Lessons on Christian Parenting Part 4
C. Later Years- Some of you who are sitting here have children who are almost teenagers or even older. If you are in that category, you need to remember that God is in control of your life and of your child’s life. You can’t change the past. Whatever mistakes you’ve made can be confessed to God and He promises that He will forgive you. There is no need to meditate on your past failures. Many of you are new to the Christian life and there is no way you could have taught your child according to God’s way if you didn’t even know Him yourself. The question really is- what should you do now? Now you know what the Bible teaches about training your children. You need to look toward the future and what you can do with the remaining years you have with your child to see how you can impact them for Christ.
1. Tell them what has happened to you- share the gospel with them. The first step should be that you sit down with them and tell them the changes that have happened in your life. Be honest with them. Tell them that you are a sinner and that that you had no peace in your life. Share with him how you came to Christ, why you came to Christ, and why it is important to you that they know and understand. And then share the gospel with them clearly. If you don’t know how, have someone else do it. Someone in our family will be glad to help you with this or Cathy or Dong could help. But they need to know why Mom or Dad has suddenly changed and why the rules that they have lived by all their lives are beginning to change. Explain to her that she, too is a sinner in need of a transformed heart. You can help them change outward behaviors but remember, it is the heart that counts.
2. Ask forgiveness for previous failures. Then explain to them that you now realize that you had made choices as a parent that have negatively impacted your child’s life. “I didn’t discipline you in the right ways. I’ve yelled at you in anger. I haven’t made the rules clear to you. I haven’t used God’s ways in being your mother. I’ve sometimes hit you in anger. I have been unkind…..” Confess specific sin. Really humble yourself to your child. Hey, your son KNOWS that you’ve been out of control sometimes! This won’t be a surprise. But in humbling yourself, you show your daughter that you see your own mistakes and that you are genuinely sorry for them. I know that humbling yourself does not give you face in the eyes of your child. Christianity is not concerned with giving us face- face is pride, which God hates.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other
1 Peter 5:5-7 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Say to them clearly, “I have sinned in this way against you and in that way… Will you please forgive me? I am still learning and I have a long way to go, but I really want to be a good dad to you.” This may be the most important step because it shows your child that you are sincere and that you are being real with them.
2. Explain new rules and the “whys” behind them. At this time, you can tell them the changes that you intend to make. Think through on this about what is important to God- things like obedience, respect, diligence…. Teach them what the Bible says about discipline and those who hate discipline. I am giving you a small word study which teaches the basic ideas of what the Bible says about discipline.
We want them to see that God says that discipline is good and necessary in our lives. Because we love them, we want to begin teaching them in the right way. Pray and encourage them to be wise and receive instruction.
3. Then begin a regular and systematic teaching of the Bible to your child. You can do this through reading a little together each day. The gospel of John is a good place to start because it tells so much about who Jesus is. Another good thing you can do is to read the Proverb to them that corresponds to the day of the month. So on June 3 you read Proverbs 3; on June 29 you read Proverbs 29. Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom written by Solomon to his son. I’ve had weekly quiet times and gone through the book of Proverbs with each of our boys taking 6-10 verses a week and discussing the principles God was teaching us. Proverbs was meant to be taught by parents to children.
Also, talk naturally to your child about the things that you yourself are learning from the Bible. Be patient. You didn’t come to belief overnight and they may not either. Have them review you in the verses you have memorized. Pray for them and with them continually!
You have to start where you are, and the best place to start is by teaching them that the Bible is the very words of God and that it contains all teaching for life and godliness.
2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Even if they don’t want to listen, you must start here. Make it natural, flowing from your own faith. Remember that your child has a sin nature that can only be changed by faith in Christ. Be patient with them. It took me 17 years to trust Christ. Maybe it took you 30 or 40 years to trust Christ. It is God’s work and we must be patient with our children. We can teach and train but God changes hearts! And while it is really important to teach God’s Word to our children (because faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ) to our children throughout each day, our lives may well speak louder than our words. As we grow in God’s grace and as the fruit of the Spirit grows in our lives, our children will see that our faith is genuine and God will use that to impact their lives.
