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Fostering Loyalty

You may have the idea that being your child’s “buddy” will foster their loyalty. I’ve seen a few moms approach parenting more like a popularity contest; they cave to the child’s whims and demands, from fear of losing the child’s devotion or making him or her unhappy.

Watch out, mom, that approach is a recipe for disaster!

Newsflash: Loyalty is not cultivated by giving your child whatever he wants or letting the little ones set the family’s agenda. That kind of approach produces a self-centered perspective and eventually the child develops contempt for you.

Loyalty is given to those we respect. Loyalty is cultivated when you demonstrate faithfulness and a dependable, trustworthy character to another. Loyalty grows when care is shown. 

More than having a sense of familial loyalty, our children need to develop true loyalty to God. This happens when they experience God’s trustworthy and faithful character. But how can they know about His trustworthy character when they can’t even see Him?

How do we communicate that to our children?

It can start the day they’re born.

New moms have a lot of unexpected struggles, but one of the biggest questions they have in those first weeks is whether to put their newborn on a schedule or not. Some work hard at it but never accomplish the schedule until the child is out of diapers (that was the story of my first one!). This post is not on the practical merits of a schedule or how to accomplish it, but let me throw out this thought—a consistent schedule provides the first training ground for your child in Faithfulness 101.

Children can be introduced to the concept of a faithful Heavenly Father by first seeing it modeled through your faithfulness.

Trustworthiness starts with something as basic as your daily schedule. This kind of faithfulness introduces your child to the biblical concept of God’s faithfulness. The stability and regularity of a schedule gives children a context for trustworthiness. When your child knows he can depend on your consistency, he lives with the stability of knowing you are trustworthy, which fosters his loyalty and respect for you.

With a regular schedule, your child knows he can depend on you to come through with what you say you will do. He’s not jarred by a continual stream of unexpected events. He comes to appreciate your faithfulness. For preschoolers it can be as basic as: breakfast, followed by play-time, followed by reading-time, followed by lunch, followed by nap-time, followed by a walk outside, followed by afternoon play-time, followed by dinner and family devotions, followed by bath-time, and then more reading, prayers, and bedtime . . . you get the idea.

A consistent schedule communicates to your child that he can depend on you—that you will be faithful to fulfill your responsibility and commitment to him, just as the Heavenly Father is faithful to fulfill all His promises.   

Today most families stay hard on the run. Their lives are filled to the brim with activities and no margins; keeping a consistent routine would be impossible. I challenge you to consider what you might need to chunk in order to bring some stability and cohesion to your home life. A schedule forces you, as the parent, to be disciplined in your choices and time management. Even some church activities may be more than what God has on His agenda for you right now.

As your child grows, you will have more opportunities to foster loyalty and demonstrate faithfulness, but a consistent daily routine is something that is foundational and important to maintain through their lives.

I once asked a group of high school students how many nights a week their family set down to a meal together at home. Their shocked expressions looked like I’d asked how many times they’d flown a spaceship. One young teen (whose parents were on staff at a large church) said, I can’t remember the last time we had a night at home together—much less ate a meal together there. We’re at the church or in the car—we’re never at home!

Your children develop a sense of loyalty when they know you care about them.

That means providing time to experience meaningful moments together, being there when they need you, listening to them, supporting them in their areas of achievement, demonstrating love in your consistent care for them—whether it’s putting a newborn on a regular schedule, helping an adolescent understand the chemical changes in her body, or feeding your teens a meal at home.

My son knew that if he was on the ball court, his mom would be there cheering her heart out for him. My daughter knew that our weekly “girls outing” would end in hot cocoa at our favorite coffee shop. Both our children knew anytime day or night they could call on us for anything they needed and we’d be there for them. They knew they could depend on us. They knew we cared.

Fostering a child’s loyalty to God begins by first living as a dependable, faithful, and trustworthy parent. It takes personal discipline and diligence, making hard choices, giving up some extras, learning time management, and expending lots of love—but the reward is sweet.

