The Rev. Tommy Nelson examines eight essentials for raising children into emotionally-healthy adults. (Part 1 of 2)
John Fuller: If you've parented for any length of time you might have had to apologize to your children and today on Focus on the Family, our guest, Pastor Tommy Nelson offers this little story.
Tommy Nelson: I've had to go into my sons' room and say to Ben and John, "I want you to know I sinned against your mom. I did not treat her with the respect that God tells me to and I want to ask you all to forgive me." John would have fun with it. He'd go, "You're no good." (Laughter) "You're no good."
End of Excerpt
John: Well it helps to have a sense of humor in those moments; those somewhat awkward situation where you do have to apologize to your child. And you're going to hear more great advice on being a mom or a dad today, from Tommy Nelson, on today's edition of today's Focus on the Family. And our hose is Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, that's a familiar situation; having to apologize to your kids. I've don't it; it's no fun. But it's a very valuable for them and certainly sets a good example. You know why? Because everyone has to learn to apologize. We all make mistakes, but I think for parents to apologize, it's hard to do.
John: It gets harder when the kids get into their teens as well.
Jim: I bet it does! But that kind of awareness is just one of the strategies we'll hear from Tommy Nelson today, who shares biblical ideas in a very positive and humorous manner.
John: Tommy Nelson has been on this broadcast a number of times, he's senior pastor at Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas. He's talked about topics ranging from American's founding principles, to the Song of Solomon. And we're going to feature that presentation next week, right here. For now though, here's Tommy Nelson on today's edition of Focus on the Family.
Tommy: What I'd like to do with you this morning is just to kind of shore up an area, is to take a look at childrearing. When I was a boy I remember watching the cereal commercials and they would talk about the eight essential vitamins that it takes to grow. What I'd like to do this morning in just these few moments is to go through our Bible and take exactly what are the eight essentials that a child has to have--not merely how you're supposed to raise a child, but the eight essentials as to what that little fellow that God has given you, has to have.
If you're like me, I know that just about anywhere my life goes, I feel pretty good as long as I feel that I'm doing pretty good as a husband and as a father. Your life pretty well is directed by your home. If you lose your job or if you lose your health, well, that's all right, as long as you feel that you have struggled with the standard that God gives you as a parent, as a mate.
What does God require us to have for our children? Let me say as I look at this on childrearing, this is a great place to get covered up with guilt. None of us is where we ought to be as parents. I could do such a better job right now. I have thought of adopting four or five right now (Laughter), because I have learned so much, now that I have a 19- and a 16-year-old, of what I ought to have done. And so, like many, you know, the … the longer I'm out of football, when I get introduced at … at banquets, the greater I get. (Laughter) Did you ever notice that? And that's kind of the way I feel as a parent. The farther I get away from my kids, the better that I was. (Laughter)
But I want to show you what parenting is. And as we do this, you wives, you don't have to be body-checking your husbands here or uh … pointing or getting covered with guilt. We'll just see what God has us to provide for these little fellows.
In Proverbs 15, I really think that this is the first place that a kid has to have something. I think it is above and beyond everything else that a child has to have. It's the platform and I think that, unless you have this that you can't provide anything else for the kid. It's Proverbs 15 and verse 17, or 16 and 17. "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil in it. Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it." If you'll turn one page to 17:1, "Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife."
The first essential vitamin that a child has to have is a house of peace. Many of you grew up in homes that were marked by consistent explosions and anger of one or more parent and you saw fighting, unresolved conflict. Many of you grew up in homes where the way that you resolved conflict was to turn and one would freeze the other out. You remember how it was to walk on eggshells, knowing that there was great tension in the home? And that is why when you hit about age 16, you could not wait to get your license, so you could get away from that. And that is why when you turned 18, you could not wait to flee those city limits to get away from your home. I believe that the most valuable thing that I provide for my child is that I, as a husband, must demonstrably love my wife. Fathers, the greatest thing you do for your children is to love your children's mother, because there is essentially no sin that a child will not forgive, as long as the parents love each other.
I used to think that all parents knew this, but I found out I was wrong. You do not conflict with your mate in front of your children. I thought we all knew that and I found out we did not. You never, ever conflict with your mate in front of your child. You discuss with them and it's good for kids to watch parents work through conflict. But if you see something rising, you go back into the bedroom to talk it out. You don't rob that child of the peace of his home. And you do not, in a home as parents, play the part of a spoiled brat and one parent freeze out the other. Have you ever seen this happen, where there's "unresolution" to a conflict and one parent will freeze the other one out? And now that child grows up with tremendous tension.