Rom 10:17-18 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
3. Friends – Another area in which we should help our children is to guard the friendships they have.
Prov 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
1 Cor 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Our children’s friends can have tremendous influence in their lives. As parents we should not be afraid to limit the negative influences in their lives.
4. Alternative disciplines – While spanking is the main discipline mentioned in Scripture, there are other means of discipline. With young children, I really do suggest spanking be the primary discipline and not neglected, because the Bible is very clear on that. But there are other disciplines that we have used at times.
I want to mention here that I would not recommend “time out”. Most of the time, time outs just give children time to get angrier as they meditate on their parents’ unfairness.
We sometimes use natural consequences as a means of discipline. For example, when a child is lazy, we apply 2 Thess 3:10-12 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”
That is, we use the consequence of missing meals as a discipline. God teaches that not eating is a natural consequence of not working.
Prov 16:26 The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.
This is a very real lesson in practical Christianity!
In the same vein, if one of our children complains about doing something, we give them more of that kind of work until they can do it with a good attitude.
If they are selfish with one of their things, we take it away completely and let the other children have it for an extended period.
The Bible teaches that if our right hand offends us, we cut it off. Matt 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
The idea is that we get rid of anything that takes us away from devotion to Christ. So if we see that our child has something that causes him to stumble, we take it away. For instance, we have one child who sinned many times in the use of video games. He would not control his use of them to the point that they were a bad influence in his life. They kept him from spending time with God and with family and with his studies. The video games became off limits to him completely- forever, or as long as he was at our house.
Let me mention here, too, that pornography is a terrible problem in today’s society because it is so easily available on the internet. Because of that we got a program that we pay about $100 a year for which reports to me all the websites our family uses each week. It’s kind of a headache, but it takes away the temptation to sin in that way.
Another consequence may be allowing our children to fail in school if they don’t do the work. Some parents may jump in and do the work for the lazy child. No. Let the child receive the consequences of her sin. If we are always rescuing them from the natural consequences, they have no incentive to change those behaviors.
Hopefully we’ll have some time for questions and answers when we can talk about specific disciplines to use for problems that your children have, but the main idea is that if there’s something they refuse to do or complain about doing, they get to do more of it and if there’s something that they want to do TOO much so that it’s a distraction from God’s best, we withhold it. And the whole time, we train in the Scriptures. This is WHY we do what we do. This is God’s best. We love you. We want your happiness and we know that following your own way won’t bring God’s best. It’s not about us or our reputation. It’s not about our anger or our face, it’s about Christ in the hearts of our sons and daughters.
5. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” We talked about this extensively earlier but I just want to remind you with your older kids to think through before you implement disciplines. Don’t get yourself in a situation that you will later regret. Think, pray, don’t discipline in anger, and when you decide what God wants you to do, stick to it! Don’t make threats that you won’t keep.
6. Spend time with your child doing things you both enjoy. Let your child know that he is precious to you by spending time together. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Over the years because I had so many kids, it was helpful to go on “dates” with them. I’d take just one at a time out for a meal, a cup of cocoa, to go to the park and so forth. And then I spend time talking with them and showing interest in their lives and thoughts. Ask their opinions about things and really be interested in what they think. Parenting is a relationship- not a dictatorship. Laugh and joke with your child. Sing. Dance. Play. Take the time to live life with them. Find the things you really like about your child and let them know. Believe me, your child will be happy to hear, “I’ve always really liked your sense of humor.” “You are so thoughtful.” “I like to get your opinion on how I decorate- you have such good taste.” ”I know that it was hard for you to speak in front of the group but you did it and did such a good job. I’m proud of you.” And so on….. Build the relationship. You might even find that they begin to really enjoy you and desire to be with you!
