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Principles and Practices of Biblical Parenting
– Raising Godly Children –
Paul and Linda Bucknell
Many parents are greatly surprised to discover that the Bible addresses how to raise our children. When parents are at first faced with God’s Biblical principles for parenting, certain questions are formed on their faces. The faces of the parents with older children are unlike those with small children. Lesson by lesson they see the things that they should have done. Scenes of marital spats in front of their children come to their minds. Or perhaps they feel a great dread deep in their hearts for not having exercised authority over their children.
There is a silent fear or desperation of hopelessness written on their faces. Perhaps it can be summarized by their own words,
“We now know what we should have done, but it is too late. They are already grown up.”
As a pastor and seasoned parents, we want to bring back hope to you for your children and life for your children. We cannot guarantee how the children will respond, but we can honestly say that if you follow these steps, you will have the best hope there is that your children will begin to respect you and follow God’s way. The alternative is scary.
Too many children are being sacrificed to the world by their parents. The parents have gained such devotion to the values of the world, that they neglect or even kill their children. As a result of their parents’ sins, their children are naughty and even nasty. Even though our family sins have piled high, we still have time. There is hope. Every once in a while a child even raised in a bad family will turn his head back in hope that his parents have changed. They are hoping that maybe, just maybe, their parents will begin to really love them.
This is where we start. We start with what God has built into each child – the need and desire for the love and support of his parents. Even though a child has been rejected again and again, that same child will hold on to a slender hope for change. Children have a desperate need for this love and attention. Animals for the most part have a very quick ‘grow up’ stage. Within months or even days in some cases the little ones are off running. God has given us as parents an extended window of opportunity with our young ones who are not so young in some cases. Because of this natural affection, parents can greatly influence their children for good even if we now are grandparents!
Many parents are astonished at how they have failed God and their children by their unbiblical parenting habits. Through a series like this or even a crisis, all their mismanagement now becomes obvious. This session encourages and enables such parents to regain the trust of their older children. It is not too late. We are glad that through God’s grace we can offer hope even to our stubborn and rebellious children. Don’t give up hope!
Our Needy Children
Did you ever try to change someone like your spouse? It doesn’t work! It is easier to change ourselves than others, but how, then, can we change our children? Not a few parents have tried working with their recalcitrant children only to find rude words spouted back at them. Behind all of our recommendations below, you will need to bathe your whole family including your own lives in sincere prayer. But we also need to take certain steps that assure us that nothing in our lives interferes with the restoration process of our children.
Take a look at our new book, Principles and Practices of Biblical Parenting: Raising Godly Children. Check out the BFF Resource Center for this book and many other helpful and relevant resources (308 pages).
Great for a Parenting Class!
Perfect for individual study!
Whenever parents do not raise children according to God’s biblical principles, troubles will arise. If we are consistent in our neglect, these troubles develop deep problems in certain perspectives and habits. A result of this neglect is a wall blocking good and effective communication between the parents and children. Here is
• These children have lost respect for their parents because of their hypocrisy.
• These children are bitter at their parents’ anger and rage.
• These children have sought other company because they don’t have their parents love.
• These children accept the bribes of their guilty parents but rather have their parents.
• These children reject themselves because they don’t feel loved.
• These children purposely do naughty things to get their parents’ attention.
God has appointed the parents to be the vehicle by which He passes on His love and truth to the new people of the world. When the parents fail, the children flounder. This is why there are so many modern diseases. The parents are too busy in the world making money and have laid aside their parental responsibilities.
Is There Hope?
We are not saying that every parent is as bad as he or she could be. We are asserting that parental ‘mistakes’ cause scars to develop in the lives of their children. There is hope. With God there is always hope. The apostle describes the non-Christian as “Having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). They are stuck. They simply have nowhere to go. We can’t understand how dark the world is for those who have not met the Lord.
The BFF Family Library has all the Biblical Parenting Principles for Toddlers materials in printable form as well as the available Powerpoint slideshows and handouts for each session. Click the Library for more information. The many practical training materials supplied on this one Library can't be found elsewhere. More info.
The Christian lives in totally different circumstances. Romans 5:5 states that “hope does not disappoint.” The Gospel of the Lord Jesus brings amazing hope into every area of our lives. Unfortunately many of us are not aware of our disobedience until our children are older. They have scars. They have no love for the Lord. They are caught up in this world’s parties and lies. In our hearts we know where they are going. But we do not fear. However, when we recognize our problems and call out to the Lord, He brings marvelous recovery.
