As you are parenting, are you raising children or raising adults? It is important to know what you are aiming for. Ultimately, if you desire to end up with healthy, productive, contributing Kingdom citizens, it is important to raise your offspring to be adults. In the analogy of my title, a crooked arrow is one that has not been prepared to fly straight. Through improper care, the arrow has not been made ready for flight.
When using the analogy of an arrow to picture the release of children from parents, it is important to identify an inaccuracy in the picture. Releasing an arrow is an instantaneous event that happens the moment the string is released and the arrow is launched. Releasing a child is a progressive event that involves many steps. It is perhaps pictured more clearly by identifying the parenting process as one of continued relocation of fences.
A crawling infant has very narrow fences. Daddy and Mommy keep a watchful eye on all activities. The child has very few choices entrusted to him or her. Mom makes decisions for the child like “Can I touch this?” or “Can I crawl over here?” By the time that child graduates from the toddler stage, he now faces increased opportunities for decision-making, like “Would you like to wear this shirt or that one?” and “Would you like to help to wash the dishes or sweep the floor”. The realm of decision-making power increases. The fences are moved out.
By the time that child is twelve, he or she has moved through several more fence-moving opportunities. Now the “almost adult” has been given authority over certain household responsibilities. When I was twelve, I was responsible to see that the hopper to our coal furnace was kept full. I could do it whenever I chose to. If I neglected it, my parents woke me up at 3:00am to a cold house and the opportunity to correct that problem! Along with that increased responsibility came increased trust. I could dress myself; keep my bed where I wanted it in my room (as long as my brother agreed!); learn how to operate the riding lawn mower (big stuff!).
You get the idea. It is a tragedy to see an eighteen-year old man or woman operating inside of the fence of an eleven-year old. Oh, Dad and Mom do not crush your child’s ability to have hope through the fear that he might mess up. Start early to entrust responsibility to your child so when they mess up, the hurt is small. Your child will make mistakes. That is how arrows are straightened! Carving knifes and sand paper will do their refining work.
The Proverbs provide a great example of a father who was attempting to prepare his son for the responsibilities of adulthood. He taught him everything from a healthy work ethic to how to govern himself in the face of temptation.
The foundational government of all jurisdictions is self-government. Family government, civil government, and church government are all dependent upon the raising of adults who have strong self-government. Work now to release your children into adulthood. From the day your child is born, begin preparing him to fly on his own.