Learn three methods that bring good results in helping children grow from foolish to wise behavior.
[Gary Petty] Parenting is about modeling and mentoring, self-discipline and the love of God. You model the self-discipline in real life and you mentor the self-discipline.
Imagine a little league baseball game and a batter swings and misses a pitch that was obviously outside. The umpire calls a strike. The batter turns to the umpire and says, "But I didn't mean to swing." So the ump says, "Well, okay. I know it's the rule but since you didn't mean to swing, I'll change the call. It's a ball." And the catcher says, "But that's not fair." And the ump says to the catcher, "You know, just play ball."
So the batter doesn't swing at the next pitch and it's called a ball and the catcher yells at the ump, "But the pitch was obviously a strike." The umpire yells back at the catcher “they better just stop complaining and shut up and play.” Well, the batter strikes out. And in frustration he throws his bat and almost hits the catcher. The umpire now really getting upset shouts at the batter, "Why did you do that?" The batter says, "I don't know." The ump says, "What's going on in your head? You could've hurt the catcher. Don't let me catch you doing that again." And the catcher looks at the batter and says na-na-na-na-na. The umpire looks at the catcher and says, "Stop making fun of the batter." The catcher yells back, "It's just not fair."
As a parent, have you ever had a similar interaction with your children? All of us have. Doesn't work, does it? How can you get control of this kind of chaos in your family? And for Christians the problem of teaching and raising children is compounded by the reality that the value system that you're trying to teach them can be dramatically different than the value systems of other families. And this leaves your children confused.
Well, today we're going to look at some basic practical ways that you can raise happy children from a Christian viewpoint. How many times have you heard a parent just in frustration exclaim, "I just don't know what's going through his head." We've all said that. Trying to explain the child's foolish behavior. I mean maybe you said it yourself. But actually we shouldn't be surprised at children's foolishness. Solomon wrote, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. The rod of correction will drive it far from him." You see foolishness, and this is the first of two important point sin this verse, foolishness is bound up in a child. They're actually, their thoughts and emotions are trapped by foolishness. They're in the chains of foolishness. I mean it's part of their very nature. Not all childish behavior is morally wrong. But let's face it. Behavior you find cute at age 2 is disastrous at age 16. Okay.
Now the second point is that parents must discipline children for foolishness and that means you must teach them wisdom. Here's where parents sometimes misunderstand this. Discipline, we're going to talk about this even more in a little bit, discipline involves more than punishment. It involves teaching and giving rewards. Because if you just discipline a child without giving him or her proper love and teaching, you know what you're going to produce? An angry child. For children to be happy they must learn to mature and grow. It's part of our makeup. You know children want to learn, they want to grow. And that's what we're going to talk about today. The principles we're covering today are basically for dealing with children between the ages of 2 to about 12 depending on their maturity. So, let's begin by looking at three principles to help children grow from foolish behavior to wise behavior, and wise behavior will produce by the way good consequences. Okay?
The first point we're going to look at. Some childish behaviors are due to a lack of experience or ability to reason and we have to understand that. I mean the younger a child, they don't know that their behavior is inappropriate or they don't know that it's even dangerous. They just don't know. That means you have to teach them. And that means in these cases where they don't know, the discipline must first involve instruction.
A few years ago I took my four grandchildren, they're all a little older now, but I took them to a construction site just down the street from where we live. They were building a house and we walked down there and it was a Sunday morning and there was nobody working there and we just looked at what they were doing and you know, the foundation they had laid and pretty soon the three older ones were running around picking wildflowers because they wanted to take them home to mama you know. Let's get some wildflowers. And then it was like, "Oh, look at the shiny rock." And so now, you know, they're all picking up little rocks and pretty soon each of them had a handful of you know all different colored rocks and a handful of flowers. So I said, "Well, let's head home." And you know the two year old was running around. I wasn't paying a lot of attention with him. And we're walking along and I look down and he has his hand clenched too and I, oh you got something for mommy too didn't you? And he smiles and shakes his head, and I said, "Well what have you got?" And he opened his hand and there was a cigarette butt and some dog poop, okay?
