Today, my message is entitled “Parenting Seasons.” As children grow and develop the way that we parent them must also change to be age-appropriate. Children grow from infants to pre-school to elementary to adolescent to young adults. Each age corresponds to a different parenting season in which God’s Word must be applied in different ways.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
There are seasons in life and seasons in families as children grow and develop. What worked with infants is not going to work with teenagers. And what works with an elementary age child won’t work with a toddler. For most families, you have several children at different ages. This makes parenting challenging, as children must be treated differently in their different seasons of development.
Many years ago, my wife Carol and I heard an illustration about how to parent through different seasons of a child’s life that has been helpful. The illustration was called parenting within a funnel. So, let’s think about the shape of a funnel. At the bottom, the funnel is narrow and as you move towards the top is gets gradually wider and wider. The funnel represents the different seasons or stages of development of children and the freedom that they are given by their parents.
The bottom of the funnel with its narrowness represents an infant coming into the family. An infant is carefully controlled, he is given no choices, as he is not capable of them. The environment of an infant is controlled to keep them safe.
As a child grows and matures, he is given more freedom and more choices, as he can handle them. Setting of boundaries of what a child can and cannot do are very important. When a child reaches the young adult stage, he should be able to make many of his own choices, still listening to the counsel of his parents. Basically, the funnel represents the amount of freedom you give a child increasing age-appropriately. Problems in families arise when you give a young child too much freedom or an older child too little freedom.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The first part of this verse is a command, to train up our children in God’s way, the way he should go. The last part of the verse is a promise, that a properly trained child will continue to walk in God’s ways even when he is old.
Proverbs 29:15 (ESV) The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Without godly parenting, children will grow up to be foolish and bring shame to their parents. On the other hand, a child who is parented with godly discipline will grow up to be wise, bringing honor to God and his parents. God is the one who creates children and give their parents the responsibility to raise them and send them out into the world on their God-given mission for life. So, today, let’s look briefly at four different parenting seasons.
This is the season from infant through age five. During this season, consistency is of most importance. The pre-school season is also the season of least freedom for the child, but obviously increasing from through the latter years in this season.
Psalm 22:9-10 (ESV) Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
As the parents are consistent in loving, providing for and protecting their child, the child is taught about God’s love, provision and protection. The mother’s care for her infant helps that child trust in God. These are the years when the mother spends a lot of time one on one with the child. Prayer and reading God’s Word should be a large part of this time. Not only should parents be consistent in love, they must also …
Proverbs 22:15 (ESV) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible teaches that from little on, folly or sin is in the heart of every child. A child tends to desire to do the wrong things and to disobey rather than obey parents. Children do not automatically know the right things to do. That is why parental discipline is so important. Discipline is lovingly setting boundaries for the child. Then rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience with regard to those boundaries. The boundaries and discipline should always be consistent and enforced with love.
The most common mistake that new parents make is giving even infants too much freedom, rather than setting consistent boundaries and schedules. Using demand-feeding on an infant puts the infant in control of the feeding schedule rather than the parent. Demand-feeding often leads to future behavior issues. Feeding an infant on a parent-directed schedule helps the infant feel secure and establishes the importance of consistency. As the child grows into the toddler phase, they have more freedom. Yet, one must be careful to give the child too many choices. Parents who give toddlers in this season endless choices with regard to what to eat, when to go to sleep, and so on, will have ongoing obedience issues. Be consistent in love and discipline, setting age-appropriate boundaries.
This is the season from age 6 through 12. The child will now be going to school, either at home, in a private or public school. The key activity of parents in this season is to encourage the children. Of course, discipline should continue during this season. We will be talking about discipline in a future message in this series.
1 Samuel 2:26 (ESV) Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.
Here we see the young prophet Samuel growing physically and in his relationship with the Lord and people. So, as parents, we are to encourage and help the children in these three areas. Physically, we need to encourage right eating and physical exercise. With the advent of computers, television and phones, the lack of right eating and exercise is leading to an epidemic of obesity in our nation’s children.
As parents, we need to encourage our children in developing friendships with others their age. And finally and most importantly, we must encourage our children in their relationship with God. This is the season, that you should make sure your child has made a commitment to Jesus Christ. As we talked about last Sunday, train your children in the discipline of a daily time of Bible reading and prayer. Train your children to learn how to handle money and to give the first ten percent of their income as a tithe to the church.
Proverbs 20:11 (ESV) Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
Children in the pre-teen season should be establishing their reputation, making themselves known as followers of Jesus Christ. Children’s actions that are pure and upright should be encouraged and rewarded by their parents. Of course, wrong actions should be discouraged and disciplined for. However, as parents, you must be careful to make sure there is more encouragement for the right.
