parenting 101


Challenging our Children to Do Hard Things

Parents sometimes become distressed when their children are asked to do hard things. After all, we love our children and want to protect them. When children are challenged, stretched, or required to do things that are above them, they respond in different ways. More adventurous souls will get excited by the challenge while more timid children may shrink away. One thing is sure: our children will rise to the level of the expectations that we hold them to.

We are preparing our children to be adults. That’s why we should constantly be finding ways to prepare them for an adult world. In our culture, in which the perpetual adolescence of marathon gaming sessions, pizza on the couch, and gallons of Mountain Dew till early in the morning is the ideal, training your children to be adults will be counter-cultural. Young children who act like young children are cute, but older children who act like young children, well, that’s a different matter.

When you require your children to do hard things, hold them accountable to your instructions, maintain a high standard, and expect maturity and responsibility, you are preparing them to succeed not just in school but in life. You are preparing them to be adults.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying: children should be allowed to be children. Children should play and use their imaginations and be given the freedom to explore the world as children. But a romanticized view of childhood that wants me-centered children only to play, continually to let themselves go in a Willy Wonka-like candyland of childhood pleasures, is a myopic view. There is an adult world that we are preparing our children to enter, and we must indeed prepare them. We have children, but we are training adults.

The Christian Scriptures require it of us. The Triune God raises His children toward maturity (Eph. 4:13-14), and so should we. So when we require children to memorize Scripture passages that they do not fully understand, when we lead children to pray prayers that are far too profound for them, when we teach children historical facts that have ramifications reaching far beyond their grasp, we are creating grooves for a lifetime. Children’s minds and hearts can run along these grooves as they mature, and then when they are adults, they will have familiarity with Scriptures, prayers, historical facts, and worldviews that fit them for usefulness in God’s kingdom and in the world.

Do you have a vision for your children’s maturity? Are you creating grooves for their maturity? Are you challenging them to do hard things? Regents loves childhood, silliness, and play. But we reject foolishness. We want to help you propel your children toward maturity and greater usefulness to God and to the world.


Other-Worldly and Resolute Christians

What is your vision for your children?

Here are some words by Pastor Robert Rayburn stirring Christian parents to take their calling as parents seriously. Through our faithful parenting we will

furnish the church with generation after generation of great multitudes of Christian servants and soldiers who reach manhood and womanhood well taught, sturdy in the faith, animated by love for God and man, sophisticated in the ways of the world and the Devil, polished in the manners of genuine Christian brotherhood, overshadowed by the specter of the Last Day, nerved to deny themselves and take up their cross so as to be counted worthy of greater exploits for Christ and Kingdom. Presently the church not only suffers a terrible shortage of such other-worldly and resolute Christians, superbly prepared for spiritual warfare, but, in fact, is hemorrhaging its children into the world. Christian evangelism will never make a decisive difference in our culture when it amounts merely to an effort to replace losses due to widespread desertion from our own camp.


Is ‘Obey’ a Four-Letter Word?

I once read an article about parenting with the headline, “’Obey’ is not a four letter word.” Indeed. I see a lot of parents in Wal-Mart who seem to think it is. But a biblical view of parenting teaches us otherwise.

The Bible very rarely speaks directly to children, but when it does so it is unequivocal. “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). And parents are likewise unambiguously commanded to be in authority over their children, instructing them in God’s ways. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them [God’s words] diligently to your children,” said the Lord to His people (Deut 6:6-7).

But what does it mean for children to obey?

It is obviously possible to do what you’re told with a heart full of rebellion. Is the standard mere external, compulsory compliance? I am reminded of the little boy sitting in the corner who told his mother, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but on the inside I’m standing up!”

The biblical standard of obedience is captured well in the dictum, “We obey right away, all the way, with a good attitude every day.” This is something that children hear around the halls and classrooms of Regents Academy quite often.

Obey right away. Slow obedience is no obedience. Prompt obedience is evidence of a heart that is willing and ready to obey. This heart-readiness to obey honors the authority and position of parents or teachers and therefore honors God.

Obey all the way. True obedience is complete and thorough obedience. If I tell my daughter to place the dirty glass in the dishwasher, but she places it in the sink instead, I don’t do myself or my daughter any favors if I say, “Well, at least she got close. At least she didn’t leave the glass on the table.” Obedience means obeying all the way, not just half the way or most of the way.