This Parenting series focuses on the biblical principles because they bring light into our families. We don’t want good-looking patches to hide our wounds. Those untreated wounds will lead to more serious infections. We want their wounds healed so that we can tell others how God has made us better! Doesn’t this sound like the Gospel message when people have met Jesus? They come away from that encounter telling others about Jesus. This is what He wants to do today.
God wants to take these biblical truths (i.e. His light), reveal our failures (conviction), seek forgiveness (confession), point out the right way (instruction) and create testimonies how He has helped us (praise). We cannot save. We need the help. Before turning and seeing the path out of our miserable mess, let’s first pray.
“Dear Father in Heaven, You are perfect in your ways. We, however, have miserably failed. We grieve over some of the decisions we have made as parents. We have chosen promotions over time with our families. Ｗe have chosen work over the home. We have chosen entertainment over taking a walk with our children. Lord, our home is a perfect candidate for a miracle. We cry out to you now, “Save us Lord!” Help us be good parents for the short time we have left. Help our children to break from their hopeless path in the world and follow your glorious ways. In Christ’s Jesus Name we pray, Amen.”
It is impossible to point out all the places where we as parents have for one or more reasons neglected to carry out God’s Word. Even God doesn’t bring up all our sins at once. He selectively works on one or more areas at a time.
As we go through this series, God will begin to prod you about certain failures. This is not me. God is speaking to you. He convicts us so that we know from what we need to turn. When we have pain in our elbow, it is because our elbow hurts not our knee. When we feel conviction about watching a movie rather than spending some time with our child, God is making us aware in your heart of something He wants us to change. This change will help you, your children and others you influence.
Our tendency is to avoid thinking about our failures. This is because we are humbled and shameful of our mistakes. Our belief that acceptance by others is contingent on a good image is more often at the root of our decisions than we would like to admit. As long as we feel reluctant to admit and confess our sins, our pride continues to destroy and cause havoc to our lives and families. God’s way back to His blessed path is always through confession. The Great News is that there is a path back. Don’t fight confession; just do it.
Some of us parents want to hide our sin by thinking that poor parenting is not sin. I disagree. Poor parenting means we are not carrying out some biblical principle or instruction. Whenever we violate God’s Word, we are sinning. We hurt ourselves and others. If we loved one another, we would not sin. Parenting failures are sin.
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion..” (Proverbs 28:13)
If I speak with anger, is this not wrong? If I am too busy with my schedule to pay attention to a child’s need, is that not selfishness? If I chastise harshly due to my former reluctance to solve some problems, I sin. If I do not enforce standards for my children that I believe are right, I am not loving my children. If I bribe my child to get my way, I have strengthened their lustful flesh. If I am critical all the time, am not I withholding love and care from my children? If we are too prideful to confess our sins, we destroy any trust left in our relationship with our child.
If, however, we respond to conviction, we are responding to God and allowing light to shine in the darkness. This is the beginning of good change. Confession allows the child to see there might be hope. He sees a humility of heart that is so shocking, that light comes through the clouds of despair and touches his heart.
If we parents take this step, we are taking a giant step forward. The child probably will be caught off guard. They might be very cautious. They do not know where this might lead. It is enough, though, to allow them to begin to have hope (even if they don’t show it). This prepares the proper situation in which you tell your child that you have realized that you have made a number of mistakes and would like later to talk more to him or her about them. It is here that hope is birthed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Trust is essential for a good relationship. Why is it so important? Trust in a person enables him or her to accept what the other person does or says is with good motive. When he hears, “You are a good friend!” he feels good. He can accept there is no hidden motive. But when bitterness, anger, or lack of love is again and again repeated, he can no longer trust what the parents say is with good motive. From their experience, they now are further convinced that there is a hidden motive to hurt, hate or reject them.
The child develops a condition in which it will accept lies about you and will distort things out of proportion. It is as if there is a lens over their mind, which interprets everything in a certain way just as a blue lens would make everything blue. In this case, though, they believe lies from the evil one more readily than the words from your own mouth. The worse part is that even if you say something truthful or with good motive, the child still distrusts your words.
Relational walls create isolation and mistrust. This in turn creates vulnerability to the evil one. Their minds become receptive to the evil one’s airwaves where hatred and rejection are sent out. Hebrews 12:15 says that the “root of bitterness springs up causes trouble and by it many be defiled.”
