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Parenting Tips from Forrest Gump

November 11, 2004

It does not take a genius to be successful at home. Forrest Gump was not a smart man, but he had a pretty good grip on parenting. In the last scene of the Gump movie, when Little Forrest was getting on the bus for his first day of school, Big Forrest hugged his son and said: “I love you and I’ll be here.”

That about sums up what it takes to be a successful parent: Hug your kids, love your kids, and be there for them.

I have never met parents who do not love their children. But, I have met many who are not there when they are needed. They all intend to be there. They all want to be there. They all feel guilty for not being there. But, too often parents are not there.

Consider the following sad facts:

**New York Post film critic, Michael Medved, reports that by the age of six, the average child will spend more time watching TV, movies, and videos than that child will spend his entire life talking to his father. This means that Harry Potter and Britney Spears are replacing fathers as the mentors of the next generation.

**A recent UNICEF survey of 9 to 17 year olds revealed that Filipinos are the loneliest kids in Asia. Where are the parents of these lonely youth who roam the malls?

**The same UNICEF survey asked Asian youth to list their heroes. Filipino fathers were a pitiful fourth place behind mothers, actors, and Anime. Being a hero to a child requires little, but it seems that today’s fathers are giving less than little. Where are the fathers?

If Forrest Gump was smart enough to “be there” for his son, why are today’s parents so often not there? It is not just that modern parents are too busy. The busiest people I know always seem to find time for what they really want to do. Busy men play golf. Busy students go to movies. Busy parents watch TV. If we really want to do something, we will find the time. Parental neglect is more about priorities than time management. Fathers are number four on the hero list because their kids are about that far down on their priority list.

While not growing up in a Christ-centered home, I was blessed to have parents who prioritized their five kids. Like Forrest Gump, my parents were always there for me. Sporting events, school functions, birthday parties, if it was important to me, then my parents made it a priority.

The starting point of parents prioritizing their kids is realizing that God holds parents, especially dads, accountable for the life of their children. Siblings, relatives, teachers, and Sunday school workers are not ultimately responsible for our kids. Remember, God judged Eli, not Mrs. Eli, because he failed to restrain his wicked sons. Eli was successful as a minister, having mentored Samuel, the greatest Old Testament prophet, but he was a failure at home, having raised two immoral and greedy sons. The Eli syndrome, success at work and failure at home, is so common in the pulpit and pew today that many accept it as normal.

It is time for Christian parents to get their priorities in order. Following the example of my parents, my spiritual mentors, and Forrest Gump, here are my top four priorities.

1. My relationship with God
2. My relationship with my wife
3. My relationship with my three sons
4. My career/calling (pastor, missionary, Bible teacher)

I have often told my congregation, “You are not my top priority. You are actually number four.” Some have gotten offended and left in search of a pastor who will put ministry before family. Others have accepted this and have ordered their own priorities accordingly.

The end of a year and the beginning of a new year is a good time to get our priorities in order. Why not follow Forrest’s example and hug your kids, love your kids, and be there for them, no matter what has to be re-arranged in your busy schedule?

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