Biblical Child Rearing Part 2
Warning from God
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
God gives children to parents and then gives us an instruction not to exasperate the child. How do parents do that? I’m handing out a little list of things that you can do which will help you raise a child who is spoiled, unhappy, and out of control. This is really a list of what NOT to do! But let me give you another list here of how parents might provoke a child to anger. This list is from John McArthur.
- By overprotection. Never trust them. Don’t give them the opportunity to develop independence. Parents must give children room to express themselves, to discover their world, to try a new adventure, gradually releasing them to live independently. Don’t hang on so tightly. Overprotection frustrates and angers a child.
- By favoritism. Isaac favored Esau over Jacob. Rebekah favored Jacob over Esau. The results were very sad- two brothers who distrusted and disliked one another. Don’t compare your child to others; each child is unique. We don’t have to treat each one in exactly the same way because they’re all different with different needs, but we should love them all the same. If a child feels that you love another in the family more, that is a very, very frustrating experience.
- By setting unrealistic achievement goals. Some parents literally crush their children with pressure, pressure to excel in school, pressure to excel in sports, in music, in any activity they do. I see this a lot. It really has little to do with the child and everything to do with the reputation that the parents want. When a child never feels that they have pleased or excelled and feels constant pressure to do more and better, it leads to being angry and bitter. Some children, sadly, even take their own lives because they can’t stand the pressure of living up to their parents’ expectations.
- By over-indulgence, by giving them everything they want, by picking up after them always, by giving them no accountability and no responsibility. You can exasperate them by letting them sin and get away with it so they learn to do that successfully. Ultimately when they go out into the world and people don’t serve them or take responsibility for their mistakes, they will get angry and bitter and violent. This is the kind of person we see growing up around us today in general.
- By discouragement. And I think that comes in two ways…a lack of understanding and lack of reward. Both of those destroy motivation and incentive. You must understand your children. Understand what they’re thinking. Understand what they’re trying to accomplish. Understand why a certain thing happened, why a certain behavior occurred, why they do something a certain way. Give them a listening ear and an understanding heart and reward them graciously and generously with love. Give them approval and honor and be patient with them or they get very defeated, discouraged, and angry.
- By failing to sacrifice for them. In other words, by making the child feel like he’s constantly an intrusion into your life, constantly an interruption, always a bother. You want to do what you want to do, you and your husband want to go where you want to go, your job is just more important than your children. They will resent your being uncaring, unavailable and self-centered.
- By not allowing them to make little mistakes as they grow up. If they knock something over at the table, is it really a big deal? Give them a little job and if they do it in an unacceptable way but it’s a little bit improved from how they did it last time, commend them. Let them share some of their ideas with you even if they sound a little ridiculous. Let them plan some silly things to do and do them. And don’t condemn them. Expect progress not perfection.
- By neglect. If there’s any biblical illustration of this it’s probably David and Absalom. David spent no time with him- no time shaping him and Absalom ultimately hated his father with a passion, tried to dethrone his father and take his place. Lack of consistent discipline is the worst kind of neglect. Teach them, discipline them, consistently using the rod in love. As we said before, children need lots of time, love, discipline, and nurture.
- By abusive words. Verbal abuse is a terrible thing. Critical, unkind, unloving words can cut that little heart to shreds. And what is as devastating as anything are words of anger, words of sarcasm, or words of ridicule. Frankly we say things to our children we would never say to anybody else. I hear a lot of parents in China just screaming at their children in anger. I don’t know what they’re saying but it can’t be nice! Among God’s people, this should not happen. Yes, most parents lose their tempers now and then, but if we say cutting, unkind things to our children, we need to apologize, confess our sin to them, and ask them to forgive us.
- By physical abuse. An angry child is often a beaten, abused, over-zealously punished child, usually from an angry, vengeful parent who only cares that he has been inconvenienced or irritated, not that the child needs correction for his own good. Physical abuse has nothing to do with loving, controlled, God-honoring discipline and correction. It is physical punishment given in anger and vengeance.
Let’s be careful not to exasperate our children to anger through any of these means.