Now my first reaction was to yell at him but he's two. And I said, "That is not clean. That's dirty stuff. It's bad for you." You know, and I said, "No, no. Just wipe it off." So I wiped off his hands, you know, and wiped and then I said, "Now, don't touch your face or anything and we got to go home and wash your hands." Now he's all worried. So I found some rocks for him and some flowers so that he could bring something to mommy too. And we got home and we went up and you know the first thing we did is we went into the bathroom and I'm washing his hands. I didn't want to tell mommy. And we're washing his hands. And I'm explaining. You know, "There are certain things...like you shouldn't pick up things that come out of, you know, dogs and you can't pick up cigarette butts." He didn't know what it was. He just knew it was different. Mom would like it. And you know we washed his hands and we talked and he wasn't traumatized by the whole thing. But I had to instruct him and it did me no good to be angry with him. He did not know. And so I have to admit he's six now. I've never seen him pick up those items again. He had learned some wisdom.
Now there are times when small children participate in silly behavior pretending, foolishness. That's just part of their limited brain development. That's all the farther their brain development is at that point. We have to understand that. And that means it's important not to try to make your children just little adults. We must teach and encourage them to grow in the wisdom of the level of their development at that time.
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One of the ways to make sure your child is unhappy is let them stay foolish and selfish. You know the most unhappy adults you will ever meet are adults who are foolish and selfish. And that brings us to the second of our three principles for raising happy children is some childish behaviors are serious enough to involve discipline. Now okay. Now we use the word discipline again. Let me break that down a little more. Discipline means, now this is the meaning of the English word, okay? Training the developed self-control character or efficiency. Let me read that again. It means training that developed, so there's training involved, that developed self-control character or efficiency. You see the reason for teaching your child, for disciplining your child is to teach them self-discipline. You want your child to learn to discipline themselves. And that's why by the way as children get older, you have to give them rewards and privileges when they exhibit self-control and restraint. Remember one of the goals of parenting is to prepare children to become adults.
I remember someone asking my dad this question many years ago and at the time I thought, "Oh, this is going to be an interesting answer." I was an adult but I wanted to see what he would say. The person asked him, "What do you think the secret is to raising children?" He gave him one sentence. He says, "It's spending 20 years of your life to prepare them to leave you." And you know I realized, "Wow, that's remarkable." It's spending 20 years of your life to prepare them to leave you. You don't want them to stay children. Now parents have responsibility to protect their children from the evil and harm of the world but ultimately our children become adults. They have to face the world on their own two feet and we have to prepare them for that.
You see every time you discipline a child for making them wait their turn or to apologize for saying you know something mean to somebody, another child, or you stop them from interrupting adults when they're talking or you make them clean their room, you are making them face the frustration of controlling their own emotions and selfishness. And that really pays off in adulthood. Every time we don't teach them these things we're helping them to stay foolish because they're bound by it, remember. They're chained by it. And so we have to teach them.
Does that mean children really like being disciplined? Of course they don't. Not in the, you know, short sense of the word. But in the long run it means the difference in their lives. You know how many times have I heard someone say, "Well, my 25 year old, my 35 year old became a..." Talking about a child that became an adult, finally came to me and said, "Wow, thanks. I didn't thank you when I was 15, I didn't thank you when I was 8 but I thank you now because you made a difference in my life." You see children come into this world with absolute need for guidance, nurturing and discipline from their parents. And you know what? Christians need to stop feeling guilty for enforcing what you know is right.
It's time to stop being intimidated by a four year old. Now remember. Discipline must be age appropriate and measured to the severity of the wrongdoing. And parents this is really, really important. You must be careful not to discipline a child only when you're upset and the children see you being upset because what they do is they begin to reason the reason for doing good is not to upset the parents. In other words the object here is to keep them from getting upset. Not make wise decisions or not make moral judgments but "I just want to keep them from being upset." And so what happens is they manipulate the situation not to make you upset with no concept that there's right and wrong here or good and bad.
And of course this means the children must receive instructions on why their behavior is foolish. You know carrying around a cigarette butt wasn't good for the two year old but it had to be explained at his level. And children must always receive reinforcement that discipline is for their benefit and that you still love them. It's for their benefit that you're doing this. Now the third principle for raising happy children is one that's being increasingly ignored in our society.
Teaching children of wisdom is a biblical parental responsibility. That's number three. Teaching children is a, principles of wisdom is a biblical parental responsibility. God chose the ancient Israelites to be His special people and He gave them important instructions on how to teach their children. And these instructions apply just as much to Christians today. Let's look at the basic core instructions that God gave the ancient Israelites on teaching children. This is Deuteronomy 6, He says, "Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength." The first instructions here is...okay you parents must love God with everything you have and everything you are. Now this is a lead in to telling them about raising children. He then says, "And these words, which I command you today shall be in your heart." In other words, to raise children in a Christian way, Christianity has to be in you first. It has to be in us first.
