Tackling the Challenges of Child Rearing
Chip Ingram Shares Wisdom from his Own Life
May 24, 2011 - When Chip Ingram first started studying the Scriptures about marriage and parenting in seminary, it wasn’t only so he could teach other people. He was hungry for wisdom himself.
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.—Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)
By Joy Allmond
His wife, Teresa, had two young sons when they were married. Fearful of his role as an instant father (the boys’ biological dad was out of the picture), he began exploring what the Word of God says about biblical parenthood. He searched the Old and New Testaments to find out what it really was that God required of him in this role. He even wrote his thesis on the role of a father.
"I wanted to be a good dad. As I was studying the Scriptures, I realized some things. First, I can’t give anything to my mate without God. In the same way, we can’t raise our kids without modeling healthy marital love in front of them," he explained. "I’ve often heard it said that the greatest thing you can do for your kids is to love your spouse. This makes them feel secure and loved."
It was more than Ingram’s future as a dad that spurred him on to become an expert on marriage and family. It was his past as a son. Both he and his wife had fathers who were alcoholics. Though both dads were functional alcoholics, Ingram acknowledges that this still brings dysfunction to families as he learned certain patterns and roles along his adolescence.
“I studied the Scriptures and other resources to learn new patterns and roles to renew my mind. I realized how ‘messed up’ I was as a result of my background,” he remembers. "Now, I think that’s why the teaching God has given me connects with so many people—they see that I am just as ‘messed up’ as anyone else."
Not a Perfect World
According to one statistic, only about a quarter of all families are the traditional one-mom, one-dad, first-marriage-still-intact kind. The remainder of families are led by single parents, whether never married, divorced, widowed, or otherwise not traditional.
In this less than perfect world, Ingram sees the need to address the single parents and blended families.
"There are lots of great books and resources out there to help the single parents, but they all need to have a realistic expectation that this is going to be hard. The bad news is you can’t give everything to your kids that two parents can. This good news is that God is going to fill these gaps even if He uses other people," he explains.
He also wants to offer hope for blended families while helping them to adjust their expectations that everything will, in fact, blend.
"There are certain parts of a step family that are not going to blend. This weekend, I want to help blended families look at whole relational system, count the costs and get help," he says.
The most important advice he gives to a couple in a blended family situation is the same advice he gives to the traditional, intact family: Make your marriage the top priority.
Removing the Blinders
Whether in traditional or blended family situations, godly parents still make mistakes in their child rearing. The most prevalent, Ingram says, involve communication and discipline.
"We tend to talk too much and act too little when our children are small. When kids are very young, they need good clean consequences. Instead, we as parents can over-explain ourselves," he said. "They just need to learn simple obedience during those ages."
Ingram believes the opposite problem is prevalent when the children are older.
"We talk less to our kids when they are older because we think they don’t want us around. They may act that way, but I can tell you that they desperately want to be around you."
During these later years of childhood, most of today’s youth are impacted greatly by technology. "The rules have really changed in parenting since I was a kid, so we will spend some time talking about how to navigate that aspect of parenthood this weekend," he said.
Taking it Home
Technology or not, parenting is difficult in any day and age. Too many parents, he says, take some of the credit when their kids turn out well and all of the blame when they go astray.
"I want parents to leave confident that God will equip them for their roles if they truly seek His wisdom. I want them to realize that they have a very high moral responsibility to allow their kids to know God," he explains.
"But they also need to know that they cannot own the outcome of their children. We, as parents, can create a godly environment in which our kids can grow. But in the end, they choose. The best news is that ultimately, God is in control."
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Chip Ingram is an accomplished author and the senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California. He is also president and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international discipleship media ministry that provides teaching through radio, TV, and interactive online discipleship pathways.