November 20, 2010

What Should We Expect From Our Children? Part III

The last couple of days we have looked at what the Bible says to children and what the Bible says to parents.  As promised, with those things in mind, I'd like to put it together and offer some application.  None of the Bible verses give us really specific plans for training, instructing, or disciplining our children, so there will be great variety among families as to how child rearing looks.  The main goal, is that we think Biblically about what we're doing in our day-to-day interactions with our kids and look forward with a vision of what kind of people we want them to become.  Are we remembering our calling to train, instruct, and discipline them, or are we letting life and the never-endingness of it get us down and make us lazy in our good work?

Here's why I think this is important - a realization I had while preparing these posts - If we don't teach our kids these things, where will they learn them?  Children cannot be expected to behave in ways they have not been taught!  God designed the family and has put us in that position, to nurture and teach them, training them up in the way they should go, guiding them in the way of maturity.  Scripture tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things - children will not choose God's way, left to their own devices.  They need direction; they need parents; they need you!  You're the parent; BE THE PARENT!  Your children desperately need you to step up to this call.

What does that look like?

  1. Develop your own relationship with God:  I cannot emphasize this point enough.  In your parenting, God's not asking you to always get it right, He's asking you to be faithful and to trust Him.  We learn to trust and obey, as the old hymn says, by spending time with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer.  As God fills us up, we have overflow to offer to our children and the energy to stay committed to training, instructing, and discipling them when the going gets tough.
  2. Talk about God with your children: Read Bible stories with your kids; tell them what God's teaching you; share prayer requests and pray together; tell stories from your life of God's faithfulness and loving-kindness toward you; enjoy the beauty of creation together; explain to them how God's placed you in authority over them to train them, which sometimes means enduring natural consequences or other appropriate discipline.  (Just a few ideas to get you started!)
  3. Be consistent in discipline: In this we help our kids to grow up in the command to honor and obey your parents.  It's a blessing to our children to set limits, establish expectations, and consistently train them in righteousness.  When they know the rules, they may be angry with the consequences, but at least they're not surprised!  Friends, this can be so exhausting - going over the same rules, giving another time out, talking AGAIN about how x behavior is no appropriate, sending them to apologize another time.  But this is training.  It's a marathon we're in here.  26.2.  No sprint to the finish.  (See point one on how we draw strength for this calling.)
  4. Get connected to a community that supports you as a parent:  When I lived in Cambridge, I attended a Tuesday morning Bible study.  And while it was not a mommy group, there were mostly moms in the group.  I got food from the Word and also had a place to ask questions about what the heck I was supposed to do in specific situations (behavior, potty training, quitting thumb sucking, etc.)  And I'm not out of the woods, I'm still seeking out older counsel for guidance and hanging out with moms who have kids my age to delight in and grumble about our kids!

My thoughts here are in no way exhaustive.  I just want to follow God's way as a parent and encourage you to do the same.  May God bless you as you train, instruct, and discipline your children!  And may He increase your love for them as you watch them grow and develop; children are such precious gifts from above.  What a blessing that we get to grow up with them!

For further reading:

Any books you would suggest?

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