Words must mean something:
Parents often complain that their children don’t listen to them or don’t respect them. I like the way Elisabeth Elliot addresses this. She says that our words to our kids really need to MEAN SOMETHING. When we speak to our kids, they need to know that we’re serious and that we really expect children to do what we say they should do. Often parents use a series of threats to try to intimidate their children rather than simply giving instructing, expecting obedience, and disciplining lack of obedience. Children learn early that Mom doesn’t really mean what she says or that her bark is worse than her bite. Instead they need to learn that Mom really means what she says. This teaches respect.
Parents fall into the habit of giving orders and then getting increasingly angry each time they are not obeyed. Give example. This really isn’t fair as children don’t know which time Mom says something that they really need to do the thing! Rather, the parent should give careful instruction once, then immediately follow up with discipline if obedience doesn’t take place. This will save mother and child a lot of frustration. We expect obedience the first time every time. No counting to ten. No humoring, begging, bribing, or cajoling. Just very simply, the parents carefully tell the child what is expected, the child either obeys or disobeys, and then the parents reward good behavior or discipline bad behavior.
In the same way, we should not make promises to our children that we can’t keep. Don’t say, “I’ll take you to the park tomorrow” and then not do it, rather say, “If everything goes according to plan, we’ll go to the park tomorrow.”
2 Cor 1:17-20
17 When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes , yes ” and “No, no”? 18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes ” and “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes ” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes .” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes ” in Christ.
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
Children need to know that their parents’ words mean something and that if Mommy tells them something, she will follow through and do it- whether it is to give discipline and correction or whether it’s taking the child on a promised outing.
The Purpose of Christian Parenting is Discipleship
Every true believer in Christ is left with this charge from the Lord: Matt 28:19-20
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We are to be making disciples as we go. A disciple is a learner or a student who has a teacher or mentor giving them specific instruction. In the case of Christian disciples, they are men and women who are serious students of the ways and Words of the Lord Jesus Christ. All true Christian should be making disciples- we should be zealously teaching others to be followers of Christ.
This verse said we should “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”… This is how we make disciples. We teach others what God has commanded and we teach them to obey these things.
Our children are the most likely people for us to disciple because we live with them. They see our lives and they know our hearts’ desires. We have time to give careful instruction and to teach them these things. But sometimes it’s easy to waste the time we are given with our children and even to put our effort into discipling others while we neglect our own kids. When we obediently teach our children day by day the Words of Christ, it is one way of fulfilling this great commission that He has given us to make disciples.
The “With Him” Principle of Discipleship
In order to disciple your child, you must be with him. Too many mothers and fathers leave a child to himself rather than training him Biblically. These kids will disgrace their mothers by their uncontrolled and ungodly behavior.
Let’s continue the Deuteronomy passage with verse 7-9
7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
So in this passage God is telling the Israelites to impress His commandments on the hearts of their children. How? By diligently teaching them when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down, when we get up…. Child training is a constant responsibility. Many people today assign others to raise their children. The Bible teaches that it is Mom’s and Dad’s responsibility to raise their children. God did not give your children to your parents to raise, or to an ayi or to a kindergarten. As your child’s parents you know them better than anyone. You love them the most. They need your guiding hand continually throughout each day.
When Jesus chose the twelve disciples, the Bible tells us in Mark 3:14 that He chose them that they should be with Him. His method of discipleship is sometimes called the “with Him” method. He lived alongside His disciples and taught them how to live as Christians by example and by continual instruction in everyday situations. Raising children is our most precious opportunities to make disciples for Christ, and we do that best when we, like Christ, are WITH THEM day by day. In order to raise our children for God’s glory, we have to be with them! How can we fulfill God’s commandment to teach our children when we rise up, when we sit down, when we walk by the way…if we’re not doing those things with them?
This brings us to the difficult fact that training takes time. Probably the most difficult area of child training is consistently taking time EVERY TIME to do it well in the midst of a busy life. Farming is a full time job. In every season there is work that must be done to build up a productive farm. Parenting is the same way. To give careful instruction takes time. To discipline takes time. To pray and to reconcile with the child take time. To continue giving the child the chance to obey until there is success takes time. We often have to stop doing what we’re doing and turn our total attention to our children. There may be days when we get very little else accomplished. This is ok!