There have been times I've had to apologize to my children. Have you ever had to do that? I've had to go into my sons' room and say to Ben and John, "I want you to know I sinned against your mom. I did not treat her with the respect that God tells me to and I want to ask y'all to forgive me." And Ben would go, "Ah, that's all right." John would have fun with it. He'd go, "You're no good." (Laughter) "You're no good." I said, "Ah, shut up!" (Laughter) I did my job. (Laughter)
Uh ... there have been times, ladies, I want you to know, my wife--my dear sweet wife--has gone to my sons and said, "I want you to forgive me; I didn't treat your father with the respect that God tells me too."
And one of the things that I am most grateful for growing up is my mother made my house and my home a magic place. She had such tradition. There was such love; there was such happiness in my home that uh ... Christmas was magic; Easter was magic; Thanksgiving was magic. Pulling a tooth was magic in my home. And it was a big deal to try to catch her sticking that quarter under there. (Laughter) And uh ... I believed in the tooth fairy until I was 22, I think 23. (Laughter) My mother would ... I never could catch her.
But do you know what? Folks, I want you to know this. When I left for college when I was 18-years-old, to go play college football, you know what [was] the last thing I took? I went into my backyard and I took a rock and I put that rock in my pocket. And every time that I would feel homesick or lonely at college, I would reach in my pocket and I would feel that rock and it was a little piece of home. And still today, in times of uh ... turmoil, my heart goes back to Waco and I think, "I'll just go back there sometimes and just sit." So, before you teach and before you do anything else, before you bring your child to Sunday school, that child has to have peace in the home.
I think I told you about a buddy of mine that had an inner-city ministry up in Kansas City. And he would notice that these kids would come into his home and lie down on the rug and go to sleep. And he never knew why until he visited their homes. And the homes were full of tension and pain and immorality and violence. And the kids were always tense and they learned to solve things by just starting to throw hands.
Until they would come into his home. And my brother in the Lord--his name was Cary Casey--and his wife would make their home a place of music, decorativeness, love, affection, warmth and happiness. And the kids would come in and lay down on the rug and go to sleep. Your kid first has to have peace. And might I say for some of you parents, you seriously might have to do what I knew of one man doing. You might have to go home and sit down with your children and you and your wife have a time of confession to your children and asking their forgiveness, in asking them to submit to you, while you were not willing to submit to your heavenly Father. A kid has to have peace.
Secondly, take a look at 2 Samuel in chapter 14, back to your left; 2 Samuel 14, David's son, Absalom, had just murdered David's or Absalom's half brother, Amnon, because of his rape of his sister Tamar. And Absalom ran away and David was persuaded by the activity of Joab, one of his companions, to receive Absalom back. And I want you to notice what David did with Absalom. In chapter 14 of 2 Samuel and verse 28, "Now Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem and did not see the king's face."
In other words, David said, "I'll bring you back to the city and comply as far as I have to, but I am not going to spend time with you and I am not going to talk to you." "Then Absalom sent for Joab to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. So, he sent a second time. He would not come." This boy is trying to get his daddy to spend time with him, to forgive him, to know that he loves him, to talk to him. His daddy is a marvelous divine administrator. He can talk to everybody else in Israel, but he doesn't have time to talk to his kid. Sound familiar? And so, look what the kid does. Verse 30, "Therefore, Absalom said to his servant, 'See Joab's field is next to mine. He has barley there. Go and set it on fire.'" That's a good way to get your daddy to notice you, is you set your … Joab's field on fire. I'll burn the thing down; then we'll see if he'll listen to me. Verse 31, "Then Joab arose," I'll say he did "and came to Absalom at his house and said, 'Why have your servants set my field on fire?' and Absalom answered, 'Behold, I sent for you saying, "Come here that I may send you to the king and say, why have I come from Geshur? It would have been better for me to still be there. Therefore, let me see the king's face; if there is iniquity in me, let me be put to death.'" And in 33, David received him, meaning I'd just as well live on the smooth other side of the nation, as to live in a city where my father will not talk to me.
John: Well some strong words from Pastor Tommy Nelson as he unpacks the scripture and brings principals for having a healthy home to us on today's Focus on the Family and in a few moments you'll hear why it's so important that you pray with your child. By the way, get a CD of this program when you call 800 A-FAMILY or we have that and the download available at www.Focusonthefmily.com/radioand you can also find the list Pastor Nelson is working from there, eight essentials of a healthy home.
