Turning the Hearts of Parents to Their Children
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
CBN.com - As The Love Dare was making its climb to number one on the New York Times Best Seller list, one request authors Alex and Stephen Kendrick kept hearing over and over again was to create a version of the book just for parents. People wanted something on how to better love their children in a Christ-like manner.
Inspired by this suggestion, the creative force behind the movies Fireproof and Courageous painstakingly rewrote each chapter of the original so that parents could go on the “Love Dare” journey with their children. The end result is the Kendrick Brothers latest book, The Love Dare for Parents.
I recently sat down with Stephen Kendrick to discuss how parents can easily pass along core life essentials found in Scripture, the best way to pray for your children, and what to do when your kids are fighting like cats and dogs.
Your original book The Love Dare, derived from the movie Fireproof, was obviously a huge success. It was a New York Times Best Seller, and has now spawned this book, The Love Dare for Parents. First of all, were you surprised at how well the original Love Dare book was received by people? Did that surprise you?
Yes. Even though we had the novelizations of Facing the Giants and Flywheel, The Love Dare was really the first book that my brother (Alex Kendrick) and I wrote where we sat down from beginning to end and wrote. That was a very difficult process, but there was a sense of the Lord leading us and saying, I want you to do this. And we had a lot of publishers and people around us who were saying, ‘Hey, just get a ghost writer to do it, you guys have never written a book before.’ But there was this sense where God was saying, I have entrusted this to you and it is your responsibility to carry it across the finish line. There was a fear and trembling aspect to us being found faithful to that, and so there was a ton of prayer and crying out for the Lord every step of the way. It was very difficult to write The Love Dare, and we felt this sense of spiritual responsibility that we were going to be held accountable for the theological content in the book, that it needed to be right and solid, because people were going to be making decisions about God, and their marriage, and their family based upon what they’re reading in the book.
Can any parent can go through this book? Do you need to be in a committed marital relationship or can a single parent also benefit from it?
Absolutely. The principles of love apply to the individual. In the introduction of the book, we try to answer the questions of … what if I’m single, or do I go through this one child at a time or all of my kids at once? Or what if I’m separated from my children, what do I do? We try to deal with all of those questions up front. Basically, this journey is yours to take with your kids and you can invest in your kids whether your spouse or their other parent is a part of the process or not. You can adapt it to your situation. So, like the book of Proverbs, what age group does it apply to? Well, it can be pre-schoolers, graduating high schoolers, or someone in their thirties. We tried to write the book so that the principles would be biblical principles that could be timeless, whether your child is about so start kindergarten or whether they’re in their twenties and they’ve got kids of their own. That helped us to keep it timeless and let people adapt to their situation. If you think about it, modeling for them applies to any age, praying for them applies to any age, communicating love and support of them and encouragement to them applies to any age.
Regardless of being a single or married, one of the biggest challenges facing parents today is having kids who don’t always get along. Is it natural for siblings to fight, and number two, can you help train them up to love each other?
Yes and yes. In scripture, you have Cain and Abel with Cain killing Abel. You have James and John competing with each other. There is Rachel and Leah competing for the affections of Jacob. Sibling rivalry is part of pride and selfishness being manifested in sibling relationships. That should be expected in all parenting relationships. We’re all born with the same selfish, prideful, sinful heart. At the same time, what does God’s Word say that parents should be doing? First, we need to be modeling the right way. The apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Every parent should be able to turn to their kids and say, ‘Follow my example as I follow the example of Jesus.’ In my home with my relationship with my wife, we often bring up before our children to look at how your mom and dad work through conflict. Look at how we treat one another with love and respect. We’re modeling the right way for you. How are you treating one another? Are you following this example that Jesus has given us and that we’re giving you? That’s one thing. The second thing is that discipline is a part of love. If you look in Proverbs 3 and in Hebrews 12, both of those passages say God disciplines those He loves, just like a father disciplines the children that he loves. It is a responsibility of parents to discipline their children, and to do that in a very loving way that you’re communicating what your child did wrong. Here’s why it’s wrong. Here are the consequences. Here’s why I am disciplining you in a loving way. I’m accountable to God; He’s commanded me to train you up. Hebrews 13 says I’m responsible for your soul, and throughout the book of Proverbs, He’s telling parents to discipline their kids. I’m comforting you as a result of it. We’re praying and we’re learning how to repent before the Lord, but we’re actually modeling the example of our heavenly Father, who in Hebrews 12 says, “He scourges every son in whom He delights, He disciplines and warns us because He loves us.”