So how do we reach our child? We are not sure we can change our child. The only thing we can do is to straighten up our own lives so that our children may perceive God’s special love radiating through our lives. We want to destroy any reason for them to distrust us. We make the love in the home irresistible.
Please remember we are not asking for perfection. This cannot be reached. But when we strive to always do, as the Lord desires, and combine it with a heart of apology and forgiveness, this becomes a powerful influence in their lives. Through proper confession, we have again legitimized our parental authority. Our children might still disagree with us, but they still must respect us for our stand. This restoration process can take a while. Remember it took a long time for us to get where we are - not days but years. Fortunately, it is easier to take down walls than to build them.
We have repetitively disappointed our children or drove them away into isolation. They have had nights of tears because our lousy pride wouldn’t let us apologize for blowing up in anger against them. We will need patience. The good thing is that God’s love is patient. Our constant shower of love shown in consistent discipline, prayer and time together will not depend on their acceptance of us. God will supply the persistence. We just need to hang on. I look at it like this. God has called me to love so love I will. For now on, I will just plan on going the extra step.
How about you? Will you make this commitment? “I will by God’s grace consistently love ______________.” Just put your children’s name in the blank. Then cry out to God to see His love shine through you so that your children will see. This is the Matthew ‘Shine’ principle applied to our children. By the way, our spouses wouldn’t mind this either!
“Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Now let’s see how we can accelerate this process.
Since we cannot force a change in our child, we need to turn to changing our own hearts. Fortunately, God in His rich grace enables us to take these steps. The more sincere we are, the quicker the steps we take. We need to ask how much we really want change. Be desperate. If you aren’t, get desperate. There could be nothing quite so important.
About 7 years ago, I was taking a shower on one early Sunday morning. Everyone else was sleeping. I felt a sharp pain in my chest and felt dizzy. I quickly finished my shower and went to my study. I realized this could be the end of my life. I knelt down to pray. My life rushed through my mind. Although I loved the pastoral ministry, I had done my training. God would care for that. My concerns though focused on my dear wife and children. I wept for them. I cared for them. God used this time to crystallize my care and priority for their lives. I asked for forgiveness for not properly praying for them. God healed me from that heart pain, but from that time on I had a renewed love and affection for my wife and children.
I knew my children’s love for God and belief in Christ was all important. Without Christ, they would perish. I took special steps of commitment that day that would lead me into praying daily for each child by name. I also desired to enter more into their lives while I had time.
Jobs are important, but they are to support you in your service to God in your love toward your family. What do you gain if you are rich, but your child is spoiled and misuses the money? God has not made us responsible for much but what He has appointed as stewards over, we better do a good job. God wants to work along with us but we need to make some real big changes in our lives. I speak so dramatically because I fear you will not make those needed changes. Will you?
Here is a possible commitment statement.
“I will make whatever changes that I need in my life to be faithful to God in my responsibilities to care for the little people He has appointed me to raise.
I am not much for making quick commitments but this is important and certainly what God desires for your life in order to accomplish His purposes for you and your family.
Much needs to be done to establish a godly family. After reviewing the Lord’s standards for our home, we will look at three practical steps not only to restore the relationship with your children but also to rightly administer your home.
As we focus on our own deficiencies, we will ask God to show us what needs to be changed, and He will faithfully help us as His children. We have a tendency to fail in one of two ways.
Remember we need to be like Jesus and show both truth and grace to our children. Permissiveness and authoritarianism are two perversions of these truths.
We have shown before how when we compromise truth, we tend to be permissive. Our intent is to be close to our child so we give in to their wrong requests. Jesus Himself said that a father would not give evil to our child. But whenever we carry out less than we sense is right to do toward our children, we are doing evil.
This ‘Love’ Destroys a Child
Love means no standards.
Love means I can eat anything I want.
Love means full tolerance.
Love means I set the time to go to bed.
Love means no spankings.
Love means I get the toys I want.
Love means no responsibilities.
Love means I can do anything I want.
Love means I can watch anything I want.
Love means I can choose whatever friends I want.
When a parent stands strong on the truth - the law, he often does it without grace. The father might just want a quiet house or feel as if he is in control- he demands obedience. His love does not come through in such situations because it is missing! He cares more for himself than thinking about the child’s overall needs.
Families without compassion and love are known for being overly strict and bitterness. Compliance is on the outward rather than from the heart. The Heavenly father indeed has standards and keeps His children in line with a rod along with other means, but He always does it in love. The authoritarian parent causes breakage in the relationship by numerous means:
He is unable to apologize when he does wrong.
