First let me state for the record that I am not an expert when it comes to parenting. I have made my fair share of mistakes and am so thankful for God's (and my kids') grace. I do however have some personal experience and as a former youth pastor years of observing what works and what doesn't.
# 1 - Quit raising kids and start raising adults. I’m not suggesting that we rob them of their childhood and expect 6 year olds to act like 60 year olds. We do, however, keep our eyes on the goal which is to prepare them to be successful members of society. If they can’t make good and Godly decisions on their own by the time they are 17-18 we have failed them. That doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate our wisdom and experience it just means we have trained them well and instilled in them the confidence that they need to succeed. That means we need to let them make mistakes (within reason) and accept responsibility for the outcomes. If you will be their parent when they are children then you get to be their friend when they are adults. If you choose to be their friend when they are children then you have to be their parent when they are adults.
# 2 - Invest in their walk with God. Get them involved in church - not just attending but participating and serving. Studies indicate that 80% of church going kids walk away from God when they move out of the house. But for kids who had a meaningful role in the church 80% of them remained. Get them serving somehow, somewhere and the sooner the better. Teens need to find own relationship with God and not just their parents. Send them to conferences, on mission trips, etc. and PLEASE don’t punish them by grounding them from church.
# 3 - Help them to discover their calling in Christ. God has a plan and a purpose for every person, not just those in professional ministry. We need Christian doctors and teachers and mechanics and business owners just as we need pastors, missionaries, etc. They need to know that success in life is fulfilling what God created them to be and to do.
# 4 - Teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Because it doesn’t. If they have to discover that after 18 years of being told otherwise it’s going to hurt. I’ve seen too many kids blindsided by college professors and first bosses with the harsh reality of life. Get them volunteering in their church and community on a regular basis.
# 5 - Train them to fight their own battles. Obviously they need to know that we are there for them and we need to intervene at age appropriate moments. You won’t always be there for them and if they can’t stand up for what is right on their own they are in trouble. If we step in or let them quit at the first sign of trouble how are they ever going to make a marriage work?
# 6 - Be the person you want them to become. ‘Do as I say not as I do’ just doesn’t work. Model the attitudes and actions you want them to have. Let me say it another way. Deal with your own issues so they don’t have to. Blond hair, blue eyes and high cholesterol aren’t the only things we pass along.
# 7 - Finally, pray, pray and pray some more. I believe that God can and does make all the difference in the world.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6 NASB