Monday, January 8, 2018

We Pass On What We Receive (Part 5)

Freedom to Choose

God did not force us to love him or obey him.  God does not use anger, intimidation, or guilt.  He holds us with an open hand.  He pursues us with love, not authority. 
When our children are young we must train them to live according to God’s life-giving principles.  We must have control because we are responsible for their safety and training.  We must provide the moral storehouse and the discipline that they need to be able to follow through.  But as our children grow older we must trust that they have the tools, and accept the fact they have the choice of either adopting them as their own, or rejecting them.  When we understand that God allows us to make our own choice about whether or not to make God the source of our life, we understand that it is up to our teens to make the same choice for themselves.  Our goal is that our children would recognize that God truly is the source of Life, and decide for themselves to depend on Him.


We must respect our teen’s ability to have beliefs and opinions that are independent of ours.  We cannot control the thoughts or motivations of our teen’s hearts and minds.  When we try to exert power that we don’t have over our teens, we undermine our own goal of helping them know the love of God, and choose to look to Him as the source of life.  We must accept that we are not in control, and give our teens room to make their own autonomous choices.  We can best do this by allowing our life to speak for itself. As we build a relationship with our children that is based on respect, we will naturally gain an invitation of influence.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

We Pass On What We Receive ( Part 4)

Biblical Discipline

Confrontation and discipline should be done in love, to benefit someone who is making choices that are damaging to themselves or others.  God teaches us in His word that confrontation of sin is for the purpose of restoring, rescuing, redeeming, and reconciling, and should always be done in humility, gentleness, and love.  God does not want us to confront sin to get even, to vent anger, or to punish.  Sadly, not many people have experienced confrontation according to biblical principles.  Most people have experienced a corrupted version of biblical confrontation that was not life-giving at all.  This leads to many destructive parenting practices in discipline. 
God does not want us to confront someone to show them that they are “bad” or that we are mad.  He does not want us to confront for the purpose of controlling people through fear and intimidation. When we do, we demonstrate that we believe that it is our job to judge and punish people and make them be good.
Jesus did not die to make us be good people, he died to give us life. Confrontation should communicate a bigger picture than just to stop being bad and be good.  It should communicate the importance of coming back to the life that God created us for; life as God designed it to work. When we return to dependence on God as the source, we benefit from experiencing Life as God created it to be.  Turning from our sin is not just a means to escape condemnation, it is the way back to Life.

When confrontation is done for the right purpose and with the right attitude in relationships, families, and communities over a long period of time, trust is developed.  When people are able to trust that confrontation is for their benefit and not to point out their badness, they become more willing to humbly look at themselves and see the areas in which they need to grow. If we are using biblical discipline we don’t use the tools of anger, shame, or intimidation. When we understand God’s model for confrontation, we can give consequences to our children in a loving and positive way that is focused on rescuing, redeeming, and reconciling, rather than punishing. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

We Pass On What We Receive (Part 3)

Humility


We are in the process of being perfected.  We all vacillate several times a day from one false God to another, to find our sense of worth and significance.  When it comes to sin, we are all on a level playing field.  We are never “good” or in a state of sinlessness.  Our only goodness comes from God.  On our own we have nothing to be proud of or take credit for.  Understanding this allows us to be humble with our children.  We can admit that we don’t always get things right.  We can sympathize with their struggle with sin.  We are not above it.  We struggle every day and we need to depend on God for his help.  We know God accepts us in our struggle and we accept ourselves.  This leads to humility.  And it leads to being able to accept our children when they fail.  Acceptance enables our children to humbly admit their sin and turn to God for help rather than deny their sin.  Children only feel safe to be humble when they know they will be treated with grace when they fail.  Spiritual growth happens when we face our sin humbly and honestly.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

We Pass On What We Receive (Part 2)

Grace 

When we understand and experience God’s grace, love, and acceptance, we pass on grace, love and acceptance to our children.  God loves us in spite of our sin and shortcomings. God not only loves us by forgiving us, but He likes us, He accepts us, He is for us.  We don’t lose his affection each time we sin.  Jesus died for all of our sins, the sins in the past, present, and future.  He does not condemn us again and again; sin was condemned once and for all in Christ.  God sees our inability as a part of our reality, and he is not mad at our weakness. He does not hold back affection until we perform perfectly.  God is not surprised or upset by our behavior.  He is patient with us.  God loves us toward more life-giving choices.  His conviction comes in love, not in guilt.  We don’t have to be afraid of humbly owning our mistakes, because we know we are still accepted.  We can acknowledge all of the sin that is inside of us, and look to God in dependence for help.  In the same way we are not angered by our children’s behavior.  We do not withhold relationship. We are not surprised at bad behavior.  We have patience.  We can accept our children even when they do wrong.  

