Friday, February 25, 2011

Mission Impossible II

Today, we continue on the principle of accepting your mission from God to be the authority in your home.

Does self-control come naturally or is it a learned skill? What is the relationship between a child’s ability to control himself, and his ability to acquire moral training from his parents? If a child is raised without being taught self-control, how will that affect his or her ability to follow God later on?

We had a foster child, who we will call Molly, a first grader, that was not doing well in school when she first came to live at our house. Her teacher reported to me (almost daily!) that Molly was disruptive, rude, would cut her clothes with scissors during class, would get up and help herself to a drink of water at inappropriate times (like during the flag salute), would talk back and even yell at her teacher. When I asked what consequences where applied when she misbehaved, the teacher said she was trying to ignore the behaviors because Molly was going through a tough time. I suggested that we come up with a consequence. The next Morning, when Molly disobeyed her teacher, she sent Molly to a fourth grade class room where she had to have her head down on her desk for 20 minutes. When Molly came back she asked the teacher, “Why did I have to go to that classroom?” The teacher answered, “From now on, whenever you disobey in class, that is where you will go.” And Molly replied “Teacher, from now on I am going to obey you.” And she did. In fact, her behavior changed so completely, that it resulted in a dramatic improvement in her academic performance. She went from almost all “Needs Improvement” to “Satisfactory” in behavior, and from almost all 1’s to 3’s in her academic grades. That is a huge improvement, all as a result of having consistent expectations and consequences. Of course, not every child is going to turn around as quickly as Molly, but this story illustrates a principle very well.

The child who has been restrained from always getting his own way by arguing, throwing temper tantrums, or disobeying, is also set free. He is free to do what is right rather than being a slave to his sin nature, and as a result he is free to enjoy peaceful relationships with his friends and family. Every child desperately needs boundaries. They are insecure and unhappy without firm guidelines and direction that provide order to their lives and protection from danger. Like an adult who wants to know exactly what is expected of him on a new job, a child faces new situations daily and needs his parents’ help in setting the boundaries for his appropriate behavior. God’s Word declares parental controls to be essential (Prov. 29:15; 1 Samuel 3:13). It is not love to raise a child who lacks self-discipline and is therefore guided by his or her self–centered feelings and desires. Many of us have struggled with some of these desires in our own lives. Do you wish you would have been better trained in self discipline?

Controlling a child’s behavior is an expression of parental love and shows true concern for the best interest of the child. True love will require a personal sacrifice on the part of the parents. They must be willing to take the time to monitor closely the child’s behavior. They also must be willing to face the inevitable conflict that occurs when the child must be confronted with his disobedience. The sacrifice involved in controlling a child also includes the immediate correction of each new misbehavior, even when it is an inconvenience to the parent. Loving parents must be more concerned with doing what will best benefit the child rather than what is most convenient for themselves.

Parents have to overcome some natural hindrances to asserting their authority and requiring obedience from their children. Some of the things that keep parents from controlling their children's behavior are: feelings of inadequacy, not wanting to be a hypocrite, or fear of losing the child's love. Parents can overcome these hindrances by realizing that even though imperfect, they have been delegated the responsibility of training their children by God, and by accepting God and His way as the authority in their own lives.

A few years ago I asked one of our daughters to read a book about the teenage years and she said: “But I don’t want to.” And I said “Well, I want you to.” And she asked: “Do I have to?” And I said “Yes.” And she asked “Are you going to make me?” And I said: “Yes.” And she asked “But how will you make me?” And I said “I will keep you accountable, I will ask you on a regular basis if you have read it, until you have finished it.” I think this is the question being asked in the mind of all children young and old, “How will you make me, and if no one is going to make me, why would I do it even if it is good for me?”

Children are not born with self control. They need to have external controls put in place by their parents until their internal self control can be developed. Parents need to control what and when they eat, when to sleep, what clothing to wear, how to act, and what is allowed to influence them. Therefore, the job of every parent is to function as the child’s self control, until the child is able to govern himself based on his own personal set of biblical principles of right behavior. Parents train children in biblical morality even before salvation, because in doing so, children gain an awareness of God’s standard of right and wrong. They are not born with this awareness. First we teach God’s moral standards, just like God gave us the law before he gave us Jesus. God gave us the Law so that we would see our sin and therefore our need for a Savior.

In early parenting, external pressure is necessary to bring about moral behavior even though a young child has no cognitive understanding of the reason for the behavior. With adults, beliefs precede actions; with children the opposite is true: actions precede beliefs. Parents should insist on correct behavior long before the child is capable of understanding the moral reasons for the behavior. Children first learn to act morally and then they learn how to think morally. So first we need to train children to behave morally then we move on to teaching the moral principles behind the behavior. Actions come first, understanding comes second.

Early moral training is also essential because, as you train a child to adhere to moral behavior, you are simultaneously training him in self control. Self control is the most basic virtue. It is necessary for the application of kindness, gentleness, proper speech, controlling negative emotions, concentration, focusing, sitting skills, and many other behaviors. Don’t wait until your child is older to start training in these skills. These are moral developmental skills, not stage–acquired abilities. They are also skills that depend on structure from the earliest days of life. Structure, training and discipline are essential in the early years to maximize a child’s moral and intellectual development.

