Written by Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School
We all want our kids to succeed. When I ask parents what success looks like, I get a variety of answers. Tricia and I have now shepherded two children through the school-age years at TFA and our third is now a freshman in the Upper School. Like you, we pray for wisdom each day as we nurture the hearts and minds of our Amanda, Stephen, and Caleb by God’s help.
Sean McDowell suggests that giving kids a Moral Compass is the key to parenting success. Without a Moral Compass or an objective standard, we can find ourselves swept into confusion by the secular culture. McDowell says the “very concept of morality (Moral Compass) means that the standard of truth comes from a higher authority—beyond just the rules or habits of our culture.”
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3: 14-17
Jennifer Jackson, our Lower School Principal, recently shared a summary of Sean’s work and I thought it would be helpful for all of us who aspire to be successful parents. Let me encourage you to use these five steps to instill a Moral Compass in the life of your children.
Keep the Mission in Mind
God is pleased when we begin to look and act like Him – when we exhibit patience, kindness, and love. We are created in His image and our character should reflect that. This is a core principle that we need to model for our kids constantly. By modeling this in our own lives, our children can draw upon that example when they are facing a tough decision or situation. Ask yourself, how can we best look and act like Jesus in our daily lives? Maybe that means taking the simple step of placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Perhaps that means you need to become more active in a local church. If I can help in either of those areas, I would be honored to do so.
Read the Manual
If we want our kids to make good choices in life, we need to help them regularly consult the “manual” provided for us by God. If our kids are unfamiliar with God’s teachings and principles, they are more likely to make poor choices. In contrast, if they are familiar with His teachings, they are more likely to draw upon His example in what they say and do. Study the Bible together and search for personal application as you read together. Studying God’s Word gives them the wisdom they need to discern right from wrong when choices seem unclear.
Connect to Power
The Bible promises us that when we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, God’s “power” source—His Holy Spirit—comes to live inside us. The Holy Spirit works by convicting us of sin and equipping us with the courage and ability to do what is right. Constantly remind your children that they have the strength of the Holy Spirit inside them! Model this as a family as you seek God’s wisdom and counsel through prayer. Teach your children that prayer is the cord that connects us to the ultimate “power source.” Help your children recognize the Holy Spirit’s prompting and guidance, both when they feel regret for poor decisions and when they sense the conviction and courage to stand for what is right.
What kinds of friends do our children have? Do those friends encourage our children to follow God’s leading, or do they steer them away from that narrow path? We are called to be a light in the world but our children also need the regular support of friends who encourage them to choose right from wrong. It is not practical to think that we can select every friend our children have, but we all can play an active role in selecting most of their friends. It is also critical that we regularly help our kids recognize the power and influence of supportive relationships.
If friends can influence our ability to make good decisions, media does that in an equally powerful manner. Students often believe that television, movies, and music do not impact their behavior significantly. Research shows that media does influence the way people think about the world. As parents, we must be actively involved in the media choices our children are making. This is critical in our culture today because children are bombarded by significantly more types of media than they were even 20 years ago. While also playing an active role in the media choices our children make, we also have to actively show them the types of influence the media can have on the decisions they make.
Raising children with a strong Moral Compass can seem like an uphill task. The good news is that God provides all that we need through the Holy Spirit, prayer, and Scripture. With God’s provisions at the center of our compass, we are equipped for the journey ahead. If Tricia and I can help by providing examples of our mistakes or successes, we are more than happy to spend time with you.