Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
When Joy was growing up, she just about had 5 parents. Since her next oldest sibling was 6 years older than her, everyone thought they knew what she needed. I used to laugh inside when my older kids were 15 and above and they would say, "Joy, you need to clean up your messes, put your dish in the dishwasher, tell your friends to clean up their toys after they play, etc."
There were so many instances in my life when I would correct my older kids and I didn't think they were paying attention, but somewhere as they moved from youth to adulthood, I could see that they had internalized our training and lived by our family ways.
As Clay told me, from his study of the Hebrew, in this verse, "when he is old," refers to when he grows a beard. In other words, when a child moves to adulthood, he will adopt the ways he has learned to walk.
Even in brain development, I discovered through reading a number of articles, that the brain has pathways in it, much like roads. The more a brain thinks or receives a certain message, the deeper the rut in the brain. So, when we verbalize our values and repeat scripture and train up our children along certain paths, these paths grow deeper in their brains and inform them how to live life. I love it when God's word moves in sync with science.
This is why child discipline is more about training and discipleship than it is about spanking or using the rod.
But it is so important for us to understand that each of us comes to parenting with a grid or filter. Your filter or grid will determine how you respond to every situation with your children.
If your grid is animosity based, in other words, seeing yourself as the police who must correct and punish every single act and be on guard not to miss anything, then you will face your child in a behavioral way--according to the rules they break, but not according to the spirit of the law. This brings about legalism, and harshness and guilt, because one thinks they must play this role or they will lose their children.
We based our grid on the understanding that God wanted us to love our children and relate to them with affirmation, acceptance, life-giving words and instruction, to receive them as a gift, much as Jesus did with His disciples. We also knew that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," and that this sin-nature made each of our children self-centered and selfish. And as we observed scripture and the way God worked in our lives, we could see that His goal for discipline and training for us, was to shape our hearts to become conformed to the image of Christ. "He disciplines us that we may share in His holiness."
So, our hearts were to move our children away from their naturally selfish, sinful hearts, to train them and give them a heart for learning what it meant to love God and to obey His ways and to learn to conform their values and behavior in the ways of righteousness and by learning to love and become like Jesus.
"The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day."Provers 4:18
We understood that child training was a slow, steady process. We instructed our children constantly along the path of truth and God's ways, and when they got off the path, we corrected them and led them back on--a relational, loving, intentional path of life. This kind of child training is intentional, full-time, all-in.
Even as Jesus trained, lived with, instructed, modeled righteousness to His disciples, so we attempted to do with our own children--slow, purposeful, attentive, steady--helping our children in the very atmosphere of our home to breathe the very life, truth and values of Jesus.
When my children were very young, Clay and I discussed what were the "ways" in which we wanted our children to go, as the verse said. When we had purposed to follow the Biblical ways, that we wanted our children to go, we had a grid for looking at every moment in their lives as a time to teach them the right "ways", correct them when they violated our "ways", model to them our "ways."
For instance, in our 24 Family Ways, one of the areas is in reference to relationships, way number 5 is "We treat one another, treating others with kindness, gentleness and respect." The memory verse for this particular way is, "Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
And so when my children violated this way, speaking unkindly or being rough, we always said, "What is our way about relationships, what is our memory verse?" Then we had a foundation in their hearts and brains about how to build relationships. Repeated hundreds if not thousands of times in their lifetime, they became gracious adults--it was the way in which the Clarksons directed our path in our home.
Or, for instance, about work, "We are diligent to complete a task promptly and thoroughly when asked."
Or, "We choose to be joyful, even when we feel like complaining."
These ways, the memory verses, the devotionals, were repeated many times at different times during their lives and so it became a very part of their soul and values. They became familiar with God's Biblical ways and verses, so that when they were old enough to respond to the Lord, they had a vocabulary that He could use in their hearts to remind them of the "way in which to go." It was a part of their soul make-up, their brain's pathways of truth.
What I learned as I had more children was that my younger ones could repeat the ways and verses at very young ages (even 2 years old) because we studied the ways with them on our lap, studied the verses that went with each way, said the scriptures outloud, and so it was going into their hearts.
