Will your child be able to turn to an internal moral compass after making a wrong turn as the lost son did in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? This parable contains insight into God’s plan for spiritual parenting, particularly moral training. Somewhere along the way, the son “came to his senses” and realized his path was wrong. This moral compass brought him home. 

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!'”

– Luke 15:17

It is the parents’ responsibility to be sure their children have “senses” to return to. Every child needs a foundation for good living, a moral compass that helps him or her stay on track or get back on track after a mistake. Psychologists say one of the primary characteristics of children in dysfunctional families is that they have to guess at what is “normal” and expected behavior. The rules are unpredictable. Their home life is erratic and unpredictable; so they assume that’s the way every family functions.

As they get older, they begin to realize that not every family is like their own. They learn that there are parents who don’t scream at each other; families that don’t end every conversation with a slam of the door; fathers who don’t work 60 to 70 hours a week; and families that don’t get their electricity or water cut off every other month.

These children don’t know what normal is because their parents didn’t provide them with guidelines for how to act during difficult situations. They spend their lives guessing what is expected. As these children move into young adulthood, they lack the experience to manage life’s challenges because the foundation for morality and Christian values was not internalized.

So what can you do to lay a firm foundation?

First, model the moral values you are trying to teach. Children will internalize what you do, not what you say. When I was in grade school, my friend’s bicycle was stolen while he was visiting my house. He left the bike in the front yard and someone came along and stole it. He was able to get a new bike for free, because his father told the insurance company the bike was stolen from their garage at home. I personally know there’s no way my uncle who raised me would ever lie to the insurance company just to get my bike back. He would have told me to start saving for a new bike. And, fondly remembering my uncle, I’m sure the phrase, “think before you act” would have worked its way into the conversation. Are you modeling honesty in the small decisions you make every day in front of your children?

Second, turn to the Bible and prayer when in difficult or morally questionable situations. Ask your children what God would want them to do in real-life situations. Talk about what God is doing and has done in your life and the life of your family. Show how scripture is relevant to common, everyday moral dilemmas. My aunt once talked to me about sex in a very casual manner by pointing to the animals on the farm. She said they do it out in the open when they feel like it with whatever male or female animal of their kind is available. They are animals. However, we are people created in God’s image. God expects us to control our sexual drive. We don’t have sex in public. We only have it with a husband or wife when we are married. And we never can’t have whenever we feel like it. God’s plan is for it to be between a man and woman who love each other.

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