Last week I posted a quote about child training that I promised to expound on a bit…
“The parent’s part is to train them for life, to send them out of the home ready for whatever duty or mission God may have ready for them….What we want to do with our children is not merely to control them and keep them in order, but to implant true principles deep in their hearts which shall rule their whole lives; to shape their character from within into Christlike beauty, and to make of them noble men and women, strong for battle and for duty. They are to be trained rather than governed. Growth of character, not merely good behavior, is the object of all home governing and teaching. Therefore the home influence is far more important than the home laws, and the parents’ lives are of more moment than their teachings.”
It has grieved me more and more to realize that, as a result of a number of factors, I think parents–even Christian parents, are largely unaware of their purpose. Too often children can be seen ruling over parents as the parents strive, the best they can, to maintain some control, but really feeling helpless to the manipulation, dreading certain circumstances where the lack of control is made obvious.
I bumped into acquaintances recently at the grocery store. A mom, dad and their two-year-old. With barely our hellos exchanged, Mom said, “We’re just trying to get through this with her. She’s the child you hear screaming through the store. We’ve tried bribing her, we’ve tried threatening her, nothing works.” I know the girl enough to know that nothing is wrong with her. She’s a normal little toddler exerting her will. I’ve also observed the “problem”. A new set of parents, enamored with her antics, allowing her to rule the home. A misunderstanding of the privilege of growing her to maturity, helping her discover the safety of authority and the necessity of self control.
From our distorted sense of “why” we are given children (they are actually not for us, but for Him) to a society driven by self-indulgence, this generation seems largely unprepared to bring up responsible, mature children who will become responsible, mature adults. And that’s just the beginning for believers who are also instructed to bring up children who will live fully for Him, reflecting His character in all they do.
I just want to encourage you with a few practical words if you are a struggling parent.
- Do not get confused about what authority is and isn’t. So much new-age parenting (and yes, it exists in Christian teaching) forsakes the wisdom of Scripture and teaches that a parent doesn’t have a “right” to claim authority or to require obedience. That is simply a lie and will destroy a child.
- Authority is established EARLY. I have said, “the battle is won or lost in the high chair”. My eight month old is beginning to test the boundaries around him. It seems like a little thing, but when he squeals in anger because I don’t get the spoon to his mouth fast enough, it’s an opportunity for me to help him begin to understand self-control. I can pause, tell him “no” with a calm but serious tone (he gets it!) or, I can do the easy thing and give him what he wants as quickly as possible, laughing at his “cuteness”. But that cuteness will turn ugly fast and soon I’ll find myself in a grocery store line blushing because he’s using the same tactic to get what he wants there, only louder. Yes, from the time they are born, we move them forward; it’s our job to “grow them up” in a thousand ways.
- Don’t flippantly tell a little one to do something that you aren’t prepared to see accomplished. If you don’t really care if they pick up the toy, don’t ask them to. If you do care, make sure they obey when they are told.
- If you are getting angry at your child it’s most likely because you are not requiring obedience. Tell them clearly, get them to answer you so there’s no question whether they heard you, then follow through the first time if there is disobedience.
- Understand that your diligence or lack thereof has huge implications for the “success” of your children. The degree to which you help them develop self-control and self-governance and respect for authority, will enable them to be better husbands and wives, friends, employers, employees, and children of God. Yours is a grave responsibility if you have been given children!
“Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” Proverbs 19:18