He chastises children for things he himself does (double standard).
He does not have a warm welcoming home.
He speaks in anger.
He is overbearing when he disciplines.
The parent makes no way for the child to be reconciled to the parent and the child does not even feel like he wants to go back. It is so unwelcoming and hostile.
This parent needs to take some real serious evaluation about his life. He should start by seeing whether he is carrying out the principles of grace in his affairs. He focuses so much on carrying out the standard, he is unable to rightly look at this area of grace.
He needs to take a look at how Jesus carried out His life. How did He confront people in sin? We agree that Jesus was not the father of the people He met and yet He was very sensitive to their sinful acts and did confront them. Perhaps if we see Jesus’ relationship with the disciples as a model. Jesus did speak abruptly to His disciples but always with good cause. They were sinning and hurting others by their talk. He wanted them to know the seriousness of their speech.
It is true that the problems in the family are probably a blend of these two problems. Each parent might operate from one of these deficiencies. In both cases we have compromised living like Jesus. We need to humble ourselves before God, with our spouse and then have a conference with our children where we need to get honest and set out the clear way the home is going to go and why.
If we don’t get honest about our failures, then we have no chance in winning back our child. Why? We have by our failures, deliberate or not, caused bitterness, anger, and worldliness to swell up in them. They no longer trust us like when they were small. But as we change, their longing for a better relationship produces a seed of hope when they our sincerity. We need to rigorously fight for our children through prayer.
In many families these situations happen again and again forming a thick wall between the parents and the child. We should not expect the child to break that wall. Some might be more people-sensitive and will make approaches that soften Dad’s heart, but this is rare. Dad needs to lead the way. The goal is to help the son restore his respect to his parents not isolate him so that he gives up on the relationship. Remember that if the parents have not properly raised their children and are now only discovering this, there is a wall between them. The wrongs have piled up. Furthermore the wrongs have been grouped together into a mass of rejection (e.g. The father yelled 100 times at the child each year = 2 times a week).
Three things then are needed to break down the wall.
Get right with God.
Find a time to get by yourself with God and ask Him to help you get an honest look at your life. Admit your failures to Him. Ask for cleansing by the power of Christ and state that you look for His direction to do what you can in restoring the family. By keeping a written list before you of your different deficiencies, you can much more clearly deal with the problems.
After doing this, you need to commit yourself to take the steps necessary to follow up what the Lord has put on your heart.
Meet with your spouse.
It is best to start anew as a one husband-wife team. You do this not by surprising them but by meeting with your partner. Your husband or wife might have his own suspicions as to your sincerity. This is the time you need to share with your spouse, let’s say the wife, how you have failed. If she can state her weaknesses, then all the better. She might need time to catch up with you. Do not state her weaknesses. Be content to only deal with your own sins. Explain that you as parents need to change. You have failed God and want to have a godly home by His grace.
After you are able to share your changed heart with your spouse and talked about your family’s true needs, then call a conference with your children. If your spouse has no interest in this, then as a father you still need to proceed only act kindly. It might be that your wife doesn’t trust you. Pray and show a new willingness to be a good husband first. Then maybe she will know of your sincerity as a husband to be a good father. If your husband is not interested, then you must trust God to reshape the whole family in His time. On a personal level you can still follow through the steps below and have hopes from 1 Corinthians 7:14.
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife... for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:14)
This shows us that even one sincere Christian has great influence on her spouse and children. We hope for both to work together, but we start with what we have in hope of greater things.
There are two main parts to this third step: There is the Confession and the Correction times. Confession focuses on restoring ones broken relationship with our children while correction refers to all the positive instruction that needs to be brought in so that the home can rightly function in the future.
At conference time, you will need to carefully go through this list. Each step is important.
This conference has the expressed purpose of restoring our older children to ourselves. Don’t overtax the meeting to work out the details. Make another time for this unless things beg for this discussion.
When we also have younger children, it is best to gather those that understand the problem together. Those that are six or seven will have been hurt and could be part of that conference. But you have an option of doing that privately with them after you have had a conference with the older children. It is important that you be fully restored to all of them. I remember once after an angry outburst that I had to search out the younger ones and apologize to each one. Their understanding was adequate. They learned that apology was a way of life in our home.
