Biblical Child Training Part 1 of 4
God tells us in Ps. 127:3 that children are gifts from the Lord. It is a privilege to have children whom we can train up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Parents who are diligent to teach their children in God’s Word and His ways tend to enjoy their children. But most parents don’t enjoy their children. In fact, they are often happy to get away from them because the children are so rebellious, so quarrelsome, and so hard to manage. If God gave us children as gifts, why is life with them difficult and unrewarding? Did God really intend child raising to be like this? How can we raise children in such a way that we enjoy them and others enjoy them, too? Is this a hopeless goal? NO! But what’s a mother to do?
Know Christ Yourself
Ps. 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” In order to effectively raise children, one must be using the Word of God and the power of God to do the job well. Jesus says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” So if you’re here today and you truly want to have obedient, happy children, but you have not yet made Christ Lord of your life, that is the first thing you need to do. You can’t build your house alone. I Cor. 3:11 “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the foundation of a happy home. He is the perfect Son of God who came to earth to pay the penalties for your sins and my sins. Unless you and your children trust Him as Savior, outward behavior really has no eternal benefit. If you have not yet done this, I urge you to stay after the seminar today and ask us to explain to you what the Bible says a true Christian is. Tony or I will be glad to help you with that. Because if you leave here today knowing everything else I have to say, but not knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you will have missed the most important thing in the whole seminar.
Be an Example
To have Christ centered child training, we as parents must first have hearts devoted to consciously pleasing the Lord Jesus Christ in all we think, say, and do. We need this for ourselves, and we need it to be an example to our children.
Jesus said: John 13:15
15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Paul said: 1 Cor 11:1
11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
2 Tim 2:15
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Live your own life in a way to please the Savior first. If we want children who glorify God, we need to first strive to glorify God in our own lives. People are very good at spotting hypocrisy in the lives of others and our kids are no different. If we talk one way and live another way, they will see straight through us. Sure, we won’t always be perfect. When we sin, we need to humbly acknowledge our sin. I have a problem with pride, as does one of my sons. When I instruct him in this, I confess to him that I often fail in this area myself, but that I want to grow and honor Christ in this. I confess that I’m not always a good example in this area, but he sees that I recognize my failure and that I am changing over time. Kids don’t need perfection from a parent, but they need us to be real.
Another area we need to be examples for our children is in the area of genuine love! Sure, there are many ways in which we can demonstrate the love of Christ in the world, but clearly, for us husbands, the most important person, other than the Lord Himself, for us to love is our wives. In Eph. 5:25, God instructs us to love our wives just as Christ loved the church! That’s an incredibly high standard for us to aim for in our love. Guys, being an example to our kids of obedience to Scripture by loving our wives, is one of the best ways we can teach our children to become obedient. For a younger child, this obedience is toward his mommy and daddy, but as the child grows up, it should transfer into obedience for the Lord. Do you want your child to be obedient? Teach him by your own example of obedience to the Lord! A famous verse in Deuteronomy tells us this:
Deut. 6:4-8 Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is One! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. Before we can effectively teach our children, we must first in our own lives, walk in obedience to Him!
Aim for the Right Goal
What is your goal in coming here today? Are you here because you want your kids to obey you? That’s a good goal. Are you here because you want your kids to get good test scores? There is nothing wrong with that goal either. But are those the right goals? Your children might be outwardly obedient. They might get the top grades in their school exams.
The goal of parenting is to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The goal of parenting is not to get children under control. It is not to make them polite and respectful. It is not even to cause them to conduct themselves in a morally acceptable manner. It is not to make them obedient. It is not to give you as a parent something to be proud of. The goal of parenting is to see your child saved from sin and its eternal consequences and then to live a life of faithful obedience to His Lord.
We see this reflected in God’s goal for His children. He shows us the kinds of goals we should have for our children.
12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
I think that one of Christian parents’ greatest failure is having goals that are too low for their children. We want our children not to get pregnant before they get married or not to use drugs or to do well in school and to make a lot of money. Our goals for our children should be that they love God with everything in them and that they put Him first in their lives. We should want them to be used of God to make a difference in the world for Christ. If we raise children like that, everything else will fall into place.
So whatever your goals were when you came here today, my goal is to give you ideas for raising children that will love God with all their hearts and with all their souls. My goal is to teach you to raise children who are successful according to God’s valuation of success:
Josh 1: 8
8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Knowing God’s Word, living in obedience to it-that’s what God calls success!
