Training your children according to God's pattern
Throughout Scripture we see our Heavenly Father disciplining his Children. We learn that He did it because He loved His people so much and wanted the best for them. We can learn a lot about the best way to show loving discipline to our own children by studying the history of Israel.It's important to remember that discipline, while it can include it, is NOT punishment. Discipline is a means of training, it is an education and a way to develop self-control. Most children who cause trouble are not "bad," they are undisciplined. This page is a compilation of instructional devotions I'm sending to those who are on my "moms list." Once or twice a month I send a devotion to moms who've requested it. You can sign up by filling out this form.
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- Loving our Children
Many people think confuse discipline and punishment. They are not always the same thing. While punishment can sometimes become abusive, discipline is always an act of love. Here you'll find practical suggestions to help with you love your kids.
Step One - Setting Boundaries
The first thing God did for the creation He called "very good" was set boundaries. Imagine life where the only rule is "don't eat the fruit off of that tree." It seems as if that would be so easy! Well, we all know the end of this story, and even with only one rule, God's children couldn't seem to behave themselves.Sounds a lot like my house. Even if there was only one rule, I'm pretty sure my children would not have been able to go very long without breaking it.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share some of the ways that God handles his children when they couldn't follow the rules. But today, I want to look at the boundaries.
From the very beginning, even before He created Eve, God set boundaries. Some wonder why God put a tree there that they couldn't eat from in the first place. Some would speculate that without a test there is no true obedience. Others suggest this test helped make Adam and Eve strong. Truth is, we don't really know why. Both Job and Isaiah remind us that God knows best. And whatever the reason, we learn the lesson that boundaries are necessary. Nearly every book in the Bible shows us God setting boundaries and sharing the penalties that accompany moving past them.
As parents, if we learn nothing else from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we can see that God knew boundaries were good for us. And we can pass this blessing on to our children by setting healthy boundaries, boundaries not set out of our fear, boundaries set out of love.
Very young children need physical boundaries, child gates and crib sides. As they grow older, the boundaries change to sidewalks, fences and bedtimes. And as our children learn to respect these simple boundaries and understand that we set them because we love them, they'll learn to appreciate the curfews and limits on where they can go and who they can be with. Yes, they may rebel against them some. And even if they don't, they may grumble and complain. But consistent age appropriate boundaries set out of love throughout their lives will prepare them for these tougher boundaries and even help them learn to set some boundaries for themselves.
Parents who set boundaries out of fear rather than love will run into more problems as their children age. Young people can sense fear. And they will learn one of two things from it. They will either learn to be afraid of everything or they will learn that boundaries set because of fear are worthless, and they won't respect ANY boundaries anywhere.
Likewise, no boundaries at all can create extreme havoc. There are parents who think they are being kind by not setting any rules. They believe the limits can be constrictive and not allow their child to develop and grow. However, just the opposite is true. The lack of limitations will, in fact, cause a child to miss many crucial life lessons. This void in their development often causes teens with attitude and promiscuous young adults. If a child never learns to respect the need for restraint, he or she will live the "anything goes" lifestyle that can very easily lead to destruction, or as God put it, they will "surely die."
Your boundaries need not be legalistic or unchangeable. They need to be well thought out and prayed over and never set out of fear. God gives us boundaries out of love . . . we should do the same for our children.
Week 2 - Go to Your Room
Separation as Discipline
Most of us are familiar with the piece of history from Genesis 3. It's often called "The Fall." Humans listened to the voice of the enemy and crossed the only boundary God had set for them. (Do you remember "setting boundaries" from last week?) One lie and a piece of fruit later, we see Adam blame God and Eve, while Eve blames the serpent. Not only do they disappoint their Father, they won't take responsibility for their mistakes.
6000 years later we are not much different than our original ancestors. It doesn't take us long at all to figure out a way to mess up God's perfect plan for us. And when we get caught (even if it's just having to live with the consequences of our actions), it's easy for us to play the blame game. We would like everyone to believe our misfortune is seldom any fault of our own.