We should make an appointment. Don’t get upset if no one seems to make it easy to get together. Keep searching until a good time is found. Our family usually meets in the living room, but the kitchen can serve well too. Make sure no one needs to leave early (go the bathroom first) and that there are no disruptions. Even if the phone rings don’t answer it. Unplug it if necessary. You should sit in a circle and tell the children you have several things you need to discuss. Mention that they will have their turn to talk but first the parents must talk. You respect their cooperation. If they have questions to clarify something, they can simply raise their hand.
• Dad should open in prayer. In your prayer confess your sins as a family. Don’t be specific at that point. You will have time for that. Ask for forgiveness and cleansing through Christ.
• Initial confession. Tell them how you have not been keeping the standards the scriptures have set. This sets the tone for the meeting. Generally acknowledge that each time that you have compromised, you have hurt them (and your spouse).
• Tell the story how God has got your attention. It is a testimony of how He has worked, but remember you still have plenty room to be humble and many opportunities to live it out. Tell them how God has led you to desire a real godly family. Set the vision before them.
• Confession time. You need to quickly move on to confession time or their rebellion and struggles will surface. You might take your list out that you made (this will shock them) and go down one by one listing how you as a father have failed them. You can tell them this does not mean you are perfect but that you are going to strive to be perfect to honor your Lord and to help your family to reach God’s good design for each of their lives. Confession is simply admitting certain things were wrong.
Make sure you identify the specific areas that you have compromised God’s standards (i.e. rage, unforgiving, materialism, etc.). Again state that your behavior has negatively impacted them. Tell them as the head of the household, that you have not been properly leading them but now are going by God’s grace (definitely by His strength and wisdom) will lead them. Share how you will need their prayers because you have lots to learn that you should have learned a long time ago.
Once you get going it is a lot better. Be thorough. Give illustrations. Ask them, “Did you think that I was right getting angry like that yesterday?” Or “Did you think it was right that I watched what I didn’t want you to watch?” You only need to give one illustration for each kind of offense.
After you have gone through the list, you must ask them if there are other things that have offended them. Give them time to answer and don’t be defensive! Hopefully you have gone through this procedure already with your spouse. Your spouse should not add to your list at that time. Work together.
• Apology asked and received. After getting all the hard facts out, tell them that you need them to forgive you. Tell them that you cannot pay them back for some emotional harm that you have caused them. Be sensitive to the fact that they might even want some time to think about it. But don’t let them think you are just trying to put it off. Insist on it and yet do not push too hard. Remind them that this is important for your family to get better. Forgiveness always precedes restoration.
Be direct. Say something like, “I have not been a good Dad. I am so sorry. Will you forgive me of all my wrongs against you?” Then one by one demand a personal response from each child, starting with the oldest. “Jimmy, will you forgive me for all the things I did against you?” I recommend hugging him right at that moment in front of the others. Then turn to the second child and continue on till each one has had a chance to forgive you.
Pause for Reflection: Have you ever apologized to your child before? When was the last time? Have you done wrong for which you have not apologized?
You might mention that some resentment, bitterness, anger and rage could reside in your children. You can confess your part of that. As you forgive, then we can have restored relationships. Indicate that you plan to make some real changes in how things are handled in the house. Don’t get into it at this point. In fact, if each of them does not forgive, then hold off on new plans. Reconciliation must precede restoration.
If a child refuses to properly forgive you, don’t be surprised. You perhaps have greatly disappointed them. They might be testing your sincerity. On the other hand you might have not confessed the area that had particularly hurt him. Privately ask him or her what might be the problem. Prod around a little bit. Ask for wisdom from God.
Just recently I remember that my son did not want to give the regular kiss and hug routine at bedtime. I tried for several minutes trying to see what was wrong. He denied anything was wrong. The scripture, however, says to not go to bed with anger. I persisted. Finally, I started going through my daily events with him. The second thing I mentioned hit the buzzer. I knew that was it. I had wrongly chastised him. It took me a while to be able to swallow my pride and apologize. But when I did, he forgave and we were back to normal.
Another suggestion. When there is deep rebellion, sometimes they are unwilling for you to make a direct hit on that area. Start by asking forgiveness on other less traumatic situations. This is especially true when he is unwilling to forgive you for some thing.
Please remember the rules of confession.
Don’t be defensive. Try to listen.
Confess only sins you have done. Admit there are misunderstandings.
Ask for more time to think upon certain issues.
