The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. (Proverbs 23:24)
When I was young, I read the Bible with eyes of a young man, but as I have grown older, I find myself looking at Scripture more through the eyes of a father and grandfather. Such is a disturbing read as wiser eyes sees the mistakes of one’s own youth, and lives with the fruit of one’s own past. It is with older more mature eyes that the Lord has helped me to see five distinct stages of child-to-parent relationship through which most children grow, although some seem to become stuck in or between one or two stages, seemingly unable to develop and progress.
Young children are a parent’s delight. These are the years when children “idolize” their parents. In this stage, children see their parents are perfect, right, and better than every other parent is. The little boys say, “My daddy can beat up your daddy.” While we do not want our children to idolize us, I must admit that this is a wonderful stage and one that is short lived.
Children soon grow to older childhood and tire of having parents tell them what to do. It is in this stage that children begin to “demonize” their parents. Parents become the reason for all the child’s unhappiness, disappointments, and failures. Almost overnight parents become worse the Satan and the child begins to lash out at the parent with tongues worse than Satan’s own pitchfork and devastatingly painful. This is stage of loss of innocence for the child, marking a need for repentance and salvation – both now under the child’s control.
Most children move on to “utilize” their parents, making effective use of parents for self-gain. This is the stage where children exploit parents for both material and immaterial things that bring a greater joy and pleasure to their young life, even if it is temporal and shallow
Eventually spiritually and emotionally healthy children understand that their parents are not gods, nor are they demons, and they begin to value their parents for more just exploits for self-gain. In this stage, children “humanize” their parent. Children see their parent’s imperfections and failure, and through their own life experiences come to better understand the difficulties of parenthood and more closely identify with the parents. Children also begin to have a greater understanding of life and its brevity.
Righteous children, out of loyalty, honor, and love, seek to “memorialize” their parents. This may be anything from a tombstone on a grave to naming a scholarship or building in the parent’s memory. Wise and righteous children see virtue in their parents and want to memorialize those virtues for both the family and future generations. Children who do not want to memorialize the parents are generally unhealthy emotionally, centered on self, or fail to forgive the parent’s imperfections. These children continue to demonize their parents transposing their own emotional instability to cope with life; in short, they choose to blame the parents for all of their own failures rather than to deal with them.
The writer of Proverbs understood both the heart of God and the heart of man. He knew that a person could be righteous and not wise, but that man could not be wise without being righteous. It was, and is, my goal as a parent and grandparent to work to shape and mold my descendents to be men and women of faith who are both wise and righteous, and to do all within my ability to memorialize my parents and parent-in-laws, as I have learned much for each of them.
As a parent, you can have no greater goal for your children that that they grow to be wise and righteous, men and women of faith. As a child, you can have no greater goal than to seek wisdom and righteousness.