So, when God encountered this kind of behavior in His children, He disciplined them. First, He warned them of other punishment that was coming, and then He removed them from His presence. Even today in our lives, there's no greater void than when we are no longer able to live in the beauty of God's presence. Whether it be because of a time of testing or a time of discipline, the feeling of despair we feel when God can't be found is overwhelming, and even more so when we have grown to the point in our relationship with God that we have experienced the grace of his presence in our lives.Disciplining our children is much the same.
Most of the time our young ones crave our attention and long to spend quality time with us. Perhaps you've noticed that even infants have times when they just need to be in the room with you. Just as God created Adam and Eve to live in the fullness of His presence, He created us to live there too. And until our children grow into a personal relationship with Him and discover their need to live in Christ, it would seem He gave earthly parents to be a temporary substitute for their perfect, heavenly one.To put into place God's example of disciple, when our child moves past the boundaries we've set, the first form of discipline may often be to send him to his room. If there are too many toys in there, sitting on a chair in a room where you won't be, might be another alternative. The length of the separation may vary with age. A younger child who doesn't understand the boundaries as well, may need to have a shorter time apart as they begin to better learn some boundaries, while an older child who is able to comprehend the boundaries can be given longer banishments.
In Adam and Eve's case, it may seem like God sent them away for a long time; however, God deals in eternity. The time we spend in this earthly tent we live in is quite small compared to the forever of all time. Likewise, Adam and Eve's period of separation, although for the remainder of their earthly lives, was a very small percentage of the length of time they will be able to spend with their Father throughout eternity.
God says that He disciplines those He loves. As parents if we truly love our children, we too will discipline them. We will set boundaries and enforce the limits and when they are crossed, we will remove them from our presence. Whether it's being sent to their room, a fifteen minute time out or some other form of separation, don't be afraid to discipline your child and end the child's learning experience with a reminder of just how much you love them.
Week 3 - They’re going to fall down
And sometimes you just have to let them
Judges 3:1-15 & 3:31-4:1 & James 1:2-8
One of the most difficult things a parent does is allow her child to fall down. Before he is one, we have to let go of his hands, and when she is seven, we must let go of the bike. We can’t go with them to school or protect them from all the bumps and bruises, physical or emotional. Even if we are positive they will make the wrong choice, sometimes we must simply allow them to learn from experience. Often it is a much better teacher than our wordy teachings. The book of judges is only one example of God allowing his people an opportunity to grow through falling. God understands that we grow best through testing.
In James He told us that times of testing develop perseverance and will eventually make us, and our children, mature and complete. This may be one of the toughest kinds of discipline, at least from a parent’s perspective. We love our children so much, it’s nearly impossible to consider watching them fall. But consider that our love is pale compared to the love our heavenly Father has for us. But in his infinite wisdom, He allows us to fall so we can learn and grow. He knows that His children will eventually cry out to Him. And when we do, He’ll know we’ve learned the current lesson. And that’s when He picks us up and rescues us. It’s in that moment our Creator sends a bigger helping of His love to get us through. He doesn’t spoil us or let us get away with making the wrong choices. But He loves us immensely, more than we can possibly imagine.
This reminds us that no matter how much we love our children, it’s never more than God loves us. God’s plan for disciplining, training and teaching is the ultimate act of love. So, as you love your children, don’t be afraid to allow them to live in their stubbornness from time to time just like Christ allows us. Have the courage to watch them fall without coddling or spoiling. And when they realize their need for change, allow your love to overflow, pick them up, hold them tight and celebrate their growth.
Week 4 - This is Going to Hurt Me more than it does you!
How many times have you said or thought that phrase when you were getting ready to discipline your child? It's often hard for us to use pain as a means of discipline, but as we can see from this passage, sometimes it's necessary to get the point across.
Pain is a part of life and this story from the Bible shows us exactly how it entered the world. This story is the first time, but not the last, that God promised pain to his children who would disobey Him. We learn many excellent lessons from pain. It can be a healthy experience even for adults.As parents it's often difficult to stop ourselves when our children delve into a painful situation. We naturally want to rescue them. Now, don't get me wrong, those urges to save them are signs of good parenting. God obviously feels the same. He sent Jesus to rescue us from the pain and punishment we deserve. But there are still times when God allows us to experience the pain because He knows that we can learn and grow from it.