Obey with a good attitude every day. Sour-puss obedience is dishonoring to God. God desires our joyful obedience to those in authority over us, and He desires this same joy of our children. Obedience that says with facial gestures or posture, “I’ll obey but I don’t like it” may be compliance, but it’s not obedience.

We must train our children to obey. Our children are sons and daughters of Adam and are born with a bent toward selfishness and rebelliousness. But we must seek to capture their hearts and win their loyalty. Children who are thankful, joyful, loyal to their parents are children who obey from the heart. Only the gospel of Christ produces this kind of heart obedience, so we are reliant on God to give us and our children His grace. We must pray for our children diligently.

This year at Regents Academy teachers are joining parents in this training process, training children, both young and old, to obey from the heart. Like any training process, there is pain involved – the pain of correction and discipline. But there is also great joy when children are heartily obedient and readily loyal to those who are charged by God to instruct them.

You love your children and want the best for them. That is why you have them at Regents. We are aware of that great trust, and we will do everything in our power to love our precious students and strive daily to train them toward obeying right away, all the way, with a good attitude every day.


Parenting 101, part seven

Another principle for being a good school parent: Read up and understand classical and Christian education.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Classical education is quite new to most of us, and most of us did not receive a Christian education ourselves. We want great things for our children, but we can’t achieve those great things apart from embodying the principles of classical and Christian education ourselves, in our own homes. Education goes on 24/7, not just when we drop off the children at the stone building on the hill.

So read up on classical and Christian education. Grasp it, know its history, its philosophy, its methods, its soul. Then, most importantly, live it out. It’s great to know, but it’s better to do. And living out the disposition and spirit of classical and Christian education is most important of all.

Where to start? Here is a list of books to lay your hands on and read. If you would rather listen to a lecture, check with the school office about borrowing a CD of a classical Christian educator’s speech or lesson. We have tons of them.

1.    Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson.
This book, based on Mr. Wilson’s successful venture with Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, has been the pioneering guide to the renewed interest in classical Christian education.

2.    Repairing the Ruins: The Classical and Christian Challenge to Modern Education by the staff of Logos School in Moscow, Idaho.
This collection of practical essays gives insights into applying the classical model to the curriculum and administration of a school.  The authors have all worked in the Logos School which has been the model for many classical Christian schools.

3.    The Christian Philosophy of Education Explained by Stephen Perks.
This text clearly defines Christian education. It is not to be academically inferior, culturally retreatist, or modeled after the humanistic schools.  This book shows how Christian education should be explained.

4.   “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers.
English scholar, mystery novelist, and Christian thinker Dorothy Sayers wrote this insightful, idealistic essay many years ago.  It outlines the model used in classical Christian education called the Trivium, and it explains how the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages naturally fit the mental growth of children and the mastery of a field of knowledge.  She had no idea or expectation that her essay would have such a tremendous influence in the latter part of the twentieth century.  But “ideas have consequences.”

5.    The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson.
Doug Wilson says that education must deal with basic questions of life — questions that require religious answers. Building on his previous book, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Mr. Wilson encourages parents and educators to turn to Christian classical education.

6. The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory.
First published in 1884, this presentation of the laws of teaching is a timeless guide to the basic principles of good teaching.

7. The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness by Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby.
This book provides excellent guidance and counsel for those preparing for one of the most difficult transitions of life — that of leaving high school and entering college. Helpful for students and parents alike.

8. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.
Though Mr. Postman is now deceased, his work lives on, encouraging 21st century people who are immersed in digital media to re-think the power of the printed word and resist the ever-present temptation to be amused to death by the trivial and banal influences of television and electronic media.

9. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
More than a handbook on parenting, this book is a guide for parents to apply biblical truth to childrearing. The principles in this book are also an excellent guide for the discipleship and discipline of students while at school.


