Being a parent is the most challenging thing many of us will do. When our 2-year-old throws spaghetti at the walls or our 14-year-old hurls cruel insults, we may feel like giving up -or getting in the car and driving far, far away.
Ultimately, we really do love our kids. When it's difficult to remember why we love them or how to love them, we can turn to a timeless source of comfort, wisdom and guidance - the Bible. We can learn how Jesus Christ loved children.
What does the Bible teach us about loving our kids?
1. Find joy in children
We learn in Psalms 113:9 (KJV) that God blesses women to be "joyful mother(s) of children." Psalms 127:3 celebrates children as "an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Verse five says, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them ..."
Even when they try our patience and behave like little monsters, don't we sometimes hide a smile at our kids' antics? Kids are generally really funny. Even in the messes, tantrums, sleepless nights and friend drama, can you imagine life without your children?
We're here on Earth to experience joy, and our kids truly bring us joy.
2. Treat children with tenderness
Jesus was a fierce defender of children. He warned his disciples, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6)
Jesus enjoyed the company of children and invited them to approach him. When his disciples rebuked him for engaging with children, he said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14)
There is no account of Jesus ever berating or belittling young children. Instead he warned to "take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones." (Matthew 18:10 KJV) I'm sure that even in ancient times, kids were kids. We can all learn from Jesus's kindness and patience with children.
3. Teach our kids correct principles and obedience
The time and instruction we give our kids is so much more valuable than any materialistic item - a nice house, clothes, toys, electronics or cars - we can give them. Jesus taught us to give "good gifts" to our little ones. (Matthew 7:11) Don't good gifts include our time and teachings?
Isaiah 54:13 instructs, "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." Who better to teach children than their parents? Offer them the good gifts of knowledge of the commandments, manners, how to pray, serve, read and work.
What parent wouldn't want to create a large banner for their home that states, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right." (Ephesians 6:1) The commandment to "honor thy father and mother" is another teaching we can emphasize to our children.
As we enjoy the fruits of our labors, we'll be able to rejoice, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 1:4)
4. Don't give up on our wayward kids
Jesus's parable of the prodigal son is a lovely example of a father devoted to his wayward son. Even when his son disappointed him by leaving home, wasting his money and living unrighteously, the poor father never lost hope. He watched for his son's return and instantly forgave and celebrated his homecoming. "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." (Luke 15:24)
Our children will make poor decisions. They'll break our hearts as they meander from our teachings and lose their way. Sometimes they may choose not to return. But we can faithfully pray for them and love them regardless.
5. Learn from our children's examples
Especially at a young age, kids are teachable, trusting and innocent. Jesus taught, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:2-3)
When we humble ourselves like little children by being meek, teachable and honest, we can draw closer to Jesus Christ and better ourselves. We can exemplify the attributes of our little ones and even learn to get along better with our kids.
The Bible is rich in words of comfort and wisdom to parents. As our kids try our patience, we can turn to the scriptures as a source of parental guidance.