Basic Principles of Child Training
3 By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
A home is built through wisdom, and part of wisely building a house is acknowledging and living by the family order given by God.
1 Cor 11:3
3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Ladies, whether we like to accept it or not, we are to live under the authority of our husbands. God has created all the world in an orderly fashion. In the family, this is the order:
- Father is the head,
- Mom’s first ministry is Dad, She is under Dad and over kids
- Kids under authority of both parents
The normal order of a family in the world today is that the children control the home. Everyone does what little Wang wants to do to avoid the fit he may throw if he does not have his way. After the child, Mom is usually second in command, and Dad comes last of all. This is exactly upside down. We need to allow our husbands to lead the home. Even unbelieving husbands should be respected and submitted to. We need to minister to our husbands. And then we need to realize that we are the parents. So many parents tell us that they can’t control their two year olds. That’s just hard to believe. I mean- they’re TWO! You’re bigger than they are, come on! Letting children control us rather than controlling our children creates chaos in a home. And God does not like chaos.
1 Cor 14:40
40 Let everything be done decently and in an orderly way.
1 Cor 14:33
33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (Speaking of order in churches but same principle applies to homes- If a home is in confusion, God is not pleased.
Proper family order is one way wisdom builds a house.
Train the Heart
The second way to build our house God’s way is to focus on training the hearts of our children – God requires so much more of His children than that we teach them all the facts and academic skills to move from kindergarten to having a PHD. God repeatedly directs His children to teach their children to fear Him, to know Him, and to walk in His ways. It is the heart that counts! Scripture uses the word “Heart” 992 times. For example, Deut 5:29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
It is not just a question of information or environment, although those are part of it. It is a matter of the heart. Training the heart requires recognizing that the center of your child’s being is in his desires, thoughts, and attitudes.
Jer 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can understand it?
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Life flows from our hearts.
Mark 7:21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness as well as deceits, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” All of these evil things proceed from within.
Luke 6:45 “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil. For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
What we want to realize about our children is that their struggles come from the heart. If the outward behavior changed but the heart does not change, there is little profit because the sin and the rebellion is still there and is waiting to come out at a later time! All behavior, all conduct is linked to some heart attitude. And moms and dads, our task is to train the hearts of our children.
Our children need to know that they have wicked sinful hearts that are alienated from God. My older children always laughed when we told our babies what cute little sinners they were! From birth we would discuss with them their sinful hearts and their need for salvation. We must teach them from early on that they are sinners in need of a Savior. And once we know Christ, we begin the process of being sanctified. To sanctify means to purify or cleanse from sin. The process of our Christian lives is that God, over time, is making us more holy, more like Him. He has prepared a set of life circumstances especially planned to make us over into the image of His Son. This is what we want our parenting to help accomplish in the hearts of our children.
Prov 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Train your child to understand temptation and resist it because sins such as being lazy, being selfish, wanting something God hasn’t given them, being greedy, and so forth dishonor God and please a sinful heart. Discipline for the sin but teach that the heart is the problem.
Sinful, unsaved, unsanctified children are ruled by the same exact desires that rule sinful, unsaved adults! Unsaved children are ruled by lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. They’re selfish, self-centered and they want everything they can see…NOW.
Correct them not because we are offended, irritated, and frustrated, because that is just anger and vengeance. Correct them so that they realize that they are offending a holy God. But also remind them that God seeks reconciliation with them through trust in Jesus Christ.
This is the target of all parenting- salvation of a sinful heart.
Everything in life is a classroom to draw them to God.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
I’m giving you a sheet of verses that speak about the heart to take home, and from these and many other verses, the Lord clearly shows us that the heart drives the man, that the heart can be redirected, and that the heart must be constantly conformed to the will of Christ.
As parents we must acknowledge that only God can perform the work of salvation in a child’s heart, but we must also know that the family is specifically designed to be God’s first and most effective earthly instrument for preparing a child’s heart to receive Christ.
Training the heart requires knowing what kind of heart the Lord desires.
Phil 2:3,4,5 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility of mind let each of you consider others as more important than yourselves. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
True humility, loving obedience, complete submission to God’s will, deliberate trust that God is in control and that He knows what is best- these are the attitudes which God desires for the hearts of His children. These attitudes are Christ- centered rather than self-centered. All of us are naturally self-centered and Christ can never be the center of our lives unless we deal with that self-centered attitude.