End of Program Note
Tommy: The second thing that a kid needs is time. He needs a father to look at him and a mother to look at him with full face and to listen to them. The most valuable thing that a person has is their opinion. There are times a child needs to be lectured and there are times a child needs simply to be looked at and to be loved and to be valued. And I've got to tell you, a lot of times, one of the most terrifying things for a child is to spend time with his father. And I'll tell you why, because fathers love to get the kid and go away on a three-hour car ride, where he can't leave and [locking sound] lock the doors. And now the father sermonizes to him for about two hours. Nothing could be worse.
A child needs peace and a child needs his parent's face, looking full into his and listening to him. A child needs time. And parents, might I say to you, one of the deceiving things is, that we don't realize while we are doing it how marvelous it is later in retrospect, that we have spent time with our children. If I were to ask you to go back and start thinking of the time your father spent with you, I'll make you men a bet: I'll bet you I could take any man in this congregation and I could stand you right here. I'll bet you $500 that I could make you lecture everyone here for five minutes on the time your father spent with you. I'd be willing to bet any amount of money, there's not one man in here that could talk about that time for five minutes and not break down weeping and we would lead you off of this stage and sit you down. I'll bet you, you couldn't do it. I can't do it, not well. And when I was doing it, I didn't realize how wonderful it was.
I can remember distinctly the times, dove huntin'. And I ain't hit a dove yet. (Laughter) I did shoot my daddy in the rear end on one occasion. (Laughter) I skipped one, hunting on the Bosque River and he was on a sandbar. The dove flew down between us and I put it right on that dove. (Laughter) Daddy was thinking, "What's that boy doing?" Boom. (Laughter)
I can remember the time; I can remember fishing with my father. I can remember cold coffee grounds on a[n] open fire. I can remember listening to my father tell stories, uh … baseball games. You don't realize while you're doing it, what you're doing, but you spend time with your children. And you don't spend time lecturing your kid unless there's the need. You love him and you laugh at his jokes.
And Jonathan Edwards had 13 children and it is said that every day he would lay aside time to spend time with his wife and time with one child. And he would work through his kids every couple of weeks, time with his children. It's precious to 'em. You fathers, you know what I think is the best way to raise a kid? It's the same way that you raise a ... a golden retriever. You take a little dog, if you want to have a good dog, you take a little dog when he is born and you put him in your pocket. And you take that little doggie with you every place you go. You put him in the pickup; put him in the cab; put him in the car; put him in the home and that dog will never leave your side. You take your little child with you wherever you go and it will be precious, indeed. Your kid has to have time, because fathers, there is no ... and I say to the daddies, especially, there is no amount of success in this world that is going to ever replace the pain of a child gone south because you didn't spend time with him. And there is no amount of pain in this world that will replace the joy of a good boy and a good girl ... time.
Tell ya somethin' else. If you'll take a look at II Timothy, in chapter 3. I could use a whole bunch of them right here, but I'll use this one. I could use Deuteronomy 6, parents, these words of the law shall be on your hear and you'll teach them diligently to your sons. I could use Proverbs, for children to let the teaching of their mother to be about their neck like a necklace. I could use Ephesians 6, fathers raise your children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord, but I'll use this one. In II Timothy 3, why Timothy, as he is looking at a future in the ministry where the will most assuredly be challenges to the Word of God. Why is it Timothy that in 3:1 in difficult times that will come that in 3:10 you should not be moved and in 3:14 you should continue in your fundamental belief in the Word of God. It's because verse 15, Timothy, you cannot argue with the teaching of your mother and your grandmother. From childhood, and that is the world used for infancy, you have known the sacred writing which are able to give you wisdom. Verse 14, continuing the things you have learned and become convinced of, a child needs truth. Fathers, mothers, let me tell you one thing that I'm glad I did and one thing that I wish I had done more, because I underestimated. It is so easy in childrearing to underestimate, while you're doing it, the impact of what you're doing. It is so easy when you're teaching a bedtime story to your kid and that kid is going in and out, to think you're not doing that much. When you're praying with your child, to not think that such a little bitty fellow, a little bitty girl and it doesn't look that important, I'm glad, though, that I read to my children when they were little.
I read Pilgrim's Progress; I read C.S. Lewis, The Narnia Chronicles. And they were great times of story reading. But, I wish ... you know what I had done, fathers? I wish I had done more of taking those little children's books of Bible stories and reading it to 'em. It is so invaluable for a kid to know about Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, Joseph and the coat of many colors, just to have stories of moral guidance.