4 Comments

  • Kathy

    I appreciated your comment on modeling faithfulness, and not trying to be your kids buddy. This really spoke to my heart, and encouraged me in what I know to be true. I have been praying for my 16 year old son, for many months, who has been testing his boundaries and has been speaking very disrespectful to me. Part of it, I think, is because he has lost his respect. I have been letting things slide, not wanting to rock the boat(so to speak). His schedule right now, is non existent and when he does speak disrespectful or doesn’t follow through on something I asked him to do, like school work, I just let it go and don’t deal with it. I am just not sure what to do. I think I fear of pushing him to hard and giving him an excuse to rebel. He seems like he is right on the edge and hasn’t really made a decision which road he is going to take. By the way, he is a PK kid and has grown up in a Christian home, with 3 brothers and 2 sisters:)

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Kathy,

    I’m glad you took the time to read the post and leave a comment. Sadly, what you’ve described is a fairly common problem. A lack of demonstrating respect for you indicates that your son is not valuing you, or honoring you as an individual. We can’t “make” others respect us, but a relationship of mutual respect can be developed when we are consistent in our expectations and requirements. When we choose to “let things slide” and don’t address our child’s lack of right conduct, we are not loving them well.

    If we love our child, we will view our parenting as a rescue mission and apply ourselves to the difficult task of confronting bad behavior, getting to the root issue, and coming alongside our child with loving and firm training that will lead them to developing honorable desires.

    You mention that your son is a PK. I wonder if you’ve shared your concerns with your husband, I think that is essential in tackling any problem with our children. Both parents need to be united in solving any relationship issues.

    It sounds like you may need to have a sit-down conversation with your son (hopefully led by his dad) where you first ask his forgiveness for not holding him accountable to complete assigned tasks and allowing him to display a disrespectful attitude without dealing with it. Let him know you need to ask his forgiveness for your own lack of loving parenting, because it is out of love that we discipline our children (just like our heavenly Father disciplines us).

    Consider reading through Hebrews 12 aloud with your son, using the first portion of the chapter to remind yourselves of the gracious work of the cross and the payment for your sin, as well as your son’s sin, that Jesus made. Spend some time talking about that and considering the extent Jesus went to as your Deliverer. As you continue through the chapter, discuss the purpose of discipline and ask your son his thoughts on his recent conduct. Ask him to consider what his actions reflect in light of what Christ has done for him and the grace shown to him.

    After discussing Heb. 12, then turn to Ephesians 2:10 and challenge your son to consider whether he is living out the “good works” God has prepared for him. Ask him what he will forfeit if he chooses to ignore God’s gracious work in his life and what he will miss out on if he chooses to go his own way rather than walking in God’s plan for his life.

    I encourage you to spend some time in prayer with your son, inviting him to pray aloud with you. Be open and honest in your prayer time, asking God to give you wisdom and insight in parenting. Be prayerful over this conversation before it ever begins, invite God into the discussion.

    Being unaware of more of the details of your life, it is difficult to give you extensive counsel, but we found that reading and discussing these passages with our children was helpful in the years when they were teens.

    Also, you might want to check out this website that has several helpful parenting articles and books:

    http://www.biblicalparenting.org.

    Please leave a reply and let me know if you get this comment, I’m sorry for the late response. I’m praying for you and your family, Kathy.

  • Kathy

    Thank you, Kimberly, you gave me much to think and pray about. We do need to have this discussion with our son. Yes, my husband has talked with my son about this issue several times and for the most part we are on the same page as far as our children go, but he leaves a lot of the responsibility up to me. I think he overlooks a lot of things too, because he doesn’t want to believe that our son could or would rebel. He thinks everything will be ok, in time. But I was that quiet rebellious teen, that went behind my parents back and I know where that road can lead. My husband was also a PK. Early on in our marriage he was a very controlling husband and father, with a strong hand; now he is just the opposite: Thanks again for your kind words of wisdom, it means more than I can say. Being a pastor’s wife in a small town, I have so few people I can talk to about these things.