Speak only for yourself. In this case the parents should not state any of their children’s sins. Speak only of ones own. Unless agreed beforehand, you should not confess your spouse’s sins. The one that has made the offense needs to ask forgiveness in most every case.
Mention how you have hurt them and are sorry there is no real way to pay them back. Don’t bribe them but if there is financial problems, they should be paid in full.
Ask for forgiveness. Expect an answer like, “I forgive you.” Do not accept the polite, “Oh it doesn’t matter.” Answer that statement by saying God says it really does matter (they know it does). And then repeat your request for them to forgive you.
What about their sins? Deal with them privately. Let them come out as they may. Don’t let it interfere with this special work.
Future changes. If you have time and stamina, tell them that you would like to go over how the house needs to run according to God’s ways. If you are tired or need to still straighten out a relationship or two, then postpone this to a future time.
After confession, you need to set down the new goals the Lord has given you for your family. Humbling our hearts and calling a family conference are important matters, but we must not stop here. We must also establish a good family structure. Nehemiah did not only take control of the city. After observing the broken down walls, he strategically built them up in record time. He shared his plan with others and they all worked together to accomplish the common task.
Because your children are older, they should be involved in this process to some degree. You are to lead. You are not undermining your authority when you do this but are using this opportunity to instruct them. Since you have not done this before, then you need to tell them what is right and wrong and why.
You might have a series of short Bible studies to highlight the way your home should be. This flows nicely with one of the father’s responsibilities to instruct the child as to how they should live. If you did it consistently when they were younger, they would have been better equipped for life by now. But now you must work with them and discover and establish these rules.
You should at some point let the pastor know what is happening. You need his support and guidance in these matters even in suggesting Bible study materials or showing you how to lead your family in studying God’s Word.
Mention that you might even have some blind spots and need their help to be thorough. There are two things that must be briefly introduced: standards and enforcement.
• Tell them what changes your family is going to face. Share a few real changes such as prayer as a family each night. Tell them what standards the Lord wants for you all. No lying. Complete obedience to parents. You can be honest and say you are just learning, but are excited how the Lord is leading you. Read the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. Let them here the goodness of God’s goals.
• Tell them how you are now going to carry out discipline God’s way. Depending on how old the children are, you need to tell them how you are going to enforce these standards. For younger children, you can use the rod. As they get older, you need to turn to consequences and freedom that has been previously shared. This can be hard too. You need to tell them how it works. You might want to tell them more how this works another time in the near future. Give them the chapter to read in this series. They are older. They need to mentally understand.
Let’s now look at some more specific things we can do to rightly establish family order according to God’s way.
There are many things we need to do. After taking a broader work of what constructive work needs to be done to properly set up a godly home, we will look at a few specific areas to give you a greater understanding on how each area can be approached.
Correction: Areas of Instruction
Below we have suggested areas that in course of time will need to be thought through and dealt with. This is not a complete list but helps us focus on real changes that need to be studied, understood and applied to our families. The most immediate need is to work on those that have to do with restoring our relationship with our children. More will be said on this below.
• Goals for our family (Galatians 5:22-23, Greatest Commands, Great Commission)
• Authority structure for family (Ephesians 5:18-6:5, Father, Mother, children, servants)
• Purpose and means of discipline (Hebrews 12, Proverbs)
• Need and process for reconciliation and forgiveness (resolving conflict)
• Habits: Viewing and listening to media and playing computer games.
• Expectations at different settings (eating, getting up, going to bed, school work, etc.)
• Developing schedules that please the Lord (including devotions)
• Develop accountability for special areas of need (e.g. self-control, politeness, etc.)
• Organize family fun (avoid spending lots of money - focus on walks, cultivating relationships)
• Set up and attentively attend family devotion times.
• Discuss values that come from God’s Word for friends (study from Proverbs).
• Honor the Lord’s day; worship; pray; tithe, serve.
• Cooperate: Discuss mutual expectations (rides, wanting to go places, privileges).
• Explain and implement ‘Trust and Freedom’ consequences.
• Write up a family mission? What distinctive ways does God want to bless and work through the _______ family knowing their special gifts, burdens and abilities.
• Family vision: what you want the family to be like. The godly family is not overly austere but fun, friendly and delighted in the way God rules their home through their parents. Home is a place everyone likes to be. Love rules through politeness, apology and acts of caring. A place people learn to love God more and more.
What is a parent to do first? Let’s look at this for a moment.
