Are You Present for Your Children?

Summer provides parents with a wonderful opportunity to explore great parenting resources. Equipping for Life—A Guide for New, Aspiring & Struggling Parents by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger is one of those resources. The book is written around three basic themes: Parenting needs to be realistic, relational, and responsible. These themes are fleshed out from a Bible-based, God-centered, gospel-focused perspective, giving practical examples from everyday life to which parents can relate.

Earlier this year, Steve and Candice Watters were able to sit down with the Köstenbergers on the campus of Midwestern Seminary and ask them some specific questions regarding the book and other important parenting issues. One interaction that I found particularly timely and helpful was this:

Steve: I wanted to ask you specifically about this context of “presence” that you emphasize. What do you mean by that in the relationship between parents and their children?

Margaret: Presence is the essence of parenting. Andreas developed a bit of a theology based on God's presence with His people and the Holy Spirit's presence with us, and he could go into that further, but in all practicality it ultimately means that parents, if they're wanting to do a quality job and their heart is really in it, they're going to want to be present with their children. And that sometimes comes out when people talk about quality versus quantity time, when really it's not just quality time, it's quantity. It's both that are needed. It's kind of a false statement that you can have quality time, you don't need quantity, but presence is really important so you can build on that.

Andreas: This is a message men need to hear, and Marnie [Margaret] has been a great example for me. I remember we were on vacation in Florida and I was reading Paul Tripp's book Age of Opportunity there at the swimming pool, and I was thinking, Wow…this is exactly what Marnie does. She would stay up late and talk with our teenage children into the night about things, and it really impacted me as a dad, because to me I was more just kind of a delegator and the organizer and the facilitator, and I realized that I needed to get more involved in my children's lives, learn some of their friends’ names, meet some of them, and just get down into the trenches of parenting, rather than just oversee the process. So, this idea about presence in parenting is not just abstract and theory.

When we talk about responsible parenting, our plea with parents is not to abandon their children in the teenage years because that's when they need them the most. And what we've seen is that sometimes when parents go their separate ways, they're pursuing their careers, they are more remote in their involvement and their communication and, as a result, they lose touch, and then things don't turn out well. Our son David is an R.A. at NC State, and he tells us about some of the things that are happening in the dorm rooms with those college students. And, I was thinking, the parents probably have no idea what some of their children are doing in college. It is just mind boggling to think about the sexual immorality and drugs, and the parents don't even know, and they probably think everything's great. So there's this incredible gap opening up, especially in the teenage years.

Andreas: Our advice is not to subcontract parenting to teachers, coaches, youth pastors, which I think is even common for many Christians. They feel like, My children are in good hands because I'm sending them to a Christian school, or I'm dropping them off at the youth group at church. So our message to parents is: There is no substitute for a mother and a father, you know, active involvement in your children's lives, because they're your children, right? We care for them so much more than any other teacher or youth pastor ever will.

I believe you will be greatly blessed by reading the entire interview in which they address other questions/concerns, such as: 

  • How do you counsel parents that you have seen be faithful and still see children not following Christ?
  • The need to be examining our parenting continually before the Lord with our spouse, asking: "How are we doing?" and “How are kids doing?”
  • How do you encourage young couples? Where do they go for help?
  • What counsel are you inclined to give to young parents about their own use of technology? What do you tell the distracted mom and the distracted dad who are engaged with technology  all the time?