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Raising Obedient Children Part 1: Basic Training
Despite popular opinion, our children come with a manual, the Word of God. The Bible provides very clear answers to our questions about discipline. Here are some very important scriptures and helpful suggestions for raising obedient children. Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not deviate from it.
1. Authority – God has given us authority over our children. When parents fail to establish their authority in the lives of their children, the consequences can be severe. A young child will only be encouraged to rebel, as they grow up, if there is no clear authority figure in their life. In 1 Samuel 2:22-25; 3:12-13 we see that Eli’s sons abused their authority and acted wickedly. Eli finally reprimanded his sons, but they didn’t listen. Eli had tolerated sin in his children and ignored it. Maybe like some of us, he didn’t want confrontation! He knew what his sons were doing, but didn’t do much about it. The consequences for Eli’s house were the rejection of his house by God and the death of Eli’s sons. 1 Samuel 3:13 For I told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows; because his sons have made themselves base, and he has not restrained them.
2. Start early – Bad habits that have been formed are very hard to break. Training varies from child to child, but most children are very well aware of what no means by the age of one. Teaching babies to obey the word no should be the first step, followed by further age-appropriate training. Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was formed in iniquity; and my mother conceived me in sin.
3. Set your boundaries – Clearly communicate expectations and consequences to your child before discipline is imposed.
4. Choose your battles wisely – It’s important not to sweat the small stuff. Sometimes we can overreact to small situations out of frustration. Say yes as much as possible and no if necessary. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is inspired of God, and helpful to teach, to convict, to correct, to instruct in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, fully provided for all good works.
5. Do not get angry – When we show anger towards our children, we can cause them to become bitter and resentful. Children will not benefit from harsh words and will take it personally. It can damage their tender little minds. We do not want our children’s hearts to harden, but to be porous to accept a correction generously seasoned with love. Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not irritate your children, but bring them up in the food and warning of the Lord.
6. Don’t Make Empty Threats – When we make threats and don’t follow through, our children will quickly realize that there are no real consequences to their actions. Your authority and your word will also become useless. James 5:12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, neither by heaven, nor by earth, nor by any other oath. But let your yes be yes; and your no, no; lest you fall into condemnation.
7. Don’t Raise Your Voice – Be stern without raising your voice. Turning up the decibels will only teach your kids that they don’t have to respond until they hear mom or dad’s loud voice. Matthew 18:10 Take heed that you despise none of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father which is in heaven.
8. Correct immediately and consistently, but never angrily. When I wait to discipline my child until later, he will rarely get the correction he deserves. Time seems to dull the offense and the wait can make a busy parent forget, which is exactly what your child can hope for. If you are in public, walk to the bathroom or car. Disciplining your child in public is embarrassing for your child and should only be done in a private setting. Proverbs 29:15 The rod of correction gives wisdom, but a child left to himself dishonors his mother.
9. No pain no gain – Let the punishment fit the crime. I have seen a parent attempt to discipline a four-year-old child for over an hour, lightly patting the child’s bottom fifteen or more times. There was little or no contact made. For the whole hour, the child’s behavior got so out of control that I had to leave. Whether you choose to spank or some other type of discipline, if it’s not uncomfortable, it won’t work. Discipline is not meant to feel good, however, spanking should only be given when necessary and never in anger. Proverbs 22:15, Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will lead it away from him.
10. Don’t Give Warnings – Decide what behavior is acceptable in your home and stick with it. After the offense is committed, proceed directly and calmly to training. When you are consistent, your child will quickly learn what is expected of him. Proverbs 6:23 For command is a lamp; and the law is light; and the reproaches of education are the way of life.
11. Don’t Reward Partial Obedience – If you tell your child they need their room back and you find they’ve only done half the job and then they get no discipline or worse yet, a reward he will soon learn that his laziness and partial obedience is acceptable. 1 John 3:18 My little children, let us love neither words nor tongues; but in deed and in truth.
12. Avoid giving a small child choices – Giving a young child choices in making decisions, such as what to eat or wear, simply gives the child an opportunity to show authority.
13. Provide your child with love – Before disciplining, talk with your child about what happened and why he needs to be disciplined. After discipline, discuss the reasons for discipline and what God expects of His children. Children should learn that as parents we must answer to God for how we raise them and that we are under God’s authority just as they are under ours. After correction, show your child that you love him and are forgiven by hugging and kissing him. Proverbs 3:12 He whom the LORD loves he corrects; even as father the son in whom he takes pleasure. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 For such a man suffices this punishment, which has been inflicted by many. So that, on the contrary, you should rather forgive and console him, lest perhaps so-and-so be swallowed up by too much grief. That is why I beg you to confirm your love for him.
14. Encourage and praise – When your children are helpful and obedient, shower them with praise. As adults, we like to know when we are helpful and doing a good job. So do our children. Congratulations and encouragement are a fabulous source of motivation. Galatians 5:22, 23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, meekness, kindness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no there is no law.
15. Spend time, be interested – Children need to know that we are interested in the things they like and their opinions. By sending a very clear signal to our children that we enjoy their company and want to spend time with them, we will most certainly form strong family bonds. Children seek outside attention only when they do not feel understood or valued at home. Psa 127:3 Behold, children are the inheritance of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
16. Focus on Matters of the Heart, Not Behavior – It’s important to know if your child is acting out of willful disobedience or childish immaturity. Some actions are clearly done because they don’t know any better and the behavior would correct itself with a firm voice and loving command. Proverbs 20:11 Even a child knows himself by his actions, if his work is pure and if it is right.
17. Have age-appropriate expectations – My grandmother used to say, “You can’t put a big head on small shoulders.” Children at a young age may clearly not be intellectually ready for certain tasks. For example, I realize that my nineteen-month-old is by no means prepared to sit still during church service. Before asking your child to obey, make sure he can understand and follow what is being asked of him. Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, Leave the little children alone, and do not forbid them to come to me, for the kingdom of heaven is for such.
18. Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong – Above all, remember to say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness when you hurt your child with words or actions. We are all short and our children must understand that we are quite capable of sinning. When they understand this, they’ll be much less likely to think we’re hypocrites, and they’ll certainly respect you for humiliating yourself and asking for forgiveness. There is no better way to teach them than by being an example. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;
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