It might get confusing on knowing where to start. We cannot of course give a complete answer. We tried to list the things that must be worked through, but there is the need of prioritizing. It is a process. Think of the whole restructuring as a life process. You might follow these steps to prioritize what you first need to work on.
Try to remember exactly what areas the Lord has been convicting you on. Write down those scriptures that He has used. We need to remember that God doesn’t point out all our weaknesses at once. He does not want to overwhelm us with many things but cause correction in certain areas. Write down the 2 or 3 most important things that have been on your heart. This of course should be part of where you have failed and confessed your sin. Start here.
• Prayerfully seek the Lord
Take those several areas and prayerfully ask God to lead you to properly bring everyone to the right way of operating. Maybe you know three areas that have been bothering you (think conviction): bad friends, too much bad computer game playing, and the child has been rude and ignoring what you say. The father should meet God and ask Him how he should lead the family in correction. He should pray that God would make the necessary corrections in their lives.
• Focus first on the plan God has for you.
Children want to first see the parents reforming. They have heard many words but really want to see genuine change. The father and mother can first share some of the changes they plan to make. Be specific. Ask them at times to help them keep you accountable. For example, you will no longer watch movies with sensual images. Explain the process how God convicted you and how you want to please God and lead the children rightly. The children will see that everyone is changing and that the standards come from God’s Word. They will further see that they are not just being picked on. Make sure you tell them what is happening; don’t just do it secretly. They do need to learn from you positive instruction at this critical time in their lives.
• Identify the issues that have to do with relationship first.
We cannot progress far if the relationship issues are not right. Are the attitudes poor? Do you still see the ‘filter of mistrust’ operating? If so, slow down and focus on these relationship issues that have to be first dealt with. We will give an example below to show how one can proceed in working through an area of need. But remember, there is the happy and bright side of building relationships. Do things together. Learn to like to be with each other. Do special things for the other without thinking of getting anything in return.
In the three examples above, rudeness was the one that most strongly damaged the relationship between the parents and children. If it is not caught right at the beginning, relationships will go sour and hope will dissipate faster than it returned. Let’s look at this issue very specifically.
1) Express the urgency of keeping our (parent and child) relationship right.
2) You might ask why it is important that this is done. See if they can identify its importance. Remember these children are older. If they are slow responding, think up a few past circumstances where you might have been rude. See if they liked it. What happened as a result?
3) Stress that you want to live the way God wants you to. Ask them if they can think of any verses that speak of the importance of this issue. In this case, Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3 (provoking from father’s point) and generally loving one another. When they say “honor” their parents, make sure they use their own words. Then have them work out how one can practically express kindness instead of rudeness. What happens when you catch someone being rude? You can fill in where they leave out. In this case, you might mention:
Always speak respectfully.
Never interrupt the parent unless emergency.
Never respond in disagreement with outburst, whining, crying or talking back.
Positively say, “Okay Daddy” or “Okay Mommy.”
If you catch yourself with the wrong words or attitude, stop talking and humbly apologize saying, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have responded that way. Will you forgive me?”
4) In order to make it easier for the child, tell them that you will also eliminate rudeness from your speech. A parents’ willingness to live by the same standards helps a child realize how important the rule is. You can tell them that though you have the right to command them to do different things, you recognize they are getting older, and you will treat them as an adult. You will politely ask them to do things. You can ask them if they note you are not being polite, they can make some kind of sign like a crossed “t” or something to let you know. (They need to know how to honorably pass on correction). They should not speak in front of others telling you that you are rude.
We hope you get the idea. There is so much to say and much needs to be gleaned from the other parenting lessons. This includes polite rules, devotions, public behavior, making or having friends, regulations on television or movies, phone use, etc.
We would like to make one more suggestion to help evaluate priorities.
We would suggest to make a schedule of your activities and share this with your older children. This might seem overly strict for some families, but this is not as rigorous as it sounds. Our lives conform to a schedule more than we would like. When we show our children our schedules, we have a special opportunity to spot areas of potential conflict.
It is easier for your children to understand your wishes and needs when you explain your calendar to them. As children get older, you will need to do this less as they are more mobile. But at certain times in life, the parent and child need to clearly think through how their obligations affect each other. This is part of learning politeness.
This is a great time for the child to see how much the parent does for the child. It also is a good time to explain that as a family you work together for the common good. Everyone has a family role. Freedom demands responsibility. Perhaps you can explain with your older child that when the child was little, we did not expect much from the child. But now they are older. They are learning responsibility. The parents’ job is to prepare them for adulthood. They do this by having the child take on more and more responsibility by sharing house jobs and voluntarily helping out the whole family.