How do we teach that to them if it's not coming from our heart? "And you shall teach them diligently to your children, you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up." This is very interesting. Because what this means is God's instruction for parents is not just a set of here's the rules that you have to do and rights and wrongs and here is all the ways you discipline. He starts with explaining to them that what I want you to teach them must be in you first and then teaching them is a lifestyle priority. It's how you spend time rising up, putting them to bed, eating with them, talking with them, walking with them, playing with them. And you know what parents? This is real important in today's world. If you think that all your children need to know about the Christian life will be taught to them in daycare or school or church you are sidestepping your Christian responsibility. It is our responsibility as parents to teach them God's way.
Remember God gave these instructions in the context of how to love Him. You see parents when we don't teach our children God's way we're not showing love towards God. And you know what? You're also not loving your children. Many times parents are afraid, "Well, they won't like me if I teach them this way." But you're not loving them if you don't teach them this way. You're not loving them. When I say this way, I'm talking about the way of this book. Okay? We're not loving them. We're trying to get them to love us. We're trying to get them to love us. The purpose of parenting is to love your children.
You know to really fulfill these instructions, what we just read, you have to think about first of all, as a parent, you have to be knowledgeable in practicing God's way yourself and you have to be spending time with your children both teaching and being a good example. You see the number one way that children learn is through modeling. We model it. That's why it comes from your heart right? These things must be in your heart and then teach them to your children. We model the behavior. It does no good to say, "Do not lie." And then they see you lie. They just learn hypocrisy. And then we mentor. Mentor means you're spending time explaining, talking, living with them. Unfortunately, many times a parent's approach towards their children is based on how our parents treated us. And sometimes our approach to raising children is based on our concept of God. I mean if you see God as a mean, stern, disciplinarian who's always punishing, always negative, keeping us from what we want, we're going to approach our children as stern disciplinarians whose job is to constantly correct with a little encouragement or love.
Now maybe you're the type of person that sees God as sort of the indulgent grandfather who loves us and who really doesn't hold us accountable for any of our actions because He just loves us. Then you know what? That's probably how you're going to teach your children. That's going to be disastrous. In fact both of these extremes is going to produce disastrous results. To fulfill God's instructions as parents, parents must first love God with all our heart and all of our soul, and all of our strength. And parents must have a meaningful biblical understanding of God. How can we teach something we don't know? We can't.
Now "Marriage and Family, The Missing Dimension" is one of the actually, it's one of the largest study guides we have that we produce on Beyond Today. And it's absolutely free of charge. There are sections on Christian marriage and practical instructions on how to raise children by creating a Christian environment in your home. Simply call the toll-free number that's on your screen. Just call that number right now and you can get a copy sent to you or you can go to beyondtoday.tv where you can download it, you can read it online or you can order a copy. And by the way this is a great gift for grandparents to give to your children.
Now let's talk a little bit about some practical things, steps you can take in actually disciplining your children. The first one is you need to establish ground rules. Parents should decide together what guidelines they will enforce in the family. I mean certain behaviors are expected while others are not. A child is expected to go to bed on time or they never will learn how to do it. And lying, hitting your sibling, stealing, those are not acceptable behaviors. Appropriate punishments for infractions should be decided upon as well as privileges earned where the child obeys the rules. And be careful because this happens in a Christian family sometime, life can be just nothing but negatives. A spiritually and emotionally healthy family includes encouragement, shared fun activities with the adults and the children working together and a lot of love.
But as parents you must enforce the rules and expect children to test you. When we had little ones at home we had a problem with our two daughters sometimes, and that is my wife would prepare these nutritional dinners. I mean she would really work at it. And they would sit down and say, "I don't want to eat that. I don't..." Our son didn't have that problem. He just sort of ate whatever we put in front of him. But the girls you know they were, they're, "No, no." They were more picky. And my wife had a rule and I enforced it. It was you have to eat everything on your plate or you can't have anything to eat the rest of the night. I mean, you can “no, I want some crackers. No. well, I just want to have my ice-cream or desert. No. you eat this and what you don't eat, we'll keep and then you can have the junk food or whatever but you have to eat this." She had the portions all measured out and she knew exactly what they would eat. In fact, our one daughter, we thought, "Wow, she really loves corn." Until she sneezed and we found out she was stuffing it up her nose so she wouldn't have to eat it but that's another story. We won't go there.
