his is the first article which will introduce a series on issues which parents face in the raising of their children.
Amidst the wreckage of a society in a self-destruction mode, parenting is indeed a high risk venture. The world’s defiling and destructive influence, characterized by lawlessness and licentiousness, presents a tremendous challenge to parents who long to see their children developing into men and women of God. Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” provides a vital framework in which to fulfill this great work. Briefly, we will look at dangers, goals, and tools in parenting.
First of all, why “fathers?” The father has ultimate responsibility for the children, even though the mother will usually have the greatest contact and immediate influence upon the nurturing of the children. Some years ago, a research study on contemporary families concluded that the presence and active involvement of the father has a significant impact upon the sexual, mental, social, and spiritual development of the children. Another study, on juvenile delinquency, concluded: “Put the father back as head of the home.”
A. Dangers to Avoid
Children long for love and approval in the eyes of their parents. The innate desire to please Mom and Dad is one of the most important threads in the fiber of family relationships. The following parental failures discourage and exasperate children in that unending quest:
Jacob and Joseph – Every child should feel special in the eyes of his parents.
Expecting too much
Does the child feel that he can never do anything perfectly enough to gain your praise and approval? This is especially a problem for parents who are perfectionists or high achievers.
Are we too busy to notice them when they bring their concerns or wish to show us something they have done? When children feel shoved away they will either try harder to get your attention or shut you out to reduce the pain of rejection.
Unbalanced or in-consistent discipline
Often one parent is more harsh or lax and may end up contradicting the attempted discipline of the other parent. This leads to confusion and also gives opportunity for the child to play one parent against the other. Allowing a child to display a lack of subjection to your authority for a week or month, then in frustration over-correcting, creates an atmosphere of tension rather than love and peace.
Making comparisons between children
Each child is unique, with differing intelligence and achievement levels, and responds to training according to personality. Wise parents understand these differences in their own children.
This is especially devastating from Mom or Dad. We are the child’s security and protector. Never treat your child contemptuously, even in discipline, and especially in front of other people.
B. Goals in Parenting
Development of Child (“bring them up” – nourish, Eph 5:29). Here are foundational principles – vital realities to recognize about our children.
An Inheritance, A Temporary Stewardship (Deut 6:1-9; Ps 127:3). What an awesome responsibility, to be entrusted with the care and development of soon-to-be independent adults, and creatures of eternity! In the beginning they are totally dependent upon us, as we are to God. Finally, they will be independent and equal in adulthood!
An Inherent Sin-Tendency (Ps 51:5, Prov 22:15; Isa 1:2-6, 18-20). It is essential to fully acknowledge that there will be many battlegrounds to face because of the corruption due to sin in both ourselves and our children. Many child-rearing books today either deny or downplay its significance.
Individual Temperament differences. Compliant/ strong-willed children. “Parenting Is Not for Cowards” by Dr. J. Dobson, is a helpful resource for stressed-out parents trying to cope with a strong-willed child.
The Final Goal of All Discipline, Training The goal is a self-disciplined person, prepared for adult freedoms and responsibilities, with a balanced appreciation of God and His principles.
C. Tools in Parenting
How? “In the Discipline and Training of the Lord.”
Nurture – (paideia) – “child-training, discipline” (Prov 22:15; 29:15; Heb12:5-11)
Purposes of physical discipline (chastening): Why?
“Whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Our attitude and motivation should mirror the Divine Father, and we should persevere in the hope that there will be an “afterwards” of “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” The primary purposes of physical discipline are: maintaining the line of respect to authority so that parental influence toward good can continue and restraint of the development of evil in the child.
Principles of physical discipline: How and When?
As a general rule, physical discipline should be reserved for deliberate defiance of authority and known rules of conduct. It is preferable to use a belt doubled over: it is sufficient and safe. I also feel that it should be restricted. The purpose is never to injure a child, but to teach the consequences of rebellion.
Problems with physical discipline
There is the danger of inconsistency, anger, and abuse; especially in the strong-willed child
Tragic cases of parental abuse have been publicized in recent years. It is essential that parents have their own anger and frustration under control before administering discipline. Uncontrolled rage will never produce respect for you or your authority. Prompt, controlled, and consistent discipline will benefit the child and minimize the risk of harm. A strong-willed child will require a firmer hand to arrive at submission, and will challenge your authority again from time to time. For his long-term benefit in every area of life you must patiently persevere.
Using Law of “Sowing and Reaping”: Logical Consequences – Reward/Punishment
Some examples would be: if the child loses or breaks something trhough carelessness, then the child pays for its replacement (if necessary through working off the debt). If the child impulsively spend all his money on something, then he has to wait till you can afford the next “must have” item. If the child fails to meet deadlines, he suffers the consequences. Parents who continually “rescue” their children from experiencing the results of their behavior are training them in irresponsibility.
Time-out, Removal of Privileges & Rewarding Responsible Behavior
“Time-out” reinforces the reality that inappropriate behavior or treatment of others will cause a loss of social privilege. It also provides an opportunity for repentance and experience of reconciliation and restoration to the group and its activities. In all aspects of life, responsible behavior brings greater privilege and trust, poor behavior brings loss of trust and privilege.
Admonition – (nouthesia) – training by word, counseling, warning
Training in Obedience
“Respect for authority must precede acceptance of love” (Dr. J. Dobson)
Experts believe a child should be trained to obey before the age of two! Speak once and expect attention and prompt obedience. Calmly use action to reinforce obedience, rather than repeated commands and escalating anger.
Development of Conscience
“Wise (experienced) in good … Simple (inexperienced) in evil!” (Rom16:19).
What does “being good” mean to us? It is our responsibility to develop our children in positive goodness – showing kindness, care for others, and fairness, as well as detecting and shunning evil.
Reproof and discipline should distinguish between deliberate defiance and childish irresponsibility.
Training in Family Court: a sense of justice, balances of mercy.
Allow your child to express and explain himself, though it must be kept honest and respectful. Discipline and decisions must be seen to be fair. When a child is broken and contrite, mercy may have greater power than punishment. It is vital for the children to get to know the Divine Father’s character through you.
Training By Parental Example
Vital to true leadership! (Phil 4:9, I Cor 11:1)
a) Respect – A two-way street! Respect your child as a developing adult.
b) Honesty – Be real! Admit mistakes. It does not demolish your image; it enables a child to look at you realistically and still respect you.
c) Spiritual Priorities – Taught and Practiced (Matt 6:33). Daily family Scripture reading and prayer are an essential foundation, but must be accompanied by obedience to the principles learned. The children must see that God and His kingdom truly come first in our lives. Long after our authority is past, our example will carry influence.