Parenting 101, part six

Here is yet another parenting 101 suggestion: volunteer at your children’s school.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your role in your children’s education ends when you drop them off in the morning. Neither does it end when your children leave the grammar school for the logic school. You are responsible for your children’s education, from kindergarten to graduation. Furthermore, God has designed you to make a unique contribution to Regents Academy. One way you can fulfill that responsibility and make your contribution is by being involved in the life of the school, helping it as it serves families and adding your distinctive talents and personality to the school’s ministry. What can you do? Here are a few ideas:

Help prepare and serve hot lunch

Read in your child’s classroom

Serve at a school dinner

Help build the playground (this Saturday June 12th!)

Clean and organize the kitchen

Drive students for a class field trip

Help with next year’s BIG Serve

Talk to Mr. Bryant, Mrs. DeKerlegand, or your child’s teacher, and find a way to contribute your time and talents to the school’s ministry. Regents Academy relies on faithful parents who serve week-in and week-out.

Thank you to all our parents who serve so diligently.


Parenting 101, part five

Here’s another basic of being a good school parent: help your children start the day out right.

I am thinking of very concrete things:

Make sure your children get a good night’s rest

Feed your children a good breakfast

Get your children to school on time

Send your children to school in uniform

Help your child organize his assignments

Pack a hearty snack and lunch that will get him through the day.

It is amazing how much simple things like sleep and food impact your child’s day. And then in turn your child’s day impacts the other students in his class and his teacher as well. Children concentrate, think, and learn better when their bodily needs are well cared for. Children are free to focus on learning when they are not distracted by uniforms and disorganized assignments and tardiness.

One of the reasons you have your child at Regents Academy is your concern for his soul. You know that education is essentially a religious activity and that a Christian education is indispensable for a child to grow up in the care and admonition of the Lord. Prayer, the Bible, and godly teachers are all formative for your child’s soul, and these are what your children are surrounded by each day. But created in the image of God, we are souls AND bodies. We need to tend to our bodies as well as our souls, from childhood to adulthood.

So examine your family’s habits and your patterns. Life is busy, and details are often hard to see. But consider how vitally important it is for your children to sleep and eat well, and to begin each day ready for school.

Here at the end of another school year is the time to take stock and begin to plan now how you can improve next year.


Parenting 101, part four

This is the fourth installment in a series of posts called Parenting 101. These are meant to be suggestions for how to be a good school parent.

The next principle is this: Be a supporter of the school when you’re out in the community.

Parents are our school’s best spokesmen, ambassadors, and advocates. So look for opportunities to get the word out about Regents Academy in our community. Private education seems odd to many people, not to mention private Christian education. And private classical Christian education is an outright enigma. But then there’s you standing before them: your children are part of a classical Christian school, and you can help people understand what is so great about that.

Are there things the school needs to do better? Are there things the school has gotten wrong? Of course. However, we can all major on the many things the school has gotten right and the many wonderful gifts God has given us through the school. A little bit of criticism on Facebook goes a long way. But a few well-chosen words to friends and neighbors about how God has blessed your family through Regents Academy goes even further. As the school’s reputation for excellence in education and for being a loving Christian family grows, the school prospers, and we all benefit.

You have a lot to do with that. So do your part. Talk the school up, and watch what happens.


Parenting 101, part three

Another Parenting 101 principle: If you have a problem or an issue with your child’s teacher, go directly to the teacher as soon as possible.

You will be tempted to gossip about it with others. You will be tempted to bury it until it festers into anger or bitterness. You will be tempted to send a scathing email. You will be tempted to stew over it until it bursts out later. You will be tempted to do lots of things that are neither productive nor biblical.

The right response is to go to your child’s teacher with a gentle and gracious spirit and simply ask to talk about the issue. In Matthew 18 our Lord taught us that if someone sins against us, we ought to go to that person and tell him his fault. Talking about it with others, unless you are genuinely seeking counsel in dealing with the issue, is not an option. It requires humility in parents to go to a teacher with the right spirit. It also requires humility in a teacher to be willing to acknowledge his faults and rectify them. It takes wisdom, too, because sometimes the teacher has done nothing wrong or has unintentionally hurt feelings.

Regents teachers are not only willing to talk things over with you, they are eager to do so. Almost every week, I see or hear of faithful parents who come to a teacher and share their concern, and the issue is dealt with peacefully and effectively. We live in a community, with teachers partnering with parents to teach and train children for Christ. We are fellow believers — grown-ups — who are called to act in love.