If as a small child, one of mine started screaming or having a fit, I would immediately pick them up and say, "No, you may not get attention for screaming and I would isolate them or put them into their crib and say very firmly, when you can talk to Mommy in a normal voice, I will listen to you." I would sit quietly and wait until they quit crying or whining and then I would pick them up. And then I would repeat what we had decided, "Mommy knows you are tired of upset, but Jesus says, that we can choose to be joyful even when we feel like complaining, so when you can control your spirit, then mommy will listen to you and we will talk. But you have to make the choice to control your spirit. And at very early ages our children learned to control their tempers. We would always come back to our ways.
I think that I see that for me, discipline has not been joyful in my own life. God has had to show me my selfishness, sin, bad attitudes and I have had to repent. And so discipline is hard work and always means confronting the selfish sinful nature and turning it away to obedience to Christ's ways. I think that often people think that if you are grace-based, it means never disciplining. But all child discipline requires lots of time and attention and going against the will of your children. But if your focus is on their heart and their attitudes and on giving them time and appropriate expectations to slowly mature, their hearts will be deeply engaged and will learn to respond.
Years ago, when our children were small, Clay developed a devotional guide for our family. It is revised and available once again. This is from the preface to Our 24 Family Ways:
If you are like most of the Christian parents we know, you want to teach your children the Bible, instill biblical values deep in their hearts, train them in Christian character and godly living, and strengthen their relationship with the Lord. That's what we wanted for our children, which gave birth to Our 24 Family Ways.
The 24 Ways are divided into six areas: authorities, relationships, possessions, work, attitudes, and choices. Within each area, there are four "Ways" - statements that reflect biblical principles. Clay used the ARTS outline to teach each Way:
A - Ask a question
R - Read the Bible
T - Talk about it
S - Speak to God
These four activities help parents and children to learn and understand what the Bible says. Even young children can engage in the Bible verses and stories. (When teaching little ones, make sure there are questions where the answer is "Jesus!" so they get some right!) By instilling biblical values in your children, you are helping them to grow up loving the Lord and His ways. They will do the right thing based on God's Word, not just because someone they admire does it that way.
The 24 ways gave us an intentional, objective way to go to over and over again for scripture, wisdom, principles to give our children a picture of "the way they should go." What a Christian parent needs is a Bible and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Some families pray about areas their children are struggling with and design their own devotionals around Scriptures related to those sins. Showing your children that God's Word is the first place to turn when we have difficulties is one of the most important lessons you can teach. Pray with your children, showing them how to ask for God's help in being a godly child. Share with them how you struggle with that sin or something similar. Stories of how you behaved as a child are especially powerful since sometimes our children can't believe we were once small!
Pray daily for wisdom to see what you're to see in your child's character, wisdom in knowing how to correct what must be corrected now, and patience to wait on correcting other areas. Training your children is intentional and takes time!
Some Biblical Wisdom
Luke 2:52 says, "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." In what four ways did Jesus grow? Spend some time in prayer for each of your children that they would grow in these ways.
The classic verses for why we should memorize Scripture are Psalm 119:9,11. "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You." How can memorizing Scripture help your children? Is there a verse that would help your child with a character issue they struggle with? I Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) has several great verses dealing with patience, kindness, and self-control.
"The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands." Proverbs 14:1. How does spending time in God's Word with your children build your house? What are some other ways you can build? Are there things you have done that tore down your house? Spend a few minutes in prayer, asking God for forgiveness and wisdom in how to rebuild those places.
The fruit of the Spirit is an excellent list of the character qualities we want our children (and ourselves) to have. Read Galatians 5:22,23 with your children. Pick one of these qualities to work on as a family this week. Compliment your children when you see them exhibit this quality.
Pray for opportunities this week to teach your children using God's Word. May the Lord bless you as you continue to build your house!
Giveaway Winner Announced!
Thank you for all the great ideas on how you're building relationships with your children! The winner of the Our 24 Family Ways drawing is Angela from Pennsylvania! Congratulations, Angela!