I rarely talk about child discipline on my blog. Training, yes. Discipline, no. When moms ask me for help, I will help. But I rarely, if ever, tell someone how to discipline a child.
And there is good reason for that.
#1. I don’t live in your home, and giving advice from a distance is not really too wise.
Over the years I have had women come to me for advice about parenting kids. They really believe that they are doing all the right things and that THIS child is not responding. However, an afternoon spent with them reveals a totally different story. Why is this?
That’s because we all have blind spots. We think we are one way and yet we are another. (sin blinds and warps our thinking. that is part of the curse)
One mom tells me that discipline isn’t working despite the fact that she has been consistent. But, know this woman for any length of time and you know that she is not consistent–at anything. Her kids never know what to expect.
Or a mom tells me that she can’t figure out why her teen is so disrespectful when they have been taught to be respectful…and then the mother yells at the kid in the most degrading way. Um, whatever.
#2. I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.
You could be in the midst of turmoil, family problems or heartache that I know nothing about. Or maybe you have a life dominating sin that makes all of your attempts to parent almost futile. You could be an absolute idiot at home and I might not know that.
You can’t parent the same way during times of stress. And life dominating problems affect more than just YOUR life. Parents need to take hard times into consideration and pray for wisdom.
#3. Formulas don’t always work. If you do A, B, and C then you’ll get X, Y, Z. Really? Wow. You should take that show on the road.
#4. God’s Word stands as the final authority. Not my ideas. God’s will for our children is not a helpful suggestion. He gives instruction to kids: honor your parents, be obedient. To allow your kids to disrespect and disobey you or God’s word is only to their detriment.
#5. Parenting requires faith. People who live their lives in black and white have no need for faith. Their faith is in their method. But, the just shall live by faith.
So, with all that said, I do have opinions and we do raise our kids in a specific way.
I am going to post a response to a question that I received this week. I am a proponent of the goal of training a child to obey. What I mean by obedience is that they listen when you speak without pouting, whining or taking a tantrum. They listen and then do it. (good training for being hearers and doers of God’s word some day?)
I believe that if you train a child to honor God’s word, then God will honor that. I also believe that teaching a child to submit to their authority is only going to help them in life. To expect that rules will be followed is not the same as being a despot, for all of you free spirit types. You can be strict and kind at the same time. Think Mary Poppins, kay?
One caveat: my comments do not apply to you if you have anger issues. If you have anger issuse, you also have control issues. Don’t take out your anger on a child. These kids are not your puppets. They are not alive to make you happy or to make you look good. Go seek counsel. God judges those who judge unrighteously, so you need to seriously think about that before you scar a child for life with your wicked words and actions.
That said…here it is. If you have questions, I will be happy to answer them in the comments.
Q: You mention a fine line between motherly protection and overbearing control – at around what age do we begin to let our children go and trust them more in God’s hands? Is this dependent on their maturity or are you speaking more toward the teen/young adult group? I know there are people who have thought that me homeschooling was a way of being controlling when the only thing I’m trying to control is what my children learn Just wanted to better understand the idea behind that and behind making children our idols…thanks!
A. Young children need to obey whether they understand or not, but parenting should shift to coaching in the pre teen years, gradually. As wisdom increases and critical thinking skills grow, they should get more freedom. Of course, always talk to your kids to tell them why we do what we do.
For instance, a toddler will be put in a playyard/gate because he doesn’t have the good judgement to not run into the road. As a child becomes older, the playyard is gone and other boundaries apply, like “stay in this part of the lawn or you’ll have to come inside.” Then eventually, as they can be trusted to follow the rules, the boundaries are dropped. BUT, if you had a 10 year old who constantly ran into the road despite your warning, you may have to have strict boundaries with him because he is not exhibiting common sense or willingness to submit.
I believe that you should train young children to be obedient (first time obedience- right away with a “happy heart” is the goal), and then when they are characterized by obedience (not perfect!) you begin giving them toward more freedom. This is a LONG, FRUSTRATING process and it will never be perfect, because all of us are sinful.
A wild child needs boundaries because they are not willing to submit to their authority…something we all need to learn. Many people teach that they really just need more attention and understanding. I could not disagree more. A child who will not obey should not be coddled. They should be corrected, and then brought into a restored relationship with whoever they offended…and then life should go on pleasantly until the next offense/correction/restoration. This is the cycle we saw with Israel. Sinned, punished, repentance,restoration, repeat.
A wise parent knows that obedience IS God’s will for their lives, because it is stated in Eph. 6:1. just as it is God’s will for us to obey our authorities.
Today we have this huge shift in thinking, which is due to another unscriptural approach to parenting: the “do what I say and don’t ask questions” mentality that was popular for the last 50 years. The parents felt it was their right to “reign supreme” and without question or explanation. Unfortunately this type of parenting neglects the heart of the child and many children raised that way struggled and bristled at this kind of authority.( which they should have…it lacked grace and humility and was NOT the way that they would want to have been treated.)
SOO…we have this huge shift which now basically says that children need to be “coached” right from the beginning, and many even teach that expecting obedience is dangerous. That to teach them to obey is to stifle them. Unfortunately, this is also unbiblical and I think rooted in fear or at least unbelief to some extent. If God tells me that this is His will, simple as it sounds, shouldn’t I trust that that is what is best for my child??
If God tells me that I have to obey my authority, and I look upon this as oppressive or cruel, my problem is with God and his Word.
If we think that obedience in children is oppressive or outdated, again, the problem is with us. Fear of losing a child is unfortunately a lack of faith in God’s word. I will say that if you are requiring first time obedience in a cruel manner, or in an angry manner, you are also sinning and should not expect for God to bless that. Yelling, verbal abuse or name calling or out of control/angry hitting is JUST PLAIN WRONG and God is particularly interested in protecting those who cannot protect themselves ( children, widows, orphans.) That is a scary thought. He is a God of justice, and hates, hates those who judge unrighteously.
Also, right now, a particular problem that I see is that parents really value the child liking them(apporval/friendship) more than they value obedience to God’s word. You can never parent out of fear, but only faith. Someday your kids will be your friend, hopefully because you are both grounded in God’s truth. You, that you faithfully parented, and them, that they will appreciate your faithfulness to God’s word.
One of the biggest temptations is to make our kids friendships paramount. But that is never a guarantee. And God forbid that your child should choose the wrong path, or in any other hardship for that matter, God will still be God and will be all that you need.