You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).
Your parenting objective is to lead your child to Christ so he can learn to love God and others most of all. There is no other code of conduct or religious system that could provide anything better. Living under God’s authority with a satiable love for Him is God-glorifying, soul-satisfying, and neighbor-affecting. The most remarkable thing about the two great commandments is that there are only two of them. Too many rules make one’s head swim. The rule-based life is a yoke of slavery that whittles you down to an awkward, out-of-step conservatism, or it exasperates you to the point of throwing the rules out the window and walking away from God.
If you are going to teach your child “rules,” show him how to love God and his neighbor more than himself. Let the Lord’s primary “rules” be your top two. Always remember that these “rules” have more to do with your child’s attitude than his behaviors. You cannot love God and love others more than yourself unless the Lord has transformed your inner being. This need makes shepherding a child’s heart important because all behaviors—good or bad—flow from his attitude. Isn’t that true for you? Your attitude about God determines how you respond to Him. And your attitude about (your neighbor) determines how you react to (your neighbor).
Because loving God and others is the end game, you must carefully consider how you motivate your child toward that God-glorifying goal. You have to determine if what you are doing as a parent is helping to facilitate that kind of change. If it is not, you must discard it. And the first step in this transformative process is for your child to be born again (John 3:7), and that is not something you can make happen. Only the Lord can grant spiritual transformation to anyone (2 Timothy 2:24-25; 1 Corinthians 3:6).
Your job is to point your child to the gospel while pleading with God to implement this essential first step. The two ways you can cooperate with the Lord in this process are—in this order—model the gospel before your child and teach him about the gospel. Teaching the gospel is more evident to more Christians than modeling the gospel, which is why I’ve listed four ways you can model the gospel to your child, with the hope the Lord will regenerate him so he can be empowered to love God and others supremely.
By practicing these four Christ characteristics, you will motivate your child to love God and others more than himself.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).