At this stage of growth and development, children should begin to do the right things without being told every time. They should be developing godly habits, both in their relationship with God and in their relationship with other people. In the family, they should have chores that they cheerfully do at the proper time. When they are around friends outside the family, they should be examples of what a Christian child should be. The pre-teen season is an incredibly important time in which to build godly character in your children through encouragement.
The teen season is the years from 13 – 18, the middle and high school years. This is the season where you will reap for better or worse how you have parented in the first 12 years. If you have followed biblical principles in the first 12 years, the teen years will be years of great joy. If you have not, you will have a lot of work to do in the teen years to get your children back on track. The key principle in parenting the teen years is the importance of communication. You must keep the channels of communication open during these years.
Proverbs 20:7 (ESV) The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!
Whereas teaching should always be done both by word and by example, the importance of communicating by example is amplified in the teen years. Teenagers will quickly pick up on disconnects between what you say and what you do. If your example contradicts your words, your words of instruction will have little effect. Notice in Proverbs 20:7, it says that when a parent is righteous and walks in integrity, his children will also be blessed after him. Why? Because they will learn from his parent’s example, how to walk in righteousness and integrity.
Proverbs 13:20 (ESV) Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
The teen years is the season when your children will make more and more friends on their own, through school and other activities. This is also the season when peer pressure is high to have lots of friends. It is very important to communicate with your teens concerning their friends. According to this verse in Proverbs, there are wise friends and foolish friends. Your teen needs to be able to discern between wise, godly friends and foolish friends. Not every friend who goes to church and claims to be a Christian is wise. This is an extremely important area of the teen season. The wrong friends can undo all your parenting up to this point, so make this a major area of communication.
In the teen years, you are giving your child more freedom to make their own decisions. However, you are constantly communicating with them. You are firm with them, including discipline, when they are not following godly counsel. At this stage of development, your teen should listen to your counsel when backed by God’s Word. In areas where God’s Word does not speak clearly, they have more freedom. The teen years then leads to the …
The young adult season is the season of 19 and above, generally being the college years. The key principle in the young adult season is to counsel them with respect. This is the last season when your child will be at home and/or dependent on you financially. You are preparing them to establish their own homes in this season, making their own godly decision.
2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV) Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
This is the season when a young adult becomes ready to find a spouse. Finding a spouse is the most important decision in life, after becoming a believer. You must clearly counsel your child that they must only marry a committed believer, preferably a Spirit-filled believer. As that is the goal, we recommend that dating or courting should be done only with believers with the goal of determining whether marriage is God’s will. The concept of missionary dating, where a believer dates an unbeliever with the goal of winning them to Christ is unbiblical, according to the above verse.
1 John 2:14b (ESV) I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
During this time of study and college for most, it is important to guide your young adult to continue growing in God. The temptation is to let the business of the season cause their commitment to God to wane at this important time. Counsel them to get involved with a believer’s group on campus and be a witness to fellow students. Make sure that your child continues to be part of a Bible believing church and continues with their personal spiritual growth. Again, as this is the season for many to find their life-long mate, it is essential that they are close to and hearing from God at this time.
Genesis 2:24 (ESV) Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
When your young adult finds the believing spouse that God has for them, they will leave your authority as parents and establish their own home and family. During the dating, courtship and engagement, continue your counsel with regard to the upcoming marriage. Keep the communication lines open. Although after marriage, your son or daughter will make all of their own decisions, you still should and they should receive godly counsel from the parents.
In this last young adult season, it is important that your child develop all the skills necessary and prepare for the next season of establishing their own home and family. Some may stay at home after college as singles for a season as they work and continue seeking the spouse that God has for them. Continue to discuss and counsel them as the Lord directs.
Today, we’ve talked about the parenting seasons, from pre-school to pre-teens, to teens and finally young adults. We’ve really just skimmed the surface about everything that could be said on parenting these seasons. Remember the parenting within a funnel illustration. Moving from the most direction at a young age to the most freedom at the young adult stage. Assuming your child becomes a believer in the pre-teen season, your desire for them and their desire for themselves should be the same, to follow God’s plan for their lives. You and your child have a common authority, the Word of God, and a common guide, the Holy Spirit. If you are both hearing from God, there will be harmony in your discussions on every issue.
I cannot close without the mentioning the importance of prayer. Parents praying for their children, children praying for parents and parents praying with children. A family that prays together, stays together in God’s will.