not my first preference for how he spent his spare time, but Anna and I believed he had a sensitive conscience toward the Lord and we left the decision with him. As I talked with him about the events surrounding his eventual departure from that scene, some interesting things surfaced.
He admitted knowing the whole time that playing in a rock band was not God’s best for him. He also pointed out that the mental turmoil he went through — arguing with God day and night — resulted not only in his finally quitting the band but also in his surrendering his life to full-time Christian service.
The thing that really hit me, however, was his statement, “Knowing you and Mom were waiting at home with open and accepting arms made it much easier to face the rejection of the guys in the band and the kids at school when I told them I was quitting.”
I am convinced that my stepping in and making him quit would have robbed him of this life-changing experience and would have damaged our relationship. I am equally convinced that his sensitive conscience was the product of several years of working to wean him from responsibility to Mom and Dad to responsibility to God.
A second reason this process must begin when children are young is that the consequences of their wrong decisions will not be as great as they may be later. . . . I am not advocating that you relinquish complete control of your children’s lives. . . .
There are three things to do when you involve your children in this process.
First, you must encourage them to prayerfully set their own standards and parameters in certain areas.
Second, you must allow them to follow through with what they believe God has shown them.
Third, you must demonstrate a life of responsibility to God. . . .
Allow them to begin prayerfully setting what they believe to be God’s standards for certain areas of their lives. Begin with something simple . . . . Instead of telling your children how to spend and save their money, have them pray about it. There are many areas to which this principle could be applied. Most of them are things that we as parents naturally dictate to our children. In doing so, however, we rob them of opportunities to develop a sense of responsibility to God. I do not believe you can begin this process too soon. The sooner they view themselves as responsible to God, the better. . . .
It is much easier to make all your children’s decisions for them than it is to work through them . . . . It takes time, patience, and great faith. At times you will become frustrated, and you will be tempted to revert to simply dictating their standards and decisions. . . . One of the benefits of developing a listening ear for God is that it helps young children understand how to find God’s will. It gets children in the habit of looking to the Lord when making decisions. At an early age, they are forced to wrestle with discerning God’s still small voice from all the other things that crowd their minds. This principle allows children to develop a sensitivity to the impressions of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, they learn about God’s silence.