A Grandfather's Letter to New Parents

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

The following is excerpted from a letter that I wrote seven years ago to my eldest son and his wife on the occasion of the birth of their first child, and our first grandchild.  I thought that it might be an encouragement to other parents and grandparents.  (I have excised the names.)

Dear [children],

I am so happy for you.  The Lord has given you a wonderful gift in the person of your precious son.  

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. (Psalm 127:3)

I love your choice of a name for him.  His first name reminds me of this scripture:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

I pray that he would become an ambassador for Jesus Christ, boldly carrying the good news about Jesus wherever he goes.

And his middle name is a wonderful reminder of God's gracious love.  Your son has already experienced the gracious love of God, placing him in a family where his Mom and Dad love Jesus, and will seek to train their children to know and love God as well.   That God has blessed your son with a godly heritage going back several generations is a wonderful evidence of God's grace. 

I want you to know that Mom and I have been praying for your son, and will continue to do so (as we do for each of our children) for the rest of our lives.  The prayers of our grandmothers for us were a powerful source of strength and encouragement for each of us, as are the prayers of your grandparents for you.  

Now God has made you parents.  Your child is really not your own, just as none of our children really ever belonged to us.  We discovered early on, that each of our children was a gift from God, only loaned to us for a short time.  You have no promise of tomorrow; make the most of every day God allows you to spend with your son.

Pour your lives into him.  Even though you will give and give, and sometimes feel like you're getting nothing in return, God is keeping track and he will generously reward you for your faithfulness to lovingly train your children to know and follow Jesus.  You are not responsible for how your children turn out; only for how faithfully you love, teach, and show them how to live a life that pleases God.  

Be careful in everything you say and do.  From now on little eyes and ears will be watching and listening.  As my father told me: "What you do speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you are saying."  Your son will become like you; he will value what you value, and do what you do.  Your vocabulary will become his vocabulary; be careful what comes out of your mouth.


And don't be afraid to be a servant to your son.  You cannot teach him to serve others by bossing him around yourself.  And when you're wrong, be quick to humble yourself and ask for his forgiveness.  He will be quick to forgive you, and you will teach him, by your example, one of the most important lessons of his life.

In the not-too-distant-future he will do things that frustrate and irritate you.  You will need to learn to distinguish between childishness and disobedience.  Sometimes children are just clumsy or forgetful, other times they are disobedient or rebellious.  Make sure you learn the difference, and treat him with love in either case.

Ask God to give you the grace to be as patient with your son as God is with you.  Try to never discipline him in anger.  If you're angry, cool down in another room, then talk to him with love and firmness.  Help him to learn to respect and obey what God wants him to do, just as you are striving to do yourselves.  Never use your hand to correct him; let your hand always be an instrument of love.

[Son], when you were just a year old was the only time my father gave me unsolicited counsel about parenting.  And I appreciated his wise words, tried to apply them, and have shared them with others.  "Two things are essential," he told me, "first, be consistent in your words and actions.  Don't say one thing one time and another thing another time.  Don't establish standards for him and then change them, or not follow them yourself.  And second, follow through with whatever it is you say you are going to do.  Follow through, so that your words have meaning, and are never understood to be empty threats or hollow promises."  

Since my father gave me these two words of wisdom, I have come to understand that when I have been careful to follow them, I have neither exasperated my children nor provoked them to anger.  When I have not observed them…well, you know.

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart. (Colossians 3:21)

There is a whole lot more that I would love to tell you both about parenting— its joys, sorrows, and challenges— but this is the end of my unsolicited counsel.  I am committing myself to let you parent your children as you are directed by God.  I have had my chance to teach you how to parent by my example.  I know I made mistakes, and you know I did too.  But I hope that you know that I have always loved you, and will always continue to do so, whether or not you do things the way that I would.

I promise not to try to tell you how to parent by vague hints or insinuations.  I will pray for you as you seek to raise your son, but I will not be your judge regarding how you are doing.  If you ever think you would like some counsel, as I have tried to do in your marriage relationship, I will be happy and honored to share with you what I have learned from God's Word and my experience.  I am no expert, but I have learned a few things.  But you will have to ask; I won't be volunteering.

Furthermore, I want you to know that I am eager to spend whatever time you will allow me to be with your son, and other children that God may be pleased to give you.  I pledge myself to strive to keep the rules and standards you set for him.  I will not take liberty to "spoil" him.  I promise to love him, and teach him, but not to give him license to say or do anything that will make it harder for you to do your job as his parents.  I further commit myself to give him only the things that I believe will be in harmony with your values and desires.

On several occasions I have heard parents say that they hope their grandchildren will give their children as many problems as their children gave them.  I have no such desire for you.  I pray that you will have nothing but joy from the children God gives you.  I know that there will be pain, but I pray that every time it occurs it will only serve to develop in each of you a deeper love for God and for one another.

And finally, while we are already enjoying the thrill of being grandparents, we know two other people who are reveling in the same delight.  We know that there will be times that it will be difficult to try to please two sets of grandparents.  We understand the intricacies of maintaining this balance ourselves.  We will try to do nothing to make this even harder for you.  We have no right to have your son at our house, but want you to know that we will treasure every opportunity to have him (and his parents) in our home, as always.

We love you (all three) so much,

Dad (Papa)

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