A child who has been trained in moral behavior when he is young will begin to operate with self control as he internalizes the biblical principles for himself when he grows older. But a child who was not brought under the control of his parents, will lack self control, will lack a conviction of right and wrong, and will rebel more and more violently at any attempt by parents, school, or any other force that threatens to restrict his complete freedom. Without self control as a base for moral behavior, there will be nothing to curb his insatiable desire to serve his selfish appetites. The child who has established his own control over his parents, will continue to exercise his authority over them to satisfy each new, self centered feeling or desire that drives him.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bible Study for Kids

Check out the links to "Helpful Document Downloads" to the right ...

We have just added a new Bible Study designed for a parent to lead children. The topic is obedience to God and respect for others and those in positions of authority. This is a very important concept for children to learn very young. This study can be done with kids as young as 3 and as old as teens! Ask the questions, look up the verses, and make it an open, friendly discussion format.

“Your Mission, if you decide to accept it …”

The TV and movie action-drama Mission Impossible made these words famous. When it comes to parenting with authority, this famous phrase is particularly appropriate. The question is, “Are you willing to accept your God given mission to parent with proper authority?” Sadly, many parents do not take seriously this concept.

Titus 2:15 says, “Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”

Sometimes parents find it difficult to rebuke children with authority because they don’t feel adequate for the job, they don’t know what to say or do, or they don’t think the child will actually listen when given instruction. These obstacles can and should be overcome, because parental authority is God given.

Our children have had several “first year” teachers in the public school system. Because of their lack of experience, they tried to gain good behavior by being a “friend” to the students. So these new teachers very quickly had classes that were out of control, and as a result, learning did not take place. Our children were frustrated because so much class time was taken over by behavior problems. These teachers believed that children will obey you if they like you. This is simply not true. Children will obey you if you teach them your expectations and show them that you will back up those expectations with consequences. If the teacher had shown within the first week, that she had high expectations of the students, and required their cooperation, instead of trying to be their friend, she would have gained the control she needed to teach the class. Our children had previously attended a private school, in which classes are very disciplined and students are expected to show respect for their teachers. As a result, very little time is wasted on discipline problems. If a class is not controlled, learning cannot take place. It is the same with parenting. The child has to be under control for learning to take place. In the younger years, the child will comply because they know the expectations, and they know what consequences will result if they do not comply. As they internalize godly principles, they will learn to comply because of a love for God and love for what is right.

Some Scriptures regarding a parent’s position and the concept of God given authority are:

Ephesians 6:2, “Honor your father and mother- which is the first commandment with a promise- that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Romans 13:1-2, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden,
for that would be of no advantage to you.”

1 Peter 2:13-14, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”

God has created order. He created government, parents, and teachers, and this order is dependent upon each accepting his God given position and accepting his authority to make it work. And it requires citizens and children paying the honor due to each position. It requires parents doing their job to raise the next generation to do their part in participating in the civil society God has orchestrated and ordained. We would be disobedient to not respect the order that God has ordained. Authority is necessary in society and in the home, because it brings order. If everyone did their own thing it would be chaos. Whether the differences were preference or outright sin wouldn’t matter. If we don’t work together in an orderly way, there is chaos. Think about what traffic would be like if there were no rules, signs, lights or road markings! Rules and authority bring order, productivity, peace and safety.

As parents, we are our children's first and closest look at what authority is like. If we want our children to have a healthy relationship with authority in the future, especially God, we need to be fair, good, loving, and respectful, but also strong, consistent, knowledgeable, instructive, confident, directive and authoritative.

One of the problems with democratic parenting (the idea that reduces parents to an equal status with their children), is that if a child feels equal with his parents, he will not understand the importance of obeying police officers, school teachers, AWANA leaders, etc. And if they don’t see the necessity of obeying, they won’t be able to learn from these “authorities” the things that they will need to know to grow in knowledge, relational skills and their relationship with God.

Are you up to the challenge? Are you willing to accept you mission (which, yes, at times may seem impossible) to parent with the authority that God has given you? Our prayer is that you are because In a very real way ... our future depends on you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Who is leading whom at your house?

If we do not teach our children not to be demanding, inconsiderate, disruptive, selfish, and disobedient, we are allowing them to believe that there are no rules, or no “law”, so to speak. How will they become conscious of sin? How will they know that God has a different way for them, and that they will need Him for salvation and for the power to live a holy life that is pleasing to Him?

Passionate Legacy Principle #2: Accept your right and responsibility to train your children to biblical morality (Proverbs 22:6). The parents have been given the responsibility to train, care and provide for a household. With that comes the authority to determine and enforce the principles that will be lived out in the home. Be confident in your authority. Parents should not feel guilty for directing or disciplining their children. If your child doesn’t like you once in a while, that’s okay! Don’t make being a buddy such a high priority that you can’t be an effective leader. Deep down, children desire consistent boundaries; they provide protection, security, freedom and peaceful coexistence with others. Structured moral training in the early years is essential because self-control is gained through moral training, and all other virtues are dependent upon self-control.