Ungodly desires, thoughts and attitudes do not go away when a child grows up. Instead they become habits that run deep into the hearts of our children and they affect every area of his life. We need to work diligently to teach our children to love and fear God, to help them know the difference between what they practice naturally and what God desires as righteous behavior, and to hold them accountable for what they already know. I’m going to give practical steps on how to do this, but first I want to paint a word picture for you.
When I lived in America I had a large yard with flower gardens and a big vegetable garden. I loved my garden, and one of the reasons I loved it was that it taught me so much about how to train my children! As I worked with the soil, with the seeds, with the weeds and pests, I would meditate on Scripture. It has much to say about growing plants, and most of that has parallels with growing children!
In order to plant a garden, one must first prepare the soil. A wise gardener digs into the soil, turning it over with his shovel or other tool time and time again until a hard patch of dirt becomes soft and ready to receive the seeds and the water. If a gardener throws seeds on hard soil, the seeds will seldom take root. We soften the soil of a child’s heart by teaching them the Bible faithfully from their earliest days, or as soon as we believe and have the wisdom to do this. The Word acts as a tool that turns over the soil of the heart, revealing the sin within, and bringing it to the light so it can be removed. Here are some ideas for preparing the soil of the heart:
We, as parents, can prepare the soil of our children’s hearts by having daily Bible reading times with them. Begin with simple Bible stories. Let them participate by answering questions at the end or pointing to things in the picture. “Where is David the shepherd boy?” “How many sheep do you see?” Teach her to pray at different times of the day- not just when it’s time to eat or to go to bed. If she’s struggling with an attitude or has a bad dream, say, “Let’s pray about this together.” If he or someone else gets hurt, suggest that you pray together for the person.
Teach thankfulness by bringing good gifts from God into focus throughout each day. “Didn’t God give us a beautiful day?” “Listen! Do you hear the birds God made singing? Aren’t they pretty?” “When you fell you could have really been hurt badly. Let’s thank God for protecting you when you fell!”
Sing about the Lord with your little ones and not just simple childish songs but real songs of faith that teach doctrinal and biblical truths. Children easily memorize what is sung to them. What better way to teach than to sing with them? Many doors of communication are opened for Bible truths through songs of faith.
Continually focus on God as Creator and Friend. Help this little one begin seeing God as the Lord of everything. Some people might call this brain washing. I call it smart. In Matt 13:1-9 God tells about four kinds of soil that the seed of God’s Word falls on. I’m not going to read the parable but you can go back and read it later by yourself if you wish. The soil that was well prepared received the seed and went on to bear much fruit. By continual training, we teach our children that there is one Truth in life rather than a different truth for each person. We begin preparing the soil in their little hearts to receive the seed of the gospel. But we don’t just teach it in a vacuum. We help them to see that this isn’t just what WE think and what WE say. The reason for living is to glorify Christ in everything because this is our created purpose and because this is the way His Word says we should live. Train, train, train!
Once the soil is soft, you have to plant the right kind of seeds in order to get the right kind of fruit. If you want to grow strawberries, you plant strawberry seeds and not weed seeds or flower seeds. We need to plant the right kinds of seeds in our children’s lives. We do this by continual training in Scripture, by exposing them to good influences rather than worldly influences, by teaching them righteous behavior rather than self centered behavior. Many careless parents let their child choose and plant his own seeds and then they are surprised when their kid’s heart shows itself in ungodly unrighteous behavior. And other parents let their child’s friends plant the seeds in the precious soil. This is like allowing a child to plant a farm! In order to have good fruit, we have to take responsibility to plant the right seeds in our own children’s hearts.
After the seeds are planted, they need constant water and attention. We water through prayer, through loving nurture, and through more teaching of the Word. Another thing we need to do with our newly planted garden is to pull out the weeds. Anyone who gardens quickly notices that while it takes vegetable seeds a long time to root, and lots of water and attention, weeds easily and quickly grow. A wise gardener pulls the weeds when they are small and the roots are shallow. It’s much easier to pull small weeds than to pull huge tall weeds which have had time to develop long deep roots. If a gardener doesn’t pull out the weeds early, they often choke out the tiny growing vegetable plants so that they can’t ever become strong and produce fruit.
