The other day, during a phone chat with my girlfriend, she asked me “how much of a child’s success or failure (spiritually, financially, mannerism, etc.,) is the responsibility of the parents?” We briefly talked about Bible passages that could answer this great and important question. I was so excited that I asked permission from my dear girlfriend (shout out! to Mrs. Oludile!!!) to explore and write.
So, how much of a child’s success or failure is the responsibility of the parents?
Whilst I didn’t ask my girlfriend what steered this question but I can imagine, as a mother of two children, that she also lays awake at nights in bed, wondering if she was doing her best to ensure that she was leading her children down the path of success.
During our chat, we talked about Proverbs 22:6 which says: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it” (NIV version).
What does this Bible scripture really mean and how does it apply to the question above?
My sister and I were raised in a single-parent home by our mother— the strongest, fiercest woman I’ve ever known! During my childhood, our mother was the embodiment of a struggling, working class, single mother who spent all her penny to ensure her daughters were educated and successful in life. More importantly, she ensured my sister and I were church girls! Church-girls in the sense that we cleaned the church, went to all the meetings and night vigils, read our entire Bible at least twice a year…you get the story.
My mother also ensured that we memorized Proverbs 22:6 so we understood why she was spanking the stubbornness or disobedience out of our minds! She would also quote Proverbs 10:1 “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.”
Now that I am a mother, I realize the importance of my mother’s actions in raising her children the way she did! I believe, by God’s grace, my sister and I are doing great in our adult lives. Many thanks to our mother’s efforts.
But I have read about children of well-known Christian Parents—who attempted the path of “failure”. A well-known example is Dr. Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham who initially rebelled against his father’s beliefs. While Dr. Graham was winning souls in the millions, Franklin was drinking his away in bars around the world until God eventually arrested his heart and he returned home. Glory be to God! There are also children who never learnt valuable life lessons from dysfunctional parents; yet turned out more successful than anyone could have imagined.
I like how the NIV version of Proverbs 26: 6 says, “Start children off…” As parents, I believe our responsibility truly lies in starting our children off on the way they should go. And what does this look like?
- Commit your children to God daily in prayer: Susanna Wesley and Ruth Graham are prime examples of mothers who committed to prayer for their children’s future despite detours, their children returned to the path.
- Be an example: Children mostly learn by what they see not by what we tell them.
- Find teachable moments in daily life experiences, even from infancy.
- Aim to raise self-sufficient, God-fearing, independent children, and happy children. Happiness is an inward realization that comes from walking along the path so that when they are old, they will not turn from it.
I remember my first thought after migrating to the United States, away from under my mother’s wings; I thought I was truly free to become whoever I wanted: I was free to party and wear obscene clothes like in the movies. I thought I was free to go clubbing and see the world my mother had shielded from me. But after my a few months of wild living, something within convinced me that type of living was not for me. While I still enjoy dancing and living freely, I want to believe that my mother started me off in the way I should go and even when I was finally free to spread my wings and fly—and fly I did but as I grew older, I returned to the path and by God’s grace, have not turned from it.
So, I turn it over to you readers, how much of a child’s success or failure is the responsibility of the parents?