Monday, June 30, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- VIII

Thou shalt set a good example for thy children by thine own Godly behavior.
“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,” Eph. 4:1-2

Do what I say, not what I do.
Monkey see, monkey do.
Actions speak louder than words.
Practice what you preach.

Which of those maxims seem to ring true when it comes to parenting? For years, every childrearing expert who has come along has reminded us that modeling the behavior we want our kids to exhibit is one of the most effective ways of shaping them. Of course, if you're a mom of a child who is old enough to walk and talk, you already know that modeling works, because, for better or for worse, you've already heard your own words fly out of your child's mouth or seen him imitate you at some point!

Your kids will imitate you. My kids will imitate me. How do we use that knowledge to pour Godliness into them? The Bible tells us that we are to be imitators of Christ (I Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1-2). We need to strive for Godliness in our own lives until we can say to our kids, as Paul said to the Corinthians, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."

They need to see us studying our Bibles and spending time in prayer. They need to see us resist temptation. They need to see us set aside our own desires in favor of serving others. They need to see us exhibit love, humility, kindness, patience, forgiveness and mercy. They need to hear us building others up instead of criticizing and gossiping. They need to see us work through problems with our husbands, families and friends in a Godly way. They need to see us admit when we're wrong and seek forgiveness.

So, in the spirit of that old children's song:

Oh, be careful Mommy's mouth what you say
And be careful Mommy's feet where you go
And be careful Mommy's hands what you do

Not only is "the Father up above...looking down in love", but our little ones are looking up at us too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- VII


Thou shalt consistently and lovingly discipline thy children.

Proverbs 13:24:

Those who don't correct their children hate them. But those who love them are careful to train them. (NIRV)

A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them. (MSG)

He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early. (AMP)

These kids today! Every generation since Adam and Eve has probably said it. Certainly today, you can't throw a rock out the window without hitting half a dozen ill-behaved brats. We've all cringed at the temper tantrum-throwing child seated at the next table in the restaurant, or watched a mom in the store tell her little sweetie "no" a dozen times, only to finally give in to his demands. Heck, most of us have probably been that mom on occasion.

Hundreds of books, both Christian and secular, have been written on the topic of how to discipline children, but much rarer are the writings about why we should discipline them. As always, the easy answer to that question for the Christian is: "because God said so". But why does God tell us to discipline our children? Because discipline teaches our children that we love them.

The most important way we can love our children is to lead them to salvation. Learning obedience to parents teaches them the concept of setting aside their own behavior in favor of submitting to the authority that has been placed over them. This has direct application to the spiritual construct of salvation. Salvation does not take place until we submit our wills to the authority and Lordship of Christ and commit to follow and obey Him.

I John 4:20 says: "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." I really believe this general principle applies to obedience as well. One of the things I tell my kids when I discipline them is that, although I don't enjoy punishing them or letting them suffer the consequences of their actions, I have to do it because I want them to start learning, through obeying me, how to obey God. I'm flesh and blood standing right in front of them, clearly telling them what to do and what will happen if they don't obey. If they can't obey me, how in the world are they going to learn to obey God, whom they can't see or hear with their eyes and ears? Conversely, if a child has been lovingly and consistently disciplined, how much easier will it be to introduce him to the concept of submission to God's authority?

Another vital spiritual principle that discipline helps teach is an understanding of sin, its consequences, and punishment. A child who has been disciplined knows what it means to be guilty of breaking the rules. He also knows that because he has broken a rule, some sort of undesirable consequence will follow swiftly. A child who has not been disciplined believes he does no wrong and that the world around him should be catering to his wants and demands. Which child will be able to grasp the idea that he is a sinner in need of salvation? Which one will understand contrition, eternal punishment, and eternal reward?

Teaching obedience also teaches our children that we are concerned about how they fare with others. My children have come to me in the past and told me that they don't like being around certain friends of theirs who constantly misbehave. On these occasions, I very carefully (to ensure that they don't become critical or develop an attitude of superiority) explain to my children that this is one of the reasons Daddy and I teach them good behavior. We don't want them to experience the sadness that misbehaving child is sure to feel when he realizes that people don't want to be around him. We teach them that we love them enough to want others to delight in them.

Discipline shows love for our children through concern for their safety. If my child doesn't obey me when I tell him not to run into the street, he could be killed by an oncoming car. If he runs into the street and then stands there and argues with me when I tell him to get back on the sidewalk, he could also be killed.

Many years ago, when I was teaching school, a kindergarten student of mine was killed in a house fire. He didn't die because he was unable to get out of the house. He was rescued, unharmed, and was told not to go back into the house. This little boy, notoriously disobedient, went back into the house. He died as a result of lack of discipline.

I have told my children these stories on occasion, not to scare them unnecessarily, but to show them just how serious the consequences of disobedience can be. All the spiritual principles in the world won't matter if a child isn't alive to learn them.

"Love your children by disciplining them." Show them love through their physical safety; show them love through their social well-being; and show them love through their eternal security.