“A proper foundation does more than just hold a house above ground. It also keeps out moisture, insulates against the cold, and resists movement of the earth around it. Oh, and one more thing: It should last forever.” —This Old House Magazine
My husband and I pulled up to the work site on a hot Texas morning in July, armed and ready to build. Neither of us had worked a Habitat for Humanity project before, so we weren’t sure what to expect.
As we signed in and got our assignments, I noted aloud that the foundation was already in place. A cheerful voice boomed out in response, “We laid that last week, little lady! Foundation’s gotta set before you hoist up them walls. Walls ain’t no good if you don’t have a solid foundation.”
His voice echoed in my mind throughout the following week.
“Walls ain’t no good if you don’t have a solid foundation.”
Is it possible that well-meaning parents focus so much on the walls around their kids that they neglect the foundation under them?
During high school, I sat next to a sweet girl in math. We were both misfits and took to each other quickly. I knew she had a tenuous relationship with her parents. They had her on a short leash with a tight collar and zero room for mistakes.
I will never forget the day I learned of her suicide. She had met a boy, gotten pregnant, and—rather than face her parents—ended her life. An extreme situation with a tragic end, but the point is clear: “Walls ain’t no good if you don’t have a solid foundation.”
So how do we build a good foundation?
Rooted and Established in Love
Children cannot thrive without a steady stream of our love, and what parent doesn’t love their child? The question, then, is not are they loved, but rather, do they feel loved?
Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages for Children breaks down the different ways kids give and receive love. My daughter, Caitlyn, needs quality time, like daddy-daughter dates or mommy-daughter shopping trips.
Nick, our son, needs physical touch—big hugs, a pat on the back while he’s studying, or holding mommy’s hand when no one is looking.
The bottom line is this: Kids who feel loved feel secure, and secure kids are less likely to engage in risky behavior.
Realistic Expectations and No Condemnation
When a child shows sincere remorse for misbehavior in our house, we paraphrase Romans 8:1.
“Honey, there is now no condemnation for those who live in this house.”
God has realistic expectations with us. He knows we are going to fail. And when we do Paul’s words are medicine to a heart burdened by sin:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
How much more, then, should we extend grace to our children who are still learning and testing their boundaries? I want my children to know that I expect them to make mistakes. I also expect them to learn from their mistakes. Disobedience brings consequences, and sometimes consequences are painful, but there is not now, nor will there ever be, condemnation for those who live in our house.
The other day my son came home from school with tears in his eyes. Some boys at school told him they wished he didn’t exist.
I pulled him into my arms and breathed in the sweet scent of his hair.
“Sweet boy,” I said, “I am so glad you exist. My world is much better with you in it.”
He turned and buried his face in my chest, mumbling, “But no one else wants me to exist.”
I told him to get his Bible, and we turned to Luke, chapter 12:
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows (vv 6-7).
Our children’s worlds are very small, and little comments make big wounds. Remind your child that the hairs on their heads are precious to God.
Raise Good Decision-makers
Someday our children will find themselves in a situation where other kids are drinking and doing drugs. Rather than micro-monitoring them, we must train them to make wise choices.
My kids and I have role-played this scenario. They know the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. They know that, if they need to leave a situation, mom or dad will come and get them, no questions asked. This conversation will play on repeat for the remainder of their time under our roof.
Someday our little ones will find themselves in a steamy situation with a member of the opposite sex. Education breeds good decisions, so have honest conversations often. We talk about sex in an age-appropriate way, as a gift from God to mommies and daddies to makes babies. The conversation will evolve as they get older to the risks and ramifications of sex before marriage.
Just as a good foundation does more than hold a house above ground, so the foundation we lay in our homes will set our children up to make good choices.
Lay the groundwork of grace. Let forgiveness and compassion be your default mode. Show your children that they can trust you by establishing healthy boundaries and enforcing rules. Let consequences do the punishing and give them fresh mercy each day. In this way you build a sturdy foundation, but more importantly, a lasting legacy of love.