In 1982, Dr. Tim Kimmel recognized a trend in Christian families that most have come to know in this day and age all too well: overscheduled, stressed-out parents working hard to provide good homes for their kids.

But in the midst of this hurried lifestyle, children were rebelling, abandoning the faith these hardworking parents were trying so hard to instill in them. Where were the parents going wrong?

Too busy for family

"It was rampant," says Dr. Kimmel. "It created complicated families, many times families that were distanced....When it comes to Christian families, Satan doesn’t have to make any of us bad, just too busy."

Family Matters® was created 25 years ago from Dr. Kimmel’s desire to see family members take time for one another and be united in their faith and relationships. His first of many books, Little House on the Freeway (1987), addressed the dilemma of parents abandoning priorities and concentrated on restoring calmness to marriage, family life, faith and the workplace.

The backbone of a family - and society

When it comes to family dynamics, Dr. Kimmel emphasizes the importance of a strong, communicative marriage to lay the foundation for a family united in faith and love. This decreases the likelihood that family members will drift apart, or that parent and sibling relationships will break down.

"How parents treat each other has a lot to do with how valued and significant kids feel," he says. "You have a great opportunity to impact the Canadian culture through your children.

Parenting with confidence

Dr. Kimmel believes today’s postmodern society has caused Christian parents to allow their fears of losing their children to the world to define how they raise their kids.

"Many families see how corrupted the culture is, how evil Satan is and how fragile the kids are," he explains. "That’s when your fears define your strategy. But it is a bankrupt plan: it’s a contradiction to everything we say we believe. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we should be the last people afraid of just about anything!"

He says Christian parents are "scared to death" of public arenas like Hollywood and the Internet and he believes the detrimental message this fear sends to kids is that God is not big enough to protect them.

Impacting the world for Christ

His alternative? Raise kids in the midst of the world, instead of teaching them to fear it. The most important way children learn to exercise grace with those around them is to see their parents do it with confidence that the Lord will follow through.

"Your actions should say, ‘We love our unbelieving friends,’ " Dr. Kimmel prescribes. "When kids are younger, we protect them more. But as they grow, we need to bring them up to speed and trust that ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4). We want to raise our kids to glow in the dark and show people how to love others and be gracious."

Model Christ's love and grace

As for practical ways of demonstrating Christ’s love and grace to our children, he suggests defining love first. Only then can it be lived out. In the Kimmel household, love is the commitment of one's will to another's needs and best interests, regardless of the cost. It is not conditional or convenient; it is a love that can be counted on.

"First, show [your children] how much you love God, that you’re not ashamed of Him," says Dr. Kimmel. "And be quick to ask forgiveness when we mess up as parents. This is grace played out. We can’t be self-absorbed or create an environment to accommodate our ego needs. It doesn’t give [kids] much to go into the future with. When you’re quick to ask forgiveness, so are they."

Be honest about your own struggles

Sometimes tough subjects need to be addressed with kids, especially those embarking on teen years. Often, Dr. Kimmel says parents with seemingly undesirable pasts feel they are "unqualified" to discuss issues like drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco use, media, sex and language with their children.

"Really, they are the most qualified," he challenges. "They know first-hand, and should be able to tell their kids why setting moral standards so high is important. When I’m forthright about where I’ve come from and the struggles I’ve had, nothing can come back to haunt me.

"God has left behind a plan that works," Dr. Kimmel concludes. "It helps us raise kids to make a difference."

Meghan Baxter was editorial manager for Focus on the Family Canada at the time of publication.

© 2007 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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