A few weeks ago, my 15-year-old daughter asked me if she could learn to drive our stick-shift Honda Civic. Yes, they still make them! I panicked just a little bit thinking about it. She has recently been learning to drive which is a chore even in a car equipped with all the modern conveniences and safety features money can buy.
Admittedly, my heart skipped thinking about teaching her to drive with the annoyances of a clutch and gear shift. I could visualize us stuck at an intersection with aggravated drivers honking their horns, shaking their fists, and giving us not so friendly salutes as they passed us on the left and the right as she cried in frustration and I succumbed to anger. I wanted to say, “No! You do not need to learn to drive that car!”
Maybe you have seen the memes picturing a gear shift with the words—millennial anti-theft device. Nobody learns to drive a stick nowadays, right? I always warn my kids not to use words like nobody, always, or never, and I just used them twice. However, I digress. Why should I teach my kid to drive a stick? No reason whatsoever!
In the back of my mind, I know that I should not think this way. I learned how to drive in an old blue work truck with a grinding transmission which did not want to cooperate even on its best days. Some of my earliest memories were with my dad at construction sites. I stepped on nails, and I built things. I smashed my fingers, and I got to know my dad’s employees. Life was different back then, but even by the standards of those days, my parents let me run wild and free.
Today’s kids rarely want to leave the house. My parents let me roam. They did not mention anything to me if I stayed in the county and came home by a decent time—when the street lights came on. By the time I was my daughter’s age, I could drive anything and could mostly be found somewhere inside three different counties. Most summers I was at the creek fishing or in the river swimming. During colder seasons, I was hunting squirrels and sitting in a deer stand. I was only still when it was bedtime—I do not remember having difficulty sleeping or struggling with anxiety. I was just too busy for that.
Train Your Children!
The bible teaches that we are to train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). If true, and I believe it is, kids today will never depart from their homes, their screens, or their parents. They will not appreciate the lakes and rivers, or the mountains and the valleys. Moreover, they will not understand the mountains and the valleys of life, because it is hard to experience these things from a cocoon specially manufactured for their protection. Cocoons are good for caterpillars trying to become butterflies but are far too constricting for a young butterfly.
Where am I going with this? I am learning how to raise my kids as I go. I am no authority on the subject. I have made far too many mistakes. However, I think that is the point. We fail, we adjust, and we move forward. We learn through failure. We grow through trials and suffering the consequences of our mistakes. James told his people to consider it all joy when you encounter various trials (James 1:2).
Parents understand trials as they live under constant pressure to guide their kids. We find joy difficult to grasp amidst raging hormones and college choices. However, James says that the trials produce endurance and that endurance causes us to grow in sanctification to be more our Lord which should bring us great joy (James 1:3-4).
Again, this is the point. Just like you, your kids will fail. They will disappoint you. This will happen whether you finish their homework or not. It will happen even when you have their lives perfectly planned—maybe especially when you have their lives perfectly planned. Not all of them will be great athletes. Moreover, not all of them will be able to attend Harvard or even the local junior college. Some of them will be capable but will choose to do something completely different than you think they should.
Teach Your Children to fear God!
I think Solomon understood these things when he penned these wise words, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Parents, above all, teach your kids to fear God and keep His commandments.
The book of Proverbs teaches us that the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). So, if you want your children to walk in wisdom, then you must first teach them to fear the Lord and you must teach them about the grace of God found only in Christ Jesus. Because we fall short of His glory and desperately need His grace (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8–9).
Oh, and take the leash off and give them freedom as appropriate. Let them make decisions, even when they fail, and even when their direction is different from yours. Be there for them when they fall because they will fall, sometimes hard. Teach them that God will catch their fall if they trust Him. And, that you will be there because you care for and love them.
Lastly, teach them to do hard things—like driving an old beat up stick-shift Honda Civic. It might be good for both of you!