One of the most important Legacies that we can leave is the character of our children. Can you be a success in life without being a good parent? What does it mean to be a good parent? There are plenty of books on good parenting, but success in legacy planning would not be complete without discussing this crucial topic. Dr. Robert Jeffries, senior pastor of the 11,000 member First Baptist Church in Dallas sheds some wisdom on the topic of success in parenting.
He lists seven characteristics of a successful parent:
- They see their children as gifts from God
- They understand, accept, and develop their children’s bent
- They commit to leading their children to know God
- They communicate spiritual values to their children
- They exemplify godly character
- They seek to discipline their children consistently
- They spend time with their children
I think we would all agree with this list, but let’s say your children are older, adults, and they still have not accepted Jesus into their lives or they are on a wrong path with drugs or living with their girlfriend or boyfriend or they are gay, then what do you do? Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that one day we are going to have to give an account to God for every gift He has given to us. In light of this you might see a new set of questions:
- Have you given your children the self-confidence they need to face life’s problems?
- Have you imparted to your children the skills they need to live successfully?
- Have you communicated to them that there are at least two people in the world who love them unconditionally?
- Have you demonstrated by your own life that the most important thing in life is to love and obey Jesus Christ?
When our children are adults all of those questions seem unfair and insurmountable. Yet, God does not hold back on the obligation. I don’t think our accountability ends when they leave the house. We still have an influence on them whether we know it or not. If we have straightened out our own lives and have character and a God-centered approach to life, even if it has taken years to do it, we have an obligation to try to impact their lives.
Dr. John Maxwell suggests that we need to be interested in our kid’s lives and who they are. My daughter got angry at me when I didn’t know the names of her best friends. I knew that was just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Maxwell suggests ten questions parents should be able to answer about their children:
- What gives my child joy?
- Who is my child’s hero?
- What does my child fear most?
- What activities give my child energy?
- Which activities wear my child out?
- If my child could choose a vacation, where would she or he want to go?
- If my child could pick one activity for me to do with them, what would it be?
- What does my child spend the most time doing each week?
- What music does my child like?
- What does my child want to be in life or what are their regrets or what career do they still aspire to?
I intend to ask my two kids all of these questions because I am not sure of the answers to some and probably am wrong on others. The first step to influencing anyone including our children is for them to know we care and are interested in them. Better to be interested than interesting! Let them do the talking and you do the listening…maybe take notes. When you interview your adult child, make sure you make it special with their favorite restaurant and make sure it is a quiet restaurant with few distractions.
I heard a story from Dr. John Trent that his mother had bought books to read on topics related to each of her children’s profession so that she could understand them and talk to them about what they pursued in life. I found that story endearing and eye-opening because her three children treasured her and her wisdom.
If your children have taken the wrong path or are estranged, the only approach that will work is to want to know and listen to them. The first time I asked my daughter, “How was I as a dad?” I got an ear full. I was not expecting it, but I did not get defensive nor did I interrupt. I knew that some of what she said were age related and unfair, but it was my job to just listen and respect her feelings. (works in marriage too)
We cannot convince our children to follow the Lord. We can merely show them the light switch and allow God to give them the grace to turn it on. Our obligation is prayer and reaching out…relentlessly reaching out. Never give up on your children. God never gives up on us.
Download The Master’s Plan!
This is a book about transforming your family legacy – both today and in generations to come. It is for Christian families who want to eliminate estate and capital gains taxes, maintain their current lifestyle, pass on an appropriate inheritance to their heirs, maximize giving to worthy ministries, create healthier family relationships and leave a lasting legacy to impact God’s kingdom.
By Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring about significant impact for His Kingdom.