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.