Seeking God’s plan for ‘rearing’ children

Ray Spitzenberger

The six weeks between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day should be a good time to consider the needs of children and the joys and difficulties of “rearing” children.

(In the wonderful little rural elementary school I attended, I was taught that you “raise” animals, but you “rear” children.)

That’s a good place to start. While I am not a psychologist or a pediatrician, I am a father, a grandfather, a retired school teacher, and a retired pastor. I have seen the love, joy, and heartbreak in the lives of children. I was reared by loving and devoted parents, so I know what it is like to be nurtured by loving and caring parents.

Being reared by parents who showed you unconditional love, even though at times it was tough love, gives you the basis for a healthy life. That is true whether your parents are DNA parents or adopted parents. My wife was adopted, and believe me, you cannot find parents more loving, caring, devoted and supportive than they were.

These are difficult times we are living in, for everybody, but especially for children. Of course, there were many other eras in human history that also seemed unbearably difficult.

When times are terrible it is even more important for children to be in the care of responsible, loving and caring parents. It is not the child’s role to bring up his or her parents, but vice versa.

I was a child during World War II. Because of my mentally, spiritually, and morally well-equipped parents, I was able to survive the trauma of war, and maintain hope for a future. Not that it was easy for the grownups – it wasn’t – but because they understood the need for them to be protective wings for their two children. 

It is my belief that becoming parents is a divine call from God, and God will give parents the strength and wisdom in abundance to successfully fulfill the divine call.

When I first became a parent, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a father. But there was a great deal of fear within me that I couldn’t handle such an awesome task. As you prepare for parenthood, you realize you can’t attend enough child-rearing classes, or read enough books on the subject to make you the kind of parent you wanted to be (besides the books in that era did not necessarily contain the best advice). Recognizing parenthood as a divine call helped the most.

Years ago in a college adolescent psychology class, I was taught that whether you take a strict approach to child-rearing, or whether you are more permissive, what mattered more was that you sincerely loved the child and communicated this fact to him or her. My life experiences have proved the theory to hold true.

Children are incredibly instinctive and intuitive. Even cats and dogs can “read” you instinctively and intuitively. Although you might pretend to like the animal by petting it, a dog can intuit that you really don’t like dogs, and they will keep their distance. Children can “sense” your true feelings for them. If you are truly sincere and honest in your concern for them, they will know it.

In my opinion, love, caring, and commitment are the keys to “rearing” rather than “raising” a child. God, who is love, and in whose image we were created, must be the architect for all child-rearing plans. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day offer us opportunities to thank God for the workmanship of the Great Architect.

Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and author of three books, It Must Be the Noodles, Open Prairies, and Tanka Schoen.

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