Now, I know that these are your children, and it is easy to get emotional or upset when you perceive that a teacher is out of line. All the more reason to pray, get control, and go straight to the one who needs to work it out: the teacher.

What do you do if that meeting doesn’t yield results? That is the time, perhaps, to go to the headmaster and seek another hearing. Maybe there is more information that will clear things up, or maybe the headmaster can go to the teacher and get to the bottom of things and bring a resolution to the matter.

In any case, we should consider what St. Paul taught us in Galatians 5:14-15.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

We do well to practice these words daily — and heed Paul’s warning — as parents and teachers.


Parenting 101, part two

Here is another Parenting 101 principle: Don’t believe everything your children tell you happened at school.

I am not suggesting that you regard your child as a liar. I am suggesting that you be wise. A pastor I once worked with used to say, “There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth.” There is truth to his statement. Your child will inevitably tell the story from her perspective and so will tell it a certain way. She will include certain details while omitting others. She will reverse the order of events or remember something wrong or make inferences that sound like facts.

Or perhaps she is lying. That is indeed a possibility. Solomon wrote in Proverbs that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. That includes sins like lying. If you believe your child is incapable of lying, you should go back to what the Bible says about her.

So don’t automatically believe everything your child says about what happened at school. Instead, try to understand what happened as best you can. Ask your child questions in a calm and even tone. Seek facts, not interpretations and inferences. Then, call or approach your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Avoid accusing your teacher before hearing her perspective. Ask what happened and listen carefully.

I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells and then go to the teacher and point the finger angrily, accusing the teacher of unfairness or inconsistency without allowing the teacher a single word of explanation. Also, I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells, accept every word, and then refuse to go to the teacher at all but instead bury the grievance, which quickly rots into bitterness and anger. In either case, this is a formula for a poisoned parent-teacher relationship. The Bible calls us to peace, not poison.

My own children have come home and reported an occurrence at school that was unsettling or problematic. We talked to the teacher and found out that what really happened was quite different from what we were told. Or, we found out that what happened was accurate, but it had been dealt with. In either case reacting based on my children’s account alone — or reacting with my emotions bent out of shape — would have been the worst thing I could have done.

A teacher once said, “If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I’ll promise not to believe everything he says happens at home.” Sounds like a good agreement to abide by. 


Parenting 101

I enjoy Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, not just for the wacky humor, but because Watterson gets us into the mind of a 6-year-old so that we see the world through a child’s eyes (even if that child happens to be a precocious daydreamer like Calvin). One cartoon pictures Calvin as a square peg being beaten into a round hole, than as a zombie, a robot, a hamster on a wheel, a parrot, and a prisoner on a chain gang. At the end of the strip, Hobbes asks, “Another typical day at school?”

What is it like for the other guy? How do things change if I look through his eyes? We should be asking these questions often in many relationships of life, and no less in the complex of relationships that make up the family-school connection. As an educator I try often to see things through the eyes of my students or their parents. As a school parent myself, it’s not too hard to see how the view looks from the other side of my school administrator desk.

Reaching the end of another school year, it strikes me that it is a good time to take stock of how to be a good Regents Academy parent. Call it Parenting 101. Here and in a few subsequent posts, I will offer some suggestions for how to be a good school parent.

First, realize that the school relationship is a partnership, not a solo act.

Resist the temptation to be a drop-off parent who thinks, “They do the educating. I do the parenting. I pay them thousands of dollars so that I don’t have to worry about the education part.” No, parenting is educating. We are your partners in fulfilling your responsibility under God to educate your children.

When you approach school as a partnership rather than as a responsibility that you have abdicated or shifted, it changes everything. You get involved with the day-to-day progress of your children. You go over spelling lists and discuss the literature of the week and review math facts and probe your child’s Bible knowledge. You spot weaknesses to work on and strengths to praise and celebrate. You see the teacher’s role as an adjunct to what you are already doing. You support the teacher in countless ways as a co-laborer rather than as an mere spectator. You develop trust with your child’s teacher as you work together with him or her.

Teachers love it when parents are deeply involved with the academic progress of their students. And the opposite is true as well: teachers get frustrated with parents who are distant and only minimally involved in the education of their children. The first matter of Parenting 101 is to be an involved mom or dad who takes seriously your responsibility under to God in the education of your children.