While her mother ordered their fast food lunch, five year old Molly demanded one thing and then changed her mind and demanded another … several times. Molly repeatedly interrupted her mother by yelling, “No, I don’t want that,” making rude noises, and pounding on her mother’s leg. When the family and I went to choose a table, Molly chose a different table and demanded that her mother move. Her mother obeyed. Then, Molly changed to yet another table and ordered her mother to change again, but her mother refused. Molly began to scream and yell, argue and accuse, whine and cry, and finally verbally assault her mother with name calling. Her mother tried to grab her arm, but she darted across the room and under a table. Her mother did not go to get her but instead told me that she had tried everything, including spanking, and nothing had worked. Molly would not cry, would not apologize, and her behavior would not change.

Parents have been given the responsibility to train their children. In First Samuel 3:12-14, God says he will judge Eli’s family forever, because Eli knew his sons were committing sin but failed to restrain them. Sometimes we know our children are getting into things that they shouldn’t, but we are too engrossed in Facebook or our favorite show to deal with it, so we let it slide “just this once.” We hear our children in the other room treating each other with hatred and violence but we don’t stop what we are doing to teach them how to resolve conflict. At times we know that our children are being disrespectful to teachers or bullying others at school, but we leave it to the teachers to deal with. Training our children is our responsibility, and restraining them when they sin, is part of it.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The book is Proverbs. A proverb is an observation of life that is generally true, it is not a promise because of course there are exceptions to these general principles and observations of life. Many principles in Proverbs are repeated with different wording throughout the book. So looking at other proverbs in the context can provide clues to the meaning of this proverb. Let’s look at some surrounding parenting Proverbs. Proverbs 19:18 says “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope, do not be a willing party to his death.” This verse teaches that there is an actual right and wrong and if we don’t discipline when wrong is done, we are allowing our children to die spiritually or physically. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” This verse teaches that every child has folly (or foolish rebellion) in his heart, and we need to discipline him to drive it out. Because of these surrounding verses, I believe that the clear meaning of Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” is that there is a specificway” that he should go, not his own way, or his heart’s way*, but God’s Way, and that if we train him in that way, when he is old, he will most likely go that way. It is not a promise, but a general principle that if we train children when they are young to go God’s way, when they get older they will continue to go God’s way. Ephesians 6:4 reemphasizes our responsibility to train when Paul instructs fathers to “bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” It is our responsibility to give our children this training and instruction of the Lord.

*Some recent and quite creative interpretations of this verse have made their way into popular literature, articles, and sermons. Interpretations that claim that this verse is teaching that we should try to follow and train according to a child’s “natural bent” or “temperament” go against the context of the book of Proverbs, represent a misunderstanding of the historical and literary context, as well as display an anachronistic misunderstanding of psychology and the Scriptures.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What we do speaks so loud, they can’t hear a word we say.

Does your Christianity display the transforming work of an all-powerful God, or a plastic mask that you grab from the coat rack as you walk out the door?

Passionate Legacy Principle #1: Be a desirable example of godliness so that your children will choose it for themselves. Children grow up to be adults with a free will. They will choose a way of life based on what seems desirable, true, available, and satisfying. We need to win them over the way we win over any non-believer.

Behind closed doors, we take off our masks and let our guard down. Sometimes home is where we allow ourselves to become grouchy, snappy, unforgiving, easily irritated, demanding, selfish, and lazy.

When at home, we have the opportunity to model a Spirit-filled marriage in the way we treat our spouse, or we can model a marriage characterized by fighting and nagging. We may model a good attitude about our job, or come home from work and complain about authority. We may treat our children like they are a blessing from God, or like they are a burden and an interruption to our day. In our attitude toward possessions, we can model being thankful and content with what we have, or we can express dissatisfaction and a culturally conditioned desire for “bigger, better, and more”.

In the book of Matthew, in chapter 5, Jesus talks about not hiding our light, but letting our good deeds shine so that others may see them and praise our Father in heaven. We often think of this as a verse about evangelism, but what about our example to our children? As parents, we need to be first and foremost shining our light at home. If we want to be an example of true Christianity we have to be “all in.” Our children need to be our wake-up call that we can’t take a spiritual vacation whenever we are in the privacy of our home. If we want our children to praise our Father in heaven, we will have to be living a life that reflects the character of Christ, even behind those closed doors. Children will not be attracted to “Sunday Christianity”, in fact, they will see right through it and have no desire to follow a set of beliefs that have such little impact on your real self.

If our Christianity is really who we are, then there should be no mask to take off when we are at home. Our children are our ever-present audience who get to witness whether we really are who we act like when we are outside of our homes.

What kind of Christianity do we have? What kind of Christianity do our children see? Is it a faith that they will want? Is it a way of life that displays the transforming effect of an all-powerful God or a plastic mask that we grab from the coat rack as we walk out the door?