I want to suggest that being a parent is sometimes like trying to train a Dragon (no offense intended)! Just like young Hiccup found in the popular story ‘How to train a Dragon’, dragons (or kids) can be so unpredictable and confusing at times. Sometimes it really feels as if we are speaking two different languages, and we wonder whose genes the kids have actually inherited!
Without spoiling the story of the original movie (just in case you haven’t seen it yet) here is the genesis of that adventure.
RAISING KIDS ISN’T EASY
A young boy, Hiccup, is the son of renowned Viking chief. One day while roaming far away from his village, Hiccup stumbles upon one of the most dangerous of all dragons – a Night Fury. This particular dragon is lying injured in a secluded part of the forest and Hiccup tries to help him. Over time, Hiccup befriends the dragon (Toothless) and slowly teaches him to fly again. He builds an artificial tail for the dragon and then he has to train Toothless to obey his commands and to trust him for the next stage of their adventures.
As Hiccup discovers, training a dragon isn’t easy and, as you know, parenting kids is just as hard. When you add into the mix, trying to teach your children values, ethics and faith in Jesus Christ, well things can get pretty interesting.
One of the deep desires we have for our three sons, is for them to know the love of Jesus and to become Christ-followers. However, having a desire for this and practising it is often two completely different things.
As a Pastor, I find it frustrating that I can stand up on Sunday to preach and proclaim, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24), and the very next morning it seems as if the devil himself has entered our home and suddenly we are trying to ‘train a dragon!’ In the process of trying to cast out the ‘demons’ of stubbornness and apathy, it seems I end up becoming possessed myself and then spend the rest of the day feeling so guilty. Parenting is so hard!
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FROM SOLOMON
The frustration of ‘training’ anyone is that it always takes time and patience. Just count how many times you have asked your kids this question: “Honey, have you brushed your teeth?” In our house, that would be twice a day (per child) – and when you multiply that by three kids and 365 days in the year – that is a lot of repetition and tonnes of patience.
When I turn to the Bible, I find great solace in the stories of ordinary families and I certainly trust that Solomon knew what he was talking about when he suggested the following:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
If you read this verse from a few different versions, you will find wonderful insight into the basic truth:
- Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost (The Message)
- Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it (NLT)
I think I prefer the words ‘POINT’ or ‘DIRECT’ in this case. If I can do this for my kids – point them onto the right path, then I believe I am doing what is in their best interests. I can then prayerfully leave the results to God.
GOD’S GOT YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN
One of the great joys of being a parent is what I call the surprise moments: When your kids do something that catches you off guard, but in a nice way. I remember one year when the boys were still small, they had their school market day and they bought home a gift for us – they bought us gifts out of the pocket money that we have given to them to spend on themselves. In moments like these, you feel great and mistakenly think, ‘Parenting is easy!’
Let me pass on some words of encouragement. In ‘How to train a Dragon’, Hiccup and Toothless develop a deep friendship and all the struggle and pain seems worthwhile in the end. And so, I believe it will be the same for us. If we ask God to give us the strength we need, God will certainly help us in this great adventure called ‘parenting.’
Let me conclude by saying that being a parent requires us to have some of our own ‘stubbornness’ issues – we need to stubbornly persevere in raising our kids in the best way way possible! Some days it will feel as if we are winning and other days we will learn from our mistakes. In all these things, may God bless you with grace, patience and resilience!