Monday, December 18, 2017

We Pass On What We Receive (Part 1)



Everyone looks to some source to provide their sense of identity.  Identity is essentially how I view myself or who I am as a person.  It is how I define myself.  It is what I use to decide whether or not I have value.  It is also what I use to determine if I am acceptable to myself, God, and others.  One source that people look to define themselves, is the approval of certain people, like a father, boss, husband, wife, or children.  One example might be looking to a father for our worth.  When he approves of us we feel like we are worth something; we feel good and we accept ourselves.  But then we lose his approval.  We feel worthless.  But people are flawed, they do not accurately represent our value.  We don’t really gain and lose value based on what others think.  Other people are the wrong source; we should not give them the power to define our identity. 

Other sources people look to are physical appearance, intelligence, wealth, competence, abilities, grades, success, or moral achievements.  The problem of looking to these things, is that they lead to pride when I am doing well and insecurity when I am not.  These things do not define us; they are not really “who we are”.  They are things about us, and things that we do, but do not make us any more or less valuable.  The only true source of our identity is God’s love for us.  This truth should provide our worth and value. 

Our value is given by God as a gift.  It is unchanging.  We cannot gain it, and we cannot lose it.  We are only valuable because of God’s love.  This should be humbling.  We are also completely valuable because of God’s love.  God’s love actually makes us worthy of respect and high esteem.  And we cannot be more or less valuable than anyone else.  All people are given the same value by God Himself.  God’s love allows us to recognize our high value in spite of our flaws and shortcomings.   
So, regardless of our looks, talents, or anything that we do, we can always have a secure Identity.  In Christ we can always have the security and confidence that we are enough, we are acceptable, and we are valuable. We do not have to live in fear or anxiety about losing our value.  As people loved by God, we have the resource to have all of our personal needs for love, acceptance, and value met by God.  Finding our security in Christ allows us to be able to parent well, because when we are completely secure in God’s love for us, we have plenty of love to give to our children. 

Security/Fullness
We are made to be dependent on God’s love to be secure.  Being secure in God’s love can be illustrated by a container that is always full, because it is constantly being filled.  Looking to other things to fill our need for love is like a container that is always nearly empty, because nothing else can ever really satisfy us.  So, the first way that having a secure identity in Christ impacts our parenting, is that our need for love is met, leaving us with an overabundance to share.  We know who we are, and we are not looking for anything else to define us.  When we have received God’s love, and we are full and secure in that love, we have an overflow of love to give to others.  The love that we give to others does not come from us.  We are not the source of love, God is. 
As parents, our job is to meet the needs our children and love them, not the other way around.  When our needs are met in God, we are not looking to our children to meet our needs.  Parents can easily confuse the good feeling that they get from their children’s appreciation of them, for a source of value and identity for themselves.  We can easily slip into using our children to get what we need, rather than giving children what they need.


As secure people we are not needy for acceptance, approval, or praise.  We are free to put others first.  We can love sacrificially and not fear that our own needs will not be met.  We can discipline without having the primary concern be the loss of our children’s love for us.  We are not afraid of our children’s anger toward us, or losing their approval.  We are not threatened by our children’s mistakes.  Their mistakes don’t define us.  We are also not angered by their mistakes.  We don’t need them to behave well for our sake.  We don’t need them to be good to make us feel good about ourselves.   When we are secure we are not easily wounded by the things our children say and do.  
(See Next Post for Part 2)

Discipline for Teens (Part 2)

One side note is that different phases of childhood require different methods of parenting.  Children in the first five years of life require discipline.  A parent has all of the responsibility for the child’s welfare and therefore all of the authority over him.  As children grow up they gain authority over their lives as they gain responsibility for their life decisions.  They are becoming responsible for their own choices and therefore need to be allowed to make those choices.  They are becoming their own person with their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and they have a right to those thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  They slowly gain autonomy over time rather than on any particular birthday.  This is not just a good principle; it is a reality.  Adults do not have the power to control how a teen thinks and behaves.  Teens know this and parents would do well to acknowledge this truth as well. Parents should relate to their teens as distinctly separate, autonomous, thinking individuals, who are worthy of respect, and come alongside their teenagers to help them to learn and grow rather than trying to control them. Anger, manipulation, and control are all things that cause teens to feel disrespected and therefore mistrust their parent’s intentions toward them.  If a parent has a child’s best interest in mind, then he will treat him with respect his entire life.  Children who are treated with respect grow to trust their parent’s benevolence toward them, and are willing to learn from them as teens.  Relational influence is earned through years and years of treating someone with respect.  In the teen years it is more effective and respectful to use relational influence rather than authority and discipline.  This looks more like a discipleship relationship than anything else.  This honors the autonomous person that the teen is becoming and acknowledges the reality that the days of authority and control are over. And that is a good thing because the teen needs to have the authority over his own life, if he is responsible for the consequences of the choices that he makes.  A teen who feels loved, supported, respected, and forgiven will be more likely to be interested in being taught and helped out of unwise situations. A teen who feels disrespected and intimidated will not feel safe to ask for advice or help. 

