Since we covered being intentional about building relationships in the previous post, we can proceed toward disciplining for disobedience and discipling our children to have Christ-like character. (Read Part 1 on God’s Design and Being Intentional here )
Josh McDowell reminds us, “Discipline without relationship leads to rebellion.” So the premise when it comes to discipline is that we have a solid relationship with our children. They know they are loved. Even God qualifies the why and relational context behind discipline. “FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND He SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” (Hebrews 12:6)
The method of discipline can be up to a parent. On the one hand, Proverbs speaks of a rod as a disciplining tool, but not all countries allow parents to spank their kids. So the greater emphasis is on disciplining. This is non-negotiable. We have to discipline our children for disobedience. Whether it’s spanking, taking away a favorite toy, or corner time during the younger years, natural logical consequences for an older child, or withdrawal of privileges for young adults, we must follow through with discipline when a character issue arises.
Ideally, obedience to parents is internalized between the ages of zero to eight. Obedience will be the greatest challenge to instill. It is the first character trait upon which all others are built.
If obedience is not rendered in the homes, we shall never have a whole city, country, principality, or kingdom well governed. For this order in the homes is the first rule; it is the source of all other rule and government. – Martin Luther
Everyone in a family is called to obedience. Parents must model being subject to God’s authority and children must obey their parents. When I am disrespectful towards Edric or challenge his authority, I notice that my kids treat me the same way. Therefore every single family member has to commit to embracing obedience.
Catalina, our youngest, still gets spanked on occasion. However the frequency and need to discipline her for defiance has tapered off significantly. Edric and I probably spanked her three times over the past twelve months. At the beginning, she proved to be the most challenging to train. Now, she has learned to respect and honor our authority with a good attitude. It’s been such a blessing to see this in her! (For a more thorough explanation about spanking and how to do it properly please see this article: You Spank Your Child?!)
We often think of obedience as manageable behavior. If our kids are compliant, it’s like, “Whew. Today was a good day. My kids didn’t stress me out!”
While listening to what we say and doing what we say may be important, it’s the why behind obedience that needs emphasizing. In the future when they leave home, will they internalize the importance of obedience?
In our home, we have this phrase that we have memorized along with our kids, “Obedience brings blessings.” God has ordained the authority figures in all our lives for our good, and obedience is ultimately to Him.
One of the blessings of obedience is protection (Ephesians 6:1-2) About six years ago, our eldest son, Elijah, was about to cross a street without thoroughly checking to see if there were any oncoming vehicles. We were a few meters behind him and spotted a van travelling unusually fast on a Sunday morning. Realizing that Elijah was oblivious to it, we both yelled out, “Elijah, stop!” He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t question our command. He obeyed immediately, and the van zoomed past him just inches in front of him. If he hadn’t obeyed, he would have died. There’s no way he would have survived an impact like that.
Imagine all the perilous situations, spiritual, relational, and physical ones, that God spares us from when we obey!
Yet another blessing of obedience is the favor of God. It doesn’t mean that our lives will be free from pain, but there will true happiness peace when we are following God’s will. He is a Father who wants what is best for us. He wants to spare us from heartache and brokenness due to sin. It is in living out His plan and obeying His principles that we will experience the greatest joy.
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God: Your towns and your fields will be blessed. Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.”
Are we teaching our children the why behind obedience, and not just the act of obeying?
One of our mentors once told us, “Don’t rest until you know with certainty that your children love God.”
If we aren’t intentional, Satan will turn the hearts of our kids away from the Lord. He is on a mission to destroy the lives of our children. He has a plan. We need to have a better one — a discipleship strategy with the end goal of raising children into adults who will love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Our first priority in the younger years, in tandem with teaching obedience, is to connect our children to Jesus Christ. Since our children are born with sinful natures, the trajectory they are headed in won’t change unless their hearts are transformed by the gospel.
When our second son, Edan, was a toddler, he was a broody, petulant child who answered “no” to almost every question that he was asked. There was a hardness to him that concerned us. Yet after Edric shared the gospel with Edan, we saw evidence of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work. Edan understood what it meant to ask for forgiveness for his sins and believe in Jesus to save him. (Even young children have the capacity to understood spiritual truth.) Weeks later, we observed how Edan became tender-hearted, kind, and developed a genuine love for the Lord. One of the sweetest, most reassuring statements he made was this: “I love you but I love Jesus more.”
Every child is different and will need individualized discipline and discipleship, but the starting point is training them in obedience and introducing them to Christ as Lord and Savior so the Holy Spirit can begin changing their hearts.
For our older kids it’s no longer about addressing defiance. It’s thing like teaching them to treat one another with kindness. Their tone and manner can be harsh so we address this problem by doing Bible lessons on forgiveness, guarding one’s speech, and thinking of others as more important than oneself. When our kids sink back into selfishness mode, we usually withdraw privileges. (I may actually tape their mouths for an hour if the former doesn’t work. Ha ha ha.)
Recently, Edric and I have been focused on training our oldest son, Elijah, to be responsible. Last week he thought he lost two of his expensive Speedo swim trunks. I was inclined to pay for new ones, but Edric’s suggestion was better. “He will pay to replace them.”
Thankfully, Elijah found his trunks in the locker room when he returned for training the next day. If he hadn’t, he would have felt the sting of shelling out his own money for new gear. Speedo trunks are pricey! In fact, the reason why he wears two at a time is because he burned a hole in one of them using a hand dryer to dry it. He thought it was a smart idea. Goodness, for all his brains! Since the other pair is much shorter, he wears it under the one with a hole, which he prefers for its length.
When our children obey and honor our authority, it is easier to teach them other character traits. It’s easier to disciple them. We see this in the example of Christ himself. He continued “in subjection to his parents,” and then “he kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:51-52)
Although we don’t have a blow by blow account about Jesus’ childhood, we do have a guiding overview. He grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men. Are we also intentional about helping our children grow in these areas?
What ways can we help our children to grow in…
…knowledge and the ability to discern right from wrong
…physical growth, and the development of their talents and gifts
…learning to please God and live for Him
…being a blessing to others
Over the weekend, Edric challenged the parents to come up with a plan for the year, writing down specific goals under each growth area of wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with man.
You might want to consider doing the same, thinking through how you will discipline and discipleship of your children.
(Next up…part 3…I am working on it.)