If this is a sudden change for them, they might react negatively. We highly suggest that before you do this, you specifically apologize for how you have failed giving them jobs in the past. Specifically state how before this time you were treating them as a little child rather than as a growing young adult. Also state how you have neglected training them and want to change this now. Ask them to forgive you and get a proper reply.
A child feels wanted, desired and valuable when they share a part of the household routine. If they have no part, there is no ownership. The parent should not feel like they are being mean to their children by assigning them house jobs. The opposite is true. They are mature and responsible enough to carry these duties out. Just remember to do it with them the first two times. It will be awkward at first but it will help them see that you are willing to do it and also assure a standard for cleaning the bathroom or organizing their room. Write down a checklist from your mind. As you watch their work, you will see the child’s positive character qualities as well as deficiencies. Applaud them for their faithfulness wherever you see it. Affirm the character qualities you see. “You have been so faithful sweeping the walk each week.” They like it, and the positive encouragement motivates them to do better.
Working out a child and parents’ schedule together helps you straighten out expectations, areas of conflict and issues that need to be dealt with. Again, we suggest don’t fix everything at first. You might see some activity that needs to be changed such as coming in late. At this moment only say that you will need to evaluate that activity in the future but for now it will continue. They will see that you are carefully and prayerfully contemplating what is going on in the home and not just being rash.
If God is bringing great conviction to your lives, then you will see significant changes in your lives. We should remember that many times the Lord is working on just one or two areas at once. We make those changes, good results come and so we are ready for more. This process keeps going on as long as we are on earth!
I remember two big conferences we have had with our children. One was on the way that I acted in great anger when chastising our children and the other when my wife’s critical nature caused our children great distress. After many years, we identified the problem by God’s grace. We really should have identified them long before, but we were slow of learning.
One break-through for the area of my angry appearance was to think whether Jesus would have responded that way. Of course He didn’t. I needed to learn that this threat of power was in fact going against the goals of discipline. Instead of bringing growth and strength, I was wounding hearts. I finally called us together as a family, acknowledged my sin and asked for forgiveness from each one from the oldest down to the youngest. If you have regular family devotions, assembling together will not seem awkward.
These are significant footsteps in the way of life. If we do not walk them first, our children will never get there. It is through our faith and love, our children can follow. Think of it as real deep snow. When the father goes first plowing through the snow, he makes both a path and specific places to step. The child is much more able to follow. If not, these very sins of ours will plague the next generations causing more havoc.
At this point it would be good to state how great our Savior is. He is awesome and powerful, fully able to deliver us from any sin. Give praise to God our Savior! Parenting helps us grow and trust in the Lord. It takes a lifetime but it also is our opportunity to show how much we love the Lord.
The child won’t talk. He says there is nothing wrong. He usually is warm and affectionate but in this case he is stubbornly quiet and resistant to talk. The scripture says that you should not go to bed in anger. We have to force ourselves to resolve the issue. The child more than likely is not going to take steps to solve it. It is up to Mom and Dad to break through. Threatening doesn’t work. He says nothing is wrong. Should we believe him? But something is wrong in the relationship.
Go through the daily events, starting with the ones you are involved with the child in. In a recent case, I mentioned one thing. What I thought he did wrong, how he was disciplined, whether apologies were made, everything seemed okay. But when I started talking about the second discipline, he started speaking about how I had not properly disciplined him and hurt is toe. I just stood there next to him in his bed and reflectively praying. Had I disciplined with the right attitude? Had I disciplined for clear offense? Had I chastised him properly? I failed on the second account. It was real hard to say I was wrong. But I was. After a long moment of silence, I confessed my sin and apologized. After a while, he turned over and hugged. That was that.
Teens can be led back to respect the parents, but it calls for the parents to be firm in their beliefs that these changes are necessary and vital to the lives of their older children. The children might only conform on the outward. They might already have accepted ideas from the outside that make the parents’ change unappreciated. But the parents must endure with prayer. They must love their children more than their pride. Perhaps the children will rebel at some point, but if there is lots of love given with the new rules, then this will affect them. It might not be as much as the parents would like or as soon as they would want, but it will help them in the long run. Anything short of a life change in the parents, however, will only prove to the young people how hypocritical parents can be. But real love will haunt the children no matter where they go.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988