So there were times when we were tested on this and we said, "Okay. You're excused." They'd leave the table. And what would happen is you know it'd be about 10 o'clock at night. My wife would be in bed and I'd be reading or something and this little girl would come out and she'd be rubbing her eyes and she'd say, "Daddy, I'm hungry." And I said, "Okay. Well you know the rule." And I'd go open the refrigerator and always felt sort of bad, you know, "Okay. Take the cellophane off." We didn't have any way to warm it up, we didn't have a microwave. And I'd set her down and she would sit there and eat it and then when she was done I'd say, "You want your ice-cream now?" "Oh, yeah." And then I'd have extra ice-cream too because I'd already eaten all my food but we'd eat some ice-cream together. Then that would always end up with, "Okay. I'm going to go to bed now, daddy." But you know what? That half hour, I look back now as a remarkable experience for me because we would just sit and talk. Whichever daughter came out. It was never at the same time. And we’d come out, we'd sit down and they would eat and we would just talk. They would talk, talk, talk, talk, talk and I'd listen to them and they would eat their food.
If I had never enforced that rule I'd never have that experience. I wouldn't remember that experience. To establish rules and never enforce them except through yelling and showing anger, remember, only teaches children that rules are based on mom and dad's emotions. The second practical way we can deal with discipline is to help them get control of their time. Now I didn't say for you to get control of their time but help them get control of their time.
When our children were young, we had a sort of ritual like this, "I'm bored. Go outside and play. I am bored. Well, okay. Go read a book. I don't want to. I am bored. Okay then we're going to find some work for you to do." And at that point, they'd run off, "Oh, no. I remember I've got something to do." And off they go. Giving children alternatives to how they use their time is going to take some creativity on your part because you've got to understand each child's unique personality and talents. But some of the ways that you really need to help them get control of their time is in watching television, playing electronic games and participating in social media. I didn't say any of these things are wrong. I'm saying they have to be controlled in the quality of what they're watching and how much time they spent.
Now what can you do? Well there's all kind of things you can do. By the way all children should be doing chores around the house, unpaid chores. One of the most important things you can teach a child is to work. People who learn to work have a much better, I mean surveys have shown this, they do much better later in life. Reading. I fear sometimes we're in a society where reading is getting down to anything more than 200 words cannot be explained or understood and that's frightening. Playing outside. "Go outside and play. Go outside and play." I heard that a 100 times when I was a child. I probably said it 500 times to my children. “Go outside and play."
Hobbies. Play an instrument, collecting rocks. Whatever it is they like to do. Get them hobbies and get them involved. Now here's a word of caution. Don't fill every minute with so many activities that life becomes a sort of a running blur. At the same time boredom is one of the main reasons children get involved in wrong activities. Now I know that there are some of you that are watching this that are single parents and you struggle with, "How do I do that without, you know, a spouse to help me?" Well our free study guide, “Marriage and Family, The Missing Dimension" also contains some practical suggestions for single parents. Order your free copy of "Marriage and Family, The Missing Dimension" by calling the toll-free number on your screen or going to beyondtoday.tv where you can download a copy or order a copy to be sent directly to you through the mail. And remember this is one of the largest of any of the study guides that we've ever produced.
Is your family sort of like the little fictitious little league game that we talked about at the beginning? It's not fair. Do this. You're angry and angry until it's just everybody yelling at each other, right. That's all it becomes. If you were to teach them God's way then you must first know His ways. And if you're going to teach them to love God this can only happen if you love God. How do you teach them to do something you don't know? Parenting is about modeling and mentoring, self-discipline and the love of God. You model the self-discipline in your life and you mentor the self-discipline.
Now I say this and you think, "Oh, how can I do that?" Well, it's important to understand something. When that baby's born, they didn't come out with a, you know, a book attached to them on how to deal with everything this baby was going to face or you're going to face with them. There's no perfect parents. I mean take it from a man who's been a parent and a grandparent and made plenty of mistakes. You will struggle and you'll make your series of mistakes. That's part of what life is and they'll go on and do the same thing. Pray for your children and for wisdom. Children are a precious gift from God. We love God by teaching them God's way and we love them when we teach them self-discipline so they will learn to outgrow childish foolishness. With God's help you can raise happy children.
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