As the garden grows, it’s beautiful! The gardener takes much pleasure in seeing the plants grow strong and green until they begin to produce fruit. And she is vigilant to continue watering, to continue watching for weeds, disease, and other pests which can destroy her garden. Over time, fruit begins to appear. She praises God for the increase, exclaims over the wonderful fruit, and rejoices in the beauty and pleasure this garden gives.
I thought maybe this illustration would give you more of an idea what I mean by training the heart and that by meditating on it later you might discover more truths on how to train your children.
Teach Obedience to Parents so They Learn Obedience to God
The basic premise of our child training is that we want our children to obey us the way we want them to obey God when they are older- instantly, cheerfully, and completely…. Give example. We are setting the standard for a lifetime of obedience to the Lord. Children are learning habits of obedience or rebellion which will often carry over into their adult lives. It is so much better to learn good habits of cheerful wholehearted obedience that they can transfer to their loving heavenly Father as they come to know and understand Him.
Step by Step Instruction
Now I’m going to get specific and tell you step by step how we teach our children to obey. We start very young, but if your child is older and you haven’t started teaching them this already, it’s ok. There are still ideas you can get from this which you can apply to older kids. And later I’ll get specific on how to start with kids who are already older.
First, we let children know what we expect of them and why and the why always comes from God’s Word.
There are many methods of doing that but this is how I do it. I make sure they are looking at me. “Look at Mommy.” I tap my nose when I say that so that they understand clearly that I want them to look at me. Don’t give instruction until you know you have the child’s attention! It’s easy for kids to say, “I didn’t hear you.” “I didn’t understand.” We need to give instruction in such a way that they no longer have these excuses.
So we tell them clearly what we want them to do, “Mommy wants you to come here.” Begin with simple instructions and help them understand that when you give an instruction, you expect them to obey. Usually my husband and I work on this together as soon as a child can walk. One of us will tell the child to come and the other will help them get across the room to the other parent. We do this a number of times until the child seems to understand.
Instruct them in God’s Word so that they will get the idea that all authority comes from God. We tell them, “God says, ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.’ God wants you to obey Mommy and Daddy. When Daddy asks you to come to him, you need to walk to Daddy. Here, let’s try it to make sure you understand.” Then Daddy goes across the room and says, “Come to Daddy.” Mommy helps baby across the room to Daddy. “That’s right! Daddy said to come and you came to Daddy! You obeyed God and Daddy. Good job!”
Give him a chance to obey on his own. You remind him, “Remember, God says you are to obey Daddy. Daddy wants you to come here to me. Come to me.” Wait a moment and give the child a chance to come across the room to you. If he comes, praise him strongly. “Good boy! You obeyed Daddy. God tells children to obey your parents and you obeyed God by obeying Daddy. Very good!” Give hugs and kisses.
Or, the child will not obey. From early on, we want our kids to begin evaluating their own responses so that they will recognize sin and learn to repent, so we ask questions. At first you will have to help them supply the answers but over time they will learn to think about the questions and answer themselves. “What does God tell children? Did you obey Daddy and come to Daddy when she told you? No, you didn’t obey Daddy and that makes God sad and it makes Daddy sad. Now Daddy needs to give you a spanking.”
Spanking? Really? Yes! We need to pull the weeds of sin in our children’s hearts by discipline. To complete the training they need to know that obedience brings blessing and pleasure but that sin/disobedience brings suffering and pain. This is the purpose of discipline- to teach that sin brings unpleasant consequences.
God says in His Word that a parent who loves his child will discipline him with the rod. But many psychologists say that spanking is harmful to children, don’t they? This is a chance to choose whom we will serve. Proverbs is the book of godly wisdom. It is packed full of practical tools and tips for making wise choices in life. We have a choice before us whether to listen to God’s wisdom as expressed in the Bible or the world’s wisdom as expressed through psychology books. Since God is the Creator, He knows us best and loves us best. If He suggests child training through spanking, we want to agree with God. This is what God says:
24 He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
Spanking is not an act of violence that adults perpetrate on helpless children. It is a controlled, loving act accompanied by teaching from the Bible that is intended to help discipline a child into happy submission to parents and God.