I’ve said a little about expectations in an earlier discussion about how to frustrate a child, but I want to say a little more. I see this as a big problem in China. Because most families have only one child, much pressure is put on that child to be a high achiever. Children who are a little slow are often thrown away, told they’re worthless, screamed at or abused. But it is enlightening to see in Scripture that each of God’s children is different. God doesn’t treat all of His children the same- He treats them according to their temperaments and their needs. A good example is in Genesis 49 where Jacob is prophesying what will happen to each of the twelve children he is blessing. If you read through this sometime, take note that he tells the strengths and weaknesses of the sons. He acknowledges that they all are different and that God has different plans for each of them. In the same way, each of our children will be unique and special.
We need to study our children so that we really know them. This helps us to have realistic expectations for the child. I’ve had 8 children. Two of the eight are pretty similar but that still gives me 7 significantly different temperaments to handle and the two who are similar still have many differences. From the time kids are babies, we can learn things about how they react, what they like, what things easily frustrate them. We begin to learn if they like things tidy or don’t mind mess. We see that some enjoy more time with people and some like more time playing alone. Some are cuddlers who like physical affection while others tend to be up and active as much as possible. Some are more naturally flexible while others need a more structured environment. Some need more sleep and others less. As we study our kids and spend time with them, we find valuable keys to helping them become all they can be in Christ.
One of the more harmful things we can do for our kids is to compare them to other children or to expect them to live up to a standard set of expectations. I’m not speaking here of child training issues. All children can obey though some may be stronger willed and take more training. I’m speaking of levels of success or steps of development- not all kids will walk at the same age or talk or be equally good at the same things.
We need to “learn our kids by heart”- to know what makes them tick and what makes them feel loved. And we need to temper our expectations with their abilities. If we understand them, we can help them strengthen their strengths and their weaknesses. Having unrealistic expectations only hurts them. This doesn’t mean that we accept sin and say, “That’s just the way little Johnny is.” No, we deal with sin. Just because little Johnny has a quick temper and wants to hit a parent or a sibling when they don’t do something he wants done doesn’t mean we accept it. We just realize, “OK, Johnny has a quick temper. I need to help him learn to control it while he’s young before he gets to be a grown man with a full-fledged problem.”
One of the main ways some parents relate to their children is through yelling and anger. I notice there is a lot of blaming going on in China. As mothers, we need to obey Scripture by controlling our anger and teaching our children calmly, patiently, and kindly. Eph 4:29-32
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger , brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
But how do we avoid this kind of communication with our children?
14 The beginning of a quarrel is like the letting out of water; so abandon a quarrel before a dispute breaks out.
A friend of mine had a big poster hanging on her refrigerator. It said, “Don’t react. Train.” It means that we should control our moment by moment reactions to our children so that we communicate with them in a Christ-like way. We use every opportunity to train them in God’s Word.
Often parents become angry and frustrated because they have lost control of their homes. Remember the proper roles for parent and child! Take back control of your homes by patient training and discipline. We can, indeed, abandon a quarrel with our children before it breaks out. One of the beauties of first time every time discipline is that we, as parents, don’t let a problem escalate until we are angry and upset. If your child knows that you will discipline after telling them once, he is much more likely to obey, and if he doesn’t obey, you are not so angry that you’re screaming.
Notice in the Colossians three passage, it says to clothe ourselves with humility and gentleness. Often in the Bible we are told to “put on” right behavior. This is something that we do by an act of our will. Just as we put on our clothes, we mentally and emotionally put on right attitudes and responses. Most people listen much better to quiet voices than to screaming. As a matter of fact, you may want to really lower your voice so that you’re almost whispering. Your child may begin to really concentrate on what you’re saying! And remember what I said about a parent’s words really meaning something? If a child learns that you really do mean what you say, there will be no need to scream in anger and frustration. A simple statement will be met with more respect, because he knows you mean it.
Pray! This may be the most important concepts of all- we need to diligently pray for our children, knowing that it is God who brings the growth.
1 Cor 3:6
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.
1 Sam 12:23
23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.
Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
When we pray for our children, what should we pray? Sure, we can pray for them regarding their special needs for each day- for their health, for their character, for their friendships, for their schoolwork, etc, but that shouldn’t be the main focus of our prayers for our children. I like praying the prayers that Paul prayed for the churches to whom he wrote letters. He really got to the heart of the matter with these prayers. I want you to take about fifteen minutes and study these prayers together.