In our early years as parents, we found great comfort and practical help in some of the biblically-based parenting programs that were being offered through the church at the time. We would listen to tapes, read the books, and then attempt to implement the principles at home with our children. We wanted to honor Christ in our parenting and only had limited real-life glimpses of how to accomplish that. We ate up anything biblical that could help us, but I have to admit that some of our pre-Ted Tripp parenting instruction seemed a bit more like behavior-modification than “Jesus-modification.” In spite of the occasional red-flags in some materials we encountered, we did find many worthy strategies for cultivating God-honoring behavior in our kids.
One of those valuable principles we worked on back then seems even more important now, as our kids are moving through their teens. I can vividly remember teaching our kids how to greet their father when he returned home from work. (Way back then, this instruction was geared toward the presumed family dynamic of the day, where mom was at home with kids, Dad at work, and so on. Today our culture looks somewhat less conventional, even in the church, but we must not lose sight of the intended idea, children acknowledging and showing honor to adults.) We diligently worked on this and made this a mainstay in our home.
This one, rather simple, ritual of jumping up and running to the door (when our kids were young) to greet our loved one, accomplished many different, positive things that I never realized would be so sorely needed today.
It brought our family together to communicate how much we value the one we missed. It taught us to stop everything we were doing and thinking individually, in order to serve another person. In essence, we learned to take our focus off of ourselves and focus on another. Our home was the factory we used to try to instill these attitudes and behaviors in our kids.
Our factory was (and is), of course, imperfect. Our training was sometimes faulty. It did not always result in the behavior we desired, or that God would desire. As with all families, each child is unique. Sometimes pride resisted social skills. Other times, it was simply personality. As parents, we have had to navigate a bit differently with each child, but without losing sight of the goal. We did not anticipate how important these principles would be now that our kids are older or how foreign a warm welcome would be in the culture we live in. In many homes today, kids may not even look up from their computer screen to notice someone entering the scene and the modern dad might find his warmest greeting from the family dog.
When you blend the cultural philosophy that has erased all distinctions between adults and children with the vast amounts of distractions available to the modern family, it’s a wonder when we are even acknowledged by a teenager. Now I am not suggesting that everyone should encourage their kids to jump up and run to greet their parents and visiting adults but it might be worth considering how this principle is playing out in your world. In our family, as our children have grown older, we do not force compliance so much as we admonish them in love. They need to hear that:
if you do not acknowledge someone you encounter, it may essentially mean that they are of no value to you.
Perhaps they (and sometimes we) simply need to slow down, think, and evaluate the impressions they make.
Please recognize the intended spirit here. Emphasizing these “old school” forms of expression will not correct every woe, but they will help equip our kids to not surrender to a culture of irreverence. They are living in a multi-tasking world and so we must creatively help them them not lose sight of the proper view of parents, grandparents, adults, and authority. We must work hard to not lose them to their iPods or yield our standards to their distractions.