Tips for Bringing Your Children Up in God's Word: Part 2, Discipline

The Apostle Paul had a hard life. He was beaten up lots, his own people hated him and wanted him dead, he even survived a shipwreck at sea and a bite from a deadly snake! And he knew that his life was going to end being executed for his faith. If there was anyone who had reason to question God’s plan for him, to question why God would put him through such a painful life, it was Paul. And Paul was a human, so we can be sure there were times he cried out in confusion, “God, why are you doing this to me?” Yet, Paul also wrote this:
 
Romans 8:28 We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
 
Paul knew that whatever things looked like in life, God was never punishing him or doing something that was going to permanently hurt Paul. He knew everything he experienced in life his God was going to work out for his eternal good: every beating, every bad word against him, every shipwreck, every snake bite, even death. Why could Paul be so certain that God was working all this out for his good? Because Paul had been called into God’s family. He was called into God’s family because Jesus died for all his sins, and then the Holy Spirit through the Word of God created faith in Paul’s heart and adopted him into God’s family. So Paul was certain everything will be alright.
 
God also calls us, as parents, to work for the good of our children. He has given us his authority to bring up our children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). Words like discipline and authority, often have skewed meanings in our culture.  Yet, they are fundamental to parenting. How we view our God-given authority directly effects how we parent. And if we parents are not the ones with authority in our homes, then there’s no way we’ll be able to carry out our vision of bringing up our children in the Word.
 
When we minimize the authority God has given us as parents, we start down the road to what psychologists call “permissive” parenting. So focused on our child’s feelings and emotional well-being, we can lose sight of how to set appropriate limits and consequences for behaviors. Conversely, when we over-emphasize this authority, we can become “authoritarian” in our approach. Using fear tactics, we demand obedience and miss out on truly knowing or guiding our children. The one extreme, permissive parenting, leads our kids to be egotistical, over-indulged, and have overwhelming anxiety, and it leads parents to resent their kids because they’re at the mercy of their kids day and night. The other extreme, authoritarian parenting, can make kids unmotivated, secretive, and destructive both to themselves and others. And of course, these extremes are not exclusive: I can have days when I swing between both extremes.
 
But it is important to remember that both of these extremes are misrepresentations of the authority God has given you as a parent. God calls us to be agents of both law and gospel to our children. The practical application of law and gospel parenting looks different depending upon what stage your child is at, but the fundamentals never change.  On the law side, we are to hold our children accountable for their actions, setting clear boundaries and expectations, lovingly correcting and enforcing consequences as necessary. On the gospel side, we are to show them mercy, modeling forgiveness in our home, sacrificing our time and treasures to guide and instruct them in the Christian virtues that flow from the gospel: patience, kindness, humility, courage and self-control. 
 
That’s a tall order. And to be clear, we are never going to do this perfectly. The same law and gospel we show to our children, we also need to apply to ourselves. Daily we fall on the grace of God when it comes to our failed efforts to model perfect authority to our children. But that doesn’t stop us from trying. Positive parenting, like any other skill, is learned. It may require us to be honest about our shortcomings and to confront some of the not-so-nice habits we’ve acquired from either modeling or reacting against how we were raised. But with time and practice, good parenting discipline can be learned. 
 
So today’s encouragement is simple: Know your parenting style. Below are links to descriptions of the different styles we have talked about today. Read through them and be honest about how you respond to your child on any given day. If you still aren’t sure about your parenting style, you can take a survey through Psychology Today or read through Chapter 3 of Dr. Beth Grosshans book Beyond Time-Out, which goes through each style with examples and scenarios in great detail. And then, start replacing negative habits with positive parenting approaches. Below you will find a link to “Tips for Healthy Parent-Child Relationships” through the SNAP program—an Ontario-based early intervention program that coaches parents and children in problem-solving and self-control, and offers very concrete ways to hold children accountable while guiding and loving them. And as you feel yourself gaining back some authority, you’ll feel a lot better equipped to carry out your vision of bringing up our children in the Word.
 
And remember, just like Paul and his hardships, you can be sure that whatever things look like in your life, God is never punishing you or doing something that will eternally hurt you. You know everything you experience in life God is working through for your eternal good: Every hardship at work, every hardship at home, you can be certain God is working all of it out for your good. Why? Because you have been called into God’s family. He called you because Jesus died for your sins, and then the Holy Spirit through the Word of God created faith in your heart and adopted you into his family. So you can be certain everything will be alright.
Written by Pastor Luke Thompson and Christine Thompson

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