It's important that we overcome our fear and reluctance to allow our children to face pain. There may be many incidences we can help them avoid while they are very little, and we never want to cross the line into abuse, not even for a moment. However, pain will allow your children to grow into more responsible and productive members of society.There are several Proverbs that say, in effect, "Spare the rod, spoil the child." It's sad, but it's true. Many times the only way our children will get the picture is to experience the consequences of their actions, regardless of the pain that comes as a result. As our children grow, there will fewer and fewer times we must actually use the "rod." They'll become more like us. The pain will come as a result of their bad choices. We will still have to set boundaries and consequences. However, the consequences will be painful in ways that don't necessarily include physical hurt.
As difficult as it is, I encourage you to allow your children to experience a bit of the pain they get themselves into this week. Plus, look around at any pain you might find yourself in and be sure your heavenly Father isn't trying to teach you something.
Not five minutes after I sent this reading to the e-mail list, I received two unsubscribe notices. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but I assume it was the topic. I know that "corporal punishment" as discipline is a very unpopular form, but it is scriptural and occasionally (I repeat . . . OCCASIONALLY) it is necessary.
If you need a bit of balance on this subject, I encourage you to visit "Disciplining your children" and scroll almost to the bottom to the Universal NO symbol. It's a big red circle with a diagonal crossbeam. You can't miss it. Abuse is not discipline! And the very occasional contact that a hand makes with a child's bottom is not abuse. But, go ahead, click that link to get my full thoughts on the difference. And thanks for reading!
Week 5 - I'm going to miss you when you're gone
2 Chronicles 36:2-21
You have reached the point that you don't know what you'll do. Your child will not listen to anything you say. No word of warning, not any threats of punishment will work. There is nothing that will change your child's behavior, and the current situation is unacceptable. Did you realize that God faced the same situation with His own children? Today we're going to look at the last resort discipline that God used and see how we can implement it into the lives of our children.When God's children refused to obey and had blatant disregard for His commands, He sent them away. When our children are young, this might look like sending them to their room. You might remember in our second week of this series we talked a bit about that.
For centuries God used separation from Him as a form of discipline, but after 500 years, a more mature Israel nation emerged. The arrogance with which she refused to follow her Creator was finally too much. God's only recourse was to "kick them out." The majority of the Israelites were carried off to a new country, exiled from their native land. They lost their home, their freedom, their country and their pride. God's most precious nation found themselves at the mercy of Assyria and Babylon. It broke God's heart to do it, but there was no other way to help them understand that their lifestyle was one of destruction. And God loved them too much to loose them to the evils of their sin.
You're probably thinking, "That's such a hard teaching." And you would be absolutely correct. But you should know God didn't allow His chosen people be carried off on a whim. He warned them for years. He sent prophet after prophet to help them understand that they were on a road toward destruction. This was a last resort for God. And in the lives of our children, this will be a type of discipline that is used only as a last resort.If your children are older teenagers or young adults and have not discovered the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, you may have to resort to "exile." If they get arrested, you may have to make a decision NOT to bail them out. If they completely disregard your house rules or refuse to treat you with respect, you have Biblical permission to tell them they have to find a new place to live. This will definitely be the most difficult kind of discipline you will ever have to implement. And fortunately, this is the rarest kind. Most parents never have to resort to such drastic measures, especially if we've done well with the other forms of discipline in younger years.This lesson is not designed to encourage you to kick your kids out.
If your children are willing to live by your rules, it's between you and your children how long they stay with you. This lesson is here to give you permission to force them to leave if necessary. Even though it broke God's heart, our heavenly Father knew what was best to help His children learn a most important lesson.Everything God does is to share His love, even discipline. Likewise, every form of discipline we use should be based the same, an act of tough love designed to help our children become the very best they can be.