I came across a parenting blog on child-training the other day, and reading it literally made me sick to my stomach. Sadly, I believe the author to be a very purposeful Christian mama who is striving to raise her children to love God. Her methods, however well-intended, were painful to read. She has deemed herself as her very young children’s “ruler”, and spends her days setting up conflicts with them so she has opportunity to “discipline” them. Unrealistic age expectations, unrelenting control (the words “battles that last for hours” flow through the blog), and very un-nurturing parenting practices, coupled with parenting-to-impress strategies and abusive discipline…well, like I said, I came away almost weeping for those little children.
Re-read these famous “kid” verses in Ephesians 6: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Have you ever noticed that it doesn’t say, “Parents, make your children obey, that they may have a long life. And ye children, provoke not your parents to wrath, but respect and love them out of a heart for God.”
Nope. That’s not what it says. The command is for the parents to nurture and admonish their children and for the children to learn to obey their parents.
Now, you’re probably saying that it’s the parents responsibility to teach the children obedience (we teach them everything while they’re young, after all) and you’d be right. But I have always felt that the focus on these verses remains on the CHILDREN while most parents walk away ignoring the fact that they are frequently provoking their children to wrath.
Sure, we can come down harsh, beating tiny babies, being cruel in our discipline, neglecting to nurture in the name of “training”, but we absolutely cannot force obedience from the inside out. We are simply training the outside to conform to our authority. The heart of the child is his own, and absolutely no measure of harsh discipline is guaranteed to change the heart.
Too many parents set themselves up from the moment of their child’s birth to be at odds with them. To be at war, if you will. They call it a battle of wills that must be won—but at what cost? And who started this war anyway?
Today’s “C” is COOPERATION, because I want to paint a picture of you and your child on the very same team. It’s not a you vs. them–It’s you AND them, learning together.
Be the coach on your child’s team. You can teach, you can guide, you can disciple, you can mentor, you can encourage, you can discipline, you can model Christ-likeness to them. All from the same team!
Have you ever watched a game in which the coach spent the whole game tearing down his own players? The entire audience begins to wince a little as the coach loses his temper over and over at his players. They never measure up in his eyes. Everyone knows what will happen in the locker room after such a game–a verbal beating, for sure. The coach may get his team to play better the next game, but at what cost? The players may play harder out of fear, but in their hearts, they have been provoked to wrath and hate their coach. Everyone can see that only perfection will please such a person.
We must guard against this kind of parenting. Yes, going to war with our children may produce results–they may even make us look good by their behavior–but we will not reach their hearts. We will not walk away from such encounters more connected, because we are not on the same team. Going to war provokes wrath in our children–they either submit out of fear or they become “strong-willed” rebels who hate us.
Have you ever observed a coach who was his players’ biggest fan? Sure, he gave them instructions, he taught and mentored them, he coached them, but all of it was done from a position of camaraderie, of mutual respect. His shouts from the sideline were full of encouragement and inspiration. When this coach takes his team to the locker room after a loss, it isn’t to tear them down even further, but to instruct them for future successes! Everyone can see the evident love this kind of coach has for his team. His players improve because they thrive under his guidance, acceptance, and instruction.
Yes, we need authority, correction, guidance, consistency, and even consequences in our home. These things can be accomplished two ways, by launching a war on our children’s behavior, or by becoming their greatest coach. The first way may change the outward behavior, but the second reaches the heart.
Today’s Challenge: How are you gaining cooperation in your home? Are you a general or a coach? Have you been battling it out instead of encouraging growth? Determine to become your child’s greatest coach, starting with today.