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Folly (foolishness) IS bound up in the hearts of children! From birth we see that they are selfish little beings who think only of themselves and their desires. As their parents, we use the rod of reproof, a spanking, to help drive the foolishness out of the child’s heart. In Ps. 23, we read that God, the Good Shepherd’s rod and staff is meant to comfort His sheep. The rod was the stick the shepherd carried to whack the errant sheep on the backside when they went astray. The staff is the shepherd’s crook used to guide the sheep back onto the right path. Our discipline of our children through spanking actually is a comfort to them. Children feel loved and secure when they have boundaries. My children have often genuinely thanked me for caring enough to spank them, as they know that it is proof of my love for them.
3 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod , he will not die.
14 Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.
Does spanking hurt? Yes! It’s meant to and it should. But it saves the child from more pain in their futures and this verse says it saves his soul from death. Many parents say they couldn’t DO that to their precious children. They love them TOO much. Because of lack of discipline children end up out of control, addicted to the wrong things, despairing because of poor life choices, morally bankrupt. It’s much more loving to correct them with the rod early on in life so that they will learn to make wise Biblical choices. For children and parents both, this is the kindest solution and it’s the one God Himself suggests in His Word.
15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom,
but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.
In fact, this verse of Scripture teaches that using the rod makes a child wise.
Training is two-fold- we use the Word of God to train their hearts and the rod of reproof to correct outward behaviors. Spanking without the training from the Bible may change outward behavior for a time, but it is the Word of God that changes the heart. But using Scripture without the physical discomfort of a spanking only gives a child part of the picture. They need to understand that all sin brings pain and has negative consequences. They can learn early through a spanking from a loving parent or later they will have one of “God’s spankings”.
This is what we call the chastening of God in our lives and the painful consequences that come through sinful choices. God’s spankings equal the natural consequences of sin. For example a child may touch a hot stove after her parents have told her not to and burn her hand. Or he might disobey a parent’s command not to go in the street and get hit by a car and be hurt badly or even killed. God’s spankings include failures of all sorts- failures in school, getting fired from jobs, marrying outside God’s will and living with a difficult life partner….
In Scripture, God teaches us to deal with sin swiftly, to pull those small weeds early rather than letting them strengthen and grow deep roots. Here is a verse we consider very important in child training:
“Eccles. 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, the hearts of the sins of men among them are given fully to do evil.”
As an example, if a little child is caught in a lie, he should be disciplined for it and taught the truth from God’s Word about lying. If you don’t deal with it early, he will become an unreliable person who lies continually.
We need to help our children deal with their little sinful hearts when the sins are small and easier to pull out. This means we need to discipline quickly after an offense. We need to be quick to recognize sin patterns. A wise gardener doesn’t look at a little weed growing in his garden and think, “Oh, look, isn’t that little weed cute?” No, he knows that weeds quickly grow and multiply and that soon they will overtake his little plants and try to choke them out before they ever have time to grow. Don’t laugh at something today that you will spank for later. “NO” is never a cute answer from a child, no matter how young. Disrespect, rebellion, smart sassy mouths, hitting…I’ve seen parents laugh at these types of behaviors from little kids. If it’s not cute in a 16 year old, don’t encourage it in a toddler!
I want to get down to the practical “how to’s” of how to spank so there is no confusion about what I’m teaching.
I suggest not using one’s hands to spank a child. Parent’s hands should be sources of love and comfort for a child. God calls it a rod so we use a small stick to spank. We pull down the diaper and give several firm swats that sting to the padded area of their behinds. It needs to hurt so that they get the idea that sin hurts. Just as a farmer pulls the weeds but nurtures the plants, we then nurture the child by following up with loving hugs and kisses. “Daddy loves you and wants you to learn to obey Jesus. When you obey Daddy you obey God. I forgive you. Now let’s pray about this.” Then take time to pray with the child, asking God to help them learn to obey God and his parents.
Then give the child another chance to obey. This is where a lot of parents fail in their parenting and where a lot of gardeners fail in their gardening. If we pluck off the end of the weed but do not get the roots, the roots of sin are left to grow stronger and deeper. Parents often don’t persevere until the child will obey. This strong will never submits itself to the parents and therefore to God. After the spanking, we would say again, “Ok, remember, God says children are to obey their parents. Now Mommy wants you to come to her. Come to Mommy.” If he obeys, give praise, encouragement and physical affection. If he doesn’t obey, discipline with a spanking, pray, and give another chance to obey. This part of the process may be very difficult and it will usually reveal if you’ve got a strong-willed child or not. One of our children once took six hours to obey! (Tell that story but finish with the encouragement that ever since that day, she has been a very happy obedient child who almost always does as asked the first time.)