I prayed with my kids, but I wish I had prayed more intelligently. You guys that have little ones and you ladies with little ones, pray with your children at meals and at nighttime and pray theologically. The kid never knows that he's getting theology. "Thank God for, in light of the total depravity, Father and our inability to please You, that You became to us in Your Son, all that we should have been." Now you've just taught him a little Christology, "And You paid the price in Your shed blood," there's soteriology, "for our sin," there's hamartiology "and You laid to our account what we needed," that's imputation "and You shall keep us forever and forever." See, to be constantly soaking your child in intelligence, rather than just, "Thanks, God, for the burrito, amen." (Laughter) You can do better. Pray intelligently for your children. Read to your children.
Mammas, let me tell you what my mother did when I was little. When I was 11-years-old, I did not make the all-star team and I should have (Laughter), but I didn't and it crushed me. It was the most crushing blow uh … in my entire life, when I was 11-years-old, because I had two buddies who did and it killed me. And my mother sat down--I can see it in living color today--she sat down with me on a bed and I la … aid there.
And she just patted my back and she told me the story of Joseph, who God gave him a promise and it looked like everything went south on him, but he kept hanging in there and one day God elevated him. That little story I carried through my entire life--the story of Joseph. Never underestimate the stories. Teach your kid and when they get old, as the text says right here, they will continue.
But again, parents, this is No. 3: you can't teach your kids if you don't have peace in your home and you can't teach your kid uh … if you don't spend time with them. You can do it, but that kid is always gonna take that story that you tell him and put an asterisk beside it--"Believed, but not lived."
John: Well, some straight from the heart advice from Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church on today's edition of "Focus on the Family." Uh ... Jim, some great principles to live by and we'll hear more next time.
Jim: And we'll post those on our website, John, all eight so people can go back and refer to them. I just want to reiterate Pastor Nelson's three points that he covered today in case you joined us late and you weren't quite tracking with where we were at. He said children need these three things: A house of peace, and that meant where there's no yelling or fighting. Now John, you're coming from a house of six kids!
John: Not happening in my house. (Chuckles)
Jim: You know, but that's the target.
John: It is.
Jim: It doesn't mean you failed if it's a little out of control on a certain evening. Second, children need time with their parents. I love this one. We say it all the time, but kids need face to face time with you and they just need to talk with you and listen to you. They learn so much through your company. And finally, children need to be taught the truth. Especially God's truth so that they have a firm moral foundation. And you know, to many, this may seem basic. But more and more these days with the pace of life increasing like it is and parent's working more than one job to make ends meet life is frantic and we recognize that. And if that's hectic pace is reflected in your home, if home is not a safe haven, maybe it's time to ask the Lord what changes your family could make this year to accomplish that. And if you feel like you need help, and don't feel ashamed, we all go through that, but whatever reason you may not be hitting these three, and really the eight that Tommy has outlined, give us a call here at Focus on the Family. We are here for you and we can help equip you and resource you and talk you through better ways to engage your children. We have a group of caring Christian counselors who would love to give you a call back after you leave your name and number here, and spend time on the phone with you; and if needed, even refer you to a Christian counselor in your area. I should also remind you that those who need our help the most, often can't afford to make a donation, so if you'd like to help us with the costs of having these trained counselors available for just this purpose, become a monthly donor to Focus on the Family. Partner with us as we provide your family and perhaps the family next door to thrive.
John: That's right. You never know who Focus on the Family might be helping right now through your generous support and we received over 65,000 phone calls last year, so it's possible that someone in your own neighborhood, a family that could be just a couple of doors down, has benefited from our resources. Donate when you call 800-232-6459 or at www.Focusonthefamily.com/radio. And our counselors are available during business hours. As Jim said, we'll maybe have to ask you for your contact information and have them call you back just because of the call volume. Now when you get in touch please ask about The Family Project. It's a great way to start building a positive foundation for your family. Go through this DVD curriculum and be reminded about why family is so important. Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in! I'm John Fuller inviting you back tomorrow. Tommy Nelson will be sharing his take on child discipline and we'll have more trusted advice and encouragement to help your family thrive.
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Tommy NelsonView Bio
Tommy Nelson is the senior pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, TX. He has authored many best-selling books including The Book of Romance, A Life Well Lived and Walking on Water When You Feel Like You're Drowning. Tommy and his wife, Teresa, have been married for more than 40 years. The couple has two adult sons and six grandchildren.