VI. Common Myths – There are a few ideas that people have that are not based on the Bible but on wrong thinking and psychology.
A. Terrible Twos- The whole idea that it’s normal for children to be more sinful at one age than at another is one of those ideas. Every person at every stage of life has a sinful heart. This is not a phase and it won’t just pass away. Specific ages that come to mind are the terrible twos and the terrible teens. Yes, your two year old or your 13 year old will be sinners! But God gives no liberty for sin at any age. In the same way, God doesn’t give us liberty to sin when we’re going through PMS or menopause! We have to challenge this mistaken idea with the truth of God’s word- “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sin is not a phase. It is deep in our hearts. Both two year olds and teenagers can be pleasant and fun to have around! But we have to train them in the areas we’ve already discussed.
B. All Girls Whine and All Boys Are Naughty While it is true that most girls and boys whine and all girls and boys are naughty, we need to recognize sin and discipline accordingly. We don’t let children whine. Whining is complaining and whining is manipulating. From early on, we teach that we don’t listen to whining. “What are you doing? Are you whining? Does God want you to whine? Why not? (Because we are to do all things without grumbling or complaining and whining is grumbling and complaining.) Daddy isn’t going to listen to a whiny voice. If you want me to do something, you need to ask me nicely in a pleasant voice.” If they don’t- we discipline. No one enjoys whining kids and you’ll do yourselves a favor to make them stop early. The sooner you deal with it the sooner it will stop! Be consistent.
And all kids are naughty. What to do? Discipline for sin. Naughtiness is sin. Now, some people may think that joking around and playing tricks on someone is naughty. People here used to tell me our girls were naughty because they put their fingers in their mouths. That’s not naughty- that’s childish behavior. Naughtiness is disobedience, unkindness, selfishness, meanness…. Learn to know the difference. We can joke and have fun with our kids and we can let them be childish, but we should deal with sin.
C. If I count to ten it will make it easier to obey! This is one of the dumbest ideas in history! I so often see parents who give a child time to decide to obey. They say, “Come over here, Johnny.” If Johnny doesn’t come, the parent then says, “I’ll count to ten and if you don’t come…(empty threat)” Remember Ecclesiastes 8:11? Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil. Waiting will not help. All is does is to teach the child that Daddy can count to a high number! And usually the longer we wait, the angrier we get. Discipline early before you get out of control and do something you will regret!
This doesn’t really go in this section but I wanted to throw in a reminder to really love those precious children God gave you. Daily practice 1Corinthians 13 love. Treasure them; cherish them; hug on them; pat them; let them know how much you value them. They need to know that whether they’ve failed or succeeded, you will love them always. God’s love in unconditional. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We are terrible sinners. I am a terrible sinner. Just as God gave grace to me in loving me while I was yet a sinner, we need to extend the same grace to our children.
VI. God’s Grace in the Battle Yes, parenting is a big job, but take heart! We don’t have to do it alone. John 15:5 says that apart from Christ we can do nothing and that is really true. But it also tells us in Mt. 19:26 that with God all things are possible. Phil 4:13 tells us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. We need that strength! Every day we can go to the Lord, share our weakness with Him, and claim His strength. Remember my favorite verse: 2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
And it doesn’t matter how many children you have- each one requires you to learn new things. Sometimes when people hear that I have 8 children they say, “Wow- you are really a great man!” No! God blessed me 8 kids and He often uses the children to show me just how sinful I am! If we try to raise children in our own strength, it won’t be enough. As I close, I want to share two very helpful verses in child training.
A. Wisdom – James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach. I often claim this promise and ask God for wisdom in dealing with some issue of parenting.
B. Perseverance- Gal 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good , for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Things don’t always go well in child training. There are many discouraging days when we grow weary- weary of spanking, weary of dealing with problems, weary of praying…. But we must not give up. Brothers and sisters, keep praying, keep training, keep disciplining, keep loving, keep hoping the best for your child, trusting God for the results.