It’s easy for us to say, hey, let’s try to help our kid behave now, but the thing that takes it to the next level is that I need to help train my children so that one day when God tells them to do something, they say, ‘Yes sir, I’m ready to obey you.’
How can parents pass along life’s core essentials as presented in the Bible to their children? Is there any definitive process or ideal way to go about it?
Deuteronomy 6 says that we should be loving the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, strength, so that needs to be taking place in the parents first. Secondly, we should be teaching our children the same thing, to love God with all their hearts, when we rise up, walk in the way, sit in our house and go to bed at night. He’s saying let your lifestyle from sun up to sun down be a time of training and influence so that, as you’re going through life, you’re opening your mouth and you’re turning to your kids and you’re explaining reality to them in light of the Word of God. In doing so, they’re developing a biblical worldview. If you read Deuteronomy 6:8, it says to also teach your children to fear the Lord and also help them marry godly spouses.
When kids respect their parents, and parents train respect into them, it actually sets them up to have a more loving, affectionate relationship with their kids if they’re combining the two. Thirdly, we should be praying from the moment our kids are born. We should be praying for them to guard their hearts and their bodies and their purity for the person God has for them. Pray that the Lord will be preparing the right spouse for them.
What is the best way for a parent to pray for their children?
Take some of the things I mentioned about loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and then take different scriptures and turn those into prayers. Pray Proverbs 13:20, that they will have wise friendships and avoid fools. Pray for them to hate evil, to hate dishonesty and to love truth, righteousness and goodness. Pray for purity in their lives, that they learn to discern in moments of temptation what is right and what is wrong, and good and evil. Pray for God to draw them to salvation at an early age and for them to develop a love for the Word of God. Pray for their mentors, their friends and the influences that are around their lives. Pray that God will fill them with the knowledge of His will.
The idea is that we’re taking God’s Word and we’re letting God’s priorities become ours, because what we tend to do is pray, “God get him into a good college and let him get a scholarship, and I hope he plays football and he’s an All-Star.” A lot of the prayers of the parents are, “Help him to get into a good school and to wear cool clothes.” It ends up being very vain, superficial, worldly kind of success stuff rather than, “You know what, if my kid is poor and is a missionary in South Africa, and is raising his kids there and is persecuted for his faith but ends up being a powerful witness for Christ and dies a martyr, but he’s found faithful to the Lord, praise God!” I’m going to be okay with that, because ultimately we’re going to stand before God in the joy of eternity and I want my kids to hear God say, “Well done.”
As an author what is your greatest hope for The Love Dare for Parents?
I hope parents will win their kids’ hearts. At the conclusion of Malachi it says that it will prepare them to speak truth into their ears. Scripture says we need to speak the truth in love with the goal that our kids will grow up and live for Christ and do the will of God and ultimately that they’re helping their kids to hear God say “well done” one day. One parent can be the chain breaker and the game changer in their home. You see it in Timothy’s life. His dad was probably not a believer, but Timothy’s mom was, and her faith greatly impacted Timothy. If you read II Timothy, his mother was praying for him very likely and modeling the way. The Bible says she was teaching him the Scriptures from an early age and prepared him for salvation. One parent can be a game changer, not just in their immediate home, but for ten generations down the road. All the generations that follow are going to be impacted by that one parent’s decision, so I tell people when you’re pouring into your kids and you’re speaking into their ears, you’re also speaking into the ears of your great, great grandchildren. And the significance of that is so huge. Don’t make these immediate decisions just for peace in the moment, and to set up future generations for failure because you’re allowing your child to be irresponsible and to run away from God. Think long-term and redeem the time that God has given you with your kids.
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