If you want your teen's heart motivation to be the love of God, you will need to communicate through your discipline God's love, grace, and desire to give us abundant life.  You will need to demonstrate, that to have life, we need to live in dependence on God as the source of everything. And you will need to show that when we do, we experience true Life as it was designed to work.

So, the fourth option would be to come alongside your teen in love and grace. Ask him what he or she needs from you to help them to experience the Life that God meant for them.  Talk with your teen like he is a friend that you care about rather than a child that you are mad at.  Think about how you would help a friend that you saw making poor life choices. You would lovingly confront him with a motive of wanting to help him find answers for his problems, not to condemn him or vent anger.  You would want to rescue him from the trap that he has been sucked into.  You would provide the accountability and support that he needed. God teaches us in His word that confrontation of sin is for the purpose of restoring, rescuing, redeeming and reconciling, and should always be done in humility, gentleness, and love.  

Ask your teen what he is struggling with and what he needs.  Is he struggling with depression?  Maybe he would benefit from counseling.  Does he need accountability for something that he is struggling with?  Is there a mentor that you could pair him with?  Does he need help saying “no” to friends?  Does he need to change schools and find a new peer group? Does he need addiction treatment?

If you have relational influence with your teen, share with him the moral reasons for why certain choices are damaging to him and others.  Such as, rules and authority are in place for the benefit of all people.  Help him look for the personal benefit of following rules and authority.  When we don’t follow rules and laws, we harm ourselves (our futures, our bodies).  People have value. When we deceive others we hurt people and relationships.  Emphasize that as a parent you want your teen to follow rules and laws because you love him and want the best for him.  Show your teen the life giving reasons to love what is good, rather than just teaching them to avoid being bad. 

If you give a consequence make sure it fits the “crime”.  Don’t make it too harsh or too long.  The teen must feel that it is a fair consequence for it to be effective.


Always point your teen to the gospel.  We all need to live in dependence on God every single day, regardless of how old we are.  God is a God of grace, He is for us, He is not angry when we fail, and He is there to give us strength when we depend on Him.  Teach your teen how to accept the forgiveness of God, learn from their mistakes, and turn back to God in dependence.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Discipline for Teens (Part 1)

You just found out that your teenager lied to you, skipped school, snuck out, used drugs, etc.  What do you do?  As a parent, how do you respond?  You may be angry at your teen, you may be embarrassed by their behavior, you may be feeling hurt and betrayed, you may feel like a failure, and/or you may want to prevent them from being able to engage in this kind of behavior ever again.  You may feel like expressing your anger or your hurt feelings, or making new restrictions that keeps your teen more under control and supervised.  These are all legitimate feelings and desires; the question is, what are the results that you want?  And more importantly, what do you want your teen to be motivated by, and what motivations are effective long term?  What is your goal as you parent your teen, and what response will cause you to meet your goal long term?

Let’s just assume that your goal as a parent is to instill a desire and ability to love God and obey Him.  And let’s assume that you want your teen’s heart motivation to be understanding both the love that God has for him and the desire for him to have Life.

One response that many parents have, is to get even for the pain that the child has caused by venting their full anger.  They yell at the teen and try to scare and intimidate him.  I think the belief is that the teen will fear facing the same consequences in the future and therefore make better behavioral choices.  There are several problems with this approach. One problem is that the teen only becomes angry at the parent because he feels disrespected, rather than at his own poor choices.  A scape goat is created for him.  Another problem is that even if the teen becomes afraid of punishment, it doesn’t change his heart towards his poor choices.  He will just work harder at not getting caught.  This response will not result in a teen’s heart being motivated by love for God and what is right.  When a person is only motivated by fear of punishment then their outward behavior may be changed for a short time, but if they are motivated from the heart, the behavior is changed for a lifetime.

A second common response is to instill guilt about how the teen’s choices hurt the parents and embarrassed them.  Although this is a good thing for the teen to understand, if it is often the focus of a parent’s reason that he should not misbehave, he may come to see his parent as just being self-centered. He may think that the parent is arbitrarily assigning morality to things that inconvenience her or affect her personally.  A teen’s motivation for making good choices should not be focused on his parent’s feelings about it.  He needs to understand that something is not wrong simply because a parent doesn’t like it, but because there is a deeper moral principle that is true at all times and in every situation.  If the focus is how the teen’s behavior affects his parents, he does not have the opportunity to learn this.  He needs to understand a bigger picture for a heart change to occur.  In general, love for what is good, is a far greater motivator of the heart than guilt.

A third option might be to restrict the teen’s freedom so that he is unable to repeat the offense.  The problem is that this is only a temporary fix.  Even if you could provide your teen with supervision twenty-four hours a day, controlling behavior does not change a person’s heart.  If he still believes behavior that is bad for him is good for him, he will engage in it as soon as he is able.  Again this response does nothing to change the heart.

None of these responses address the heart, so let's take all three of these options off the table.
(See the next post for Part 2)