Did you ever do that thing when you were younger where you said, “I will never raise kids that are going to act like that?” I did. Oh, what I would tell myself if I could time travel backwards a decade.
Six kids later, I have realized what a complicated and beautiful mess parenting can be. When I made that statement in my early twenties, I didn’t quite understand just how different each child’s personality could be, what special needs would look like on my kids, and just how exasperated I could become following months of sleep deprivation and even post-partum depression. My desire was for a peaceful home, but my own pride, fears, and even health kept getting in the way.
Parenthood is one continuous sequence of sanctification. God is teaching us as parents to trust and obey Him, as we the parents teach our children to trust and obey us. All the while, lovingly and continuously saturating both them and ourselves in the Gospel message.
How do we respond when our children don’t obey us? Whether your child is 3 or 13, this is an important question. The solution always begins with the heart, the heart of the child and the heart of the parent.
Attitudes of the Heart
Tedd Tripp said in his book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, “All behavior is linked to attitudes of the heart. Therefore, discipline must address attitudes of the heart.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard one of my kids talk back harshly to one of their siblings. It crushes my soul because I realize that I spoke like that to one of them in the most unnecessary of ways the previous day. My daughter got into trouble this last week for playing on a digital device when she wasn’t supposed to be, but her distraction only highlighted my own example in this area of being on my phone when the time is inappropriate. I consistently see my own sin reflected and repeated in my children’s behaviors and that can be terrifying, humbling, and yet, oddly encouraging all at the same time.
I am sinful just like my children are sinful before a Holy God. When I make mistakes there is often discipline wrapped in mercy as God shapes me into the likeness of His Son. Our lives before God, our parenting, is just one big example of the Gospel working itself out in our hearts, our lives, and our families daily.
I would love to share with you the perfect method of discipline, but I can’t. There is no perfect method of discipline because sin is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal.
Disobedience comes from not understanding, not liking, or not trusting, all of which, come from a lack of faith. The only cure for a lack of faith is the Gospel.
We train our children in obedience because God calls for obedience. We discipline our children in love because God disciplines us in love. We extend mercy because God extends us mercy.
As a parent, you have authority because God calls you to be an authority in your child’s life. You have the authority to act on behalf of God. As a father or mother, you do not exercise rule over your jurisdiction, but over God’s. You act at his command. You discharge a duty that he has given. You may not try to shape the lives of your children as pleases you, but as pleases him. All you do in your task as parents must be done from this point of view. You must undertake all your instruction, your care and nurture, your correction and discipline, because God has called you to. … If you are God’s agent in this task of providing essential training and instruction of the Lord, then you, too, are a person under authority. You and your child are in the same boat. You are both under God’s authority. You have different roles, but the same Master. (Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart)
Parenting is such a massive and impossible responsibility without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is so important that we surrender ourselves before God’s Word daily and pray that God would give us wisdom and opportunity to live out His Word before our children.
We must share our journey of sanctification with our children. When we speak harshly to our children unnecessarily, we apologize and ask for their forgiveness. When they sin, we sit and read God’s Word with them, pray with them, and exhort them in Christ. For little children, we are clear with rules and consequences so that they understand what is required of them.
We must always deal discipline with love and consistency because this builds trust with our children. We must admit that we don’t always know what that even looks like. We must be open with ourselves about our need for wisdom, encouragement and for forgiveness.
Maybe you are frustrated, like I have been, saying, “I know all of these things, but that knowledge doesn’t help me fix our home!”
Here are a few things that we all need to be doing if we desire a peaceful home environment:
- As parents, we must intentionally act out what we want from our children in front of them.
- We must consistently communicate to our children our expectations from them, in their heart, their word, and their actions.
- As we communicate our expectations, consequences must also be clearly communicated and swiftly implemented when the line is crossed.
- Mercy should be considered when appropriate, because we desire to love our children as God loves us.
This lesson I am still learning about loving as Christ loves! He disciplines to mold and shape us, but also gives grace freely and abundantly. We must pray for wisdom in where and how to show mercy to our children when they have done wrong in a way that will draw them to Christ. It is so important to remember that they are not doing US wrong. Our kids are sinners just like we are before a Holy God. We have been entrusted with them to lead them to Christ. If we keep this truth at the forefront of our hearts and minds it will help shift our perspective to the eternal.
A peaceful home and obedient children are crafted by the Lord, not by our own hands. Parenting isn’t something we can do on our own; we need the wisdom of God’s Word, we need the power of God’s Spirit, and we need the example, encouragement, and even gentle rebuke of God’s people. We must commit to being in the Word and in fellowship with other believers who have gone before us so that we can learn and grow in grace in the same way we pray our children will learn and grow in grace under the Gospel.
Lesson on Obedience
Click below to download the first installment of Peaceful Home: Obedience. Because Biblical character is at the center of every peaceful home, we pray that this guide will be a blessing to you and your children as you work through it together.
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