The Practice of Parenting
40% of children have no involved father. Every year, nearly 1 million kids are left with one parent because of divorce. Only 41% of kids grow up in a two parent household. In fact, sociologists have noted that this is the first generation in our country’s history that think divorce, separation and single-parent households are a normal part of family life. We live in a day and age when what is deemed normal and natural is, in fact, incredibly abnormal and unnatural. It is clear that we are in need of wisdom on this topic and that’s exactly what Proverbs offers us.
Merry Christmas! If you’re just joining us, we are on back half of our sermon series through the incredibly relevant, practical and helpful book of Proverbs. The major theme of this book is wisdom, namely the wisdom that comes through the fear of the Lord (i.e. letting God be God to you in every corner of your life). After spending just over a month on a variety of issues related to biblical marriage, we are spending two weeks on the topic of parenting. Last week we examined the heart of parenting. This week we’ll look at thepractice of parenting. We’re taking two weeks here because there is much misinformation and dysfunction surrounding this topic. As we saw last week, 40% of children have no involved father. Every year, nearly 1 million kids are left with one parent because of divorce. Only 41% of kids grow up in a two parent household. In fact, sociologists have noted that this is the first generation in our country’s history that think divorce, separation and single-parent households are a normal part of family life. We live in a day and age when what is deemed normal and natural is, in fact, incredibly abnormal and unnatural. It is clear that we are in need of wisdom on this topic and that’s exactly what Proverbs offers us. Whether you’re single, newly married, or empty nester there is something for you here.
Recap of last week:
Pr 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (cf Mk 7:21; Lk 6:45)
Pr 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
GOAL of parenting is to raise your kids to fear the Lord (i.e. passionate about Jesus Christ). Parenting is not merely providing good input or care, but creating environment where your kids get to interact w/ living God. God wants more for your kids than obedience, being polite, not cursing, no porn, good job, marry well. He doesn’t want less than that, but even more He wants your kids to learn they will only find themselves as they find him. Practically, this means that parenting is not the bottom line. God is the bottom line. Parenting must begin with God as an act of worship.
Additionally, the HEART of parenting is not merely about the behavior of your child, but the heart of your child. All behavior, including that of our kids is overflow of the heart (4:23). Therefore, we must learn to address the heart, not only behavior, of our children.
Q: How do we parent the heart of our kids (and ours!) toward God’sgoal for our kids? Method? Practice?
(4) Over-simplification (e.g. “There is only one way to parent and I am doing it.”)
(1) Creating a gospel-centered culture
(2) Verbal instruction and correction and
(3) Physical discipline
No one gives birth to a wise son or daughter. That comes through gospel-centered training and discipline.
#1 CREATING A GOSPEL-CENTERED CULTURE @HOME.
To answer, “How should we parent?” we must first ask, “How does God parent, shape, train us? Bible tells us that we are all born w/ selfish, stubborn, lawless hearts. Exactlykind of people Jesus loves and died for. While still in our self-centered mess as enemies; God came to live/die/rise to forgive, reconcile us and, ultimtely, serve us. The Bible calls that grace: undeserved kindness, from an un-obligated giver, when we deserved only wrath. There are three tenses that the Bible uses grace in: past (saved/penalty) > present(being/power) > future (will be/presence). In Christ, God saved us from sin (justification), is saving us from sin (sanctification) and will ultimately save us from sin (glorification). If God is a perfect Father and primary way deals w/ his kids is grace we should do same for our kids.
Principle: Raise our kids in same way that God raises us. This is paradigm for the Christian life and parenting. Or, in other words, to do and be for our kids what God hasdone and is for us, in Christ.
Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Eph 5:2 Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…
2 Cor 8:7,9 See that you excel in [the act of giving]…for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Rom 15:7 Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of god.
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave herself up for her.
See how Gospel-centered Paul was? To do and be for our others what God has doneand is for us, in Christ. The point here is not to learn this list. The point is to learn the gospel principle at play. If we do that, we will be able to parent as we’re parented by God, in Christ.
What we tend do do is think “I’m not very loving/humble/forgiving” therefore “I better tryto be more loving/humble/forgiving”. Now, if it works, we grow proud or self-righteous (“Look at me and my great achievements”) and if it doesn’t work we get frustrated and despairing, “I’m trying!” That’s not how God parents us. Actually, Jesus isn’t needed at all for that.
The way to get our heart to change is not by focusing on our heart, but focusing on thegospel of Jesus. Let’s look at some examples. What if you think…
“I’m not very forgiving”. The answer is not “try harder” but “I need to reflect on how much I have been forgiven by God”. The more I understand how radically I have been forgiven by God; the more I will radically forgive others.
“I’m not very humble”. The answer is not “try harder” but “I need to reflect on my sin and Jesus dying for me…” The more I have been humbled by the news that God had to die for me; the more humbly I will live.
“I’m not very loving”. The answer is not “try harder” but “I need to reflect on God’s love for me, even as an enemy.” The more I understand God’s unconditional love for me; themore I will love others unconditionally.
“I’m not very patient”. The answer is not “try harder” but “I need to recall God’s incredible patience towards me”. The more I understand God’s persevering patience with me; the more I will be patient with others.
“I’m not very generous”. The answer is not “try harder” but “I need to recall Jesus’ generosity forgiving/reconciling/etc”. The more I understand God’s generosity; the more I will be generous.
We indirectly work on our heart by going directly to the gospel and allowing good news to work on heart. We are saved by trusting the gospel, then transformed by trusting the gospel more deeply as life goes on. That is why Christianity is not , ultimately, about trying but trusting…that is, increasingly trusting all that God is for you in Jesus Christ.
- Makes it increasingly difficult to be proud b/c I see more and more I am so sinful God had to die for me
- Makes it increasingly difficult to be depressed b/c I see more and more God loves me unconditionally
- Makes it increasingly difficult to be self-righteous b/c my righteousness doesn’t come close to Jesus’
- Makes it increasingly difficult to compare myself w/ others b/c others ≠ my standard, Jesus = standard.
If you’re not seeing these things happen in your life it is not because you are not trying hard enough, but that there is a gospel disconnect (if you’re a follower of Jesus). The main spiritual problem for most Christians is that while they have an intellectual grasp of truth it is not real to their hearts. If it is not real to your heart, then it will not influence your behavior – that’s true for the parents and for the kids. Many have accepted intellectually, but never come under power of the gospel of Jesus. How do you know its starting to click? You begin to want God for the sake of God. You like him.
Q: Do you see how our view of God and understanding of the gospel effects everything? Now, all that said, as gospel takes root in home, Gospel-centered parents…
…daily surrender their fears and entrust their lives to the God who loves them and diedfor them.
…understand their own propensity to sin and their great need for Jesus’ ongoing gracein their lives.
…know kids have same basic needs as they do – to be forgiven, accepted, loved,secure, signifiant.
…therefore, they aren’t surprised when their kids sin. They expect it.
…are unconditional in love and radical in grace toward their kids as God has been w/ them, in Jesus
…accept their kids as they are, b/c God accepts us as we are, in Jesus.
…are gracious when kids are hardest to love, b/c when they were hardest to love Jesus gave them grace.
…make it their goal for their kids to see themselves as accepted sinners, growing in Christ-likeness and not merely nice, moral, rule-followers
…get their confidence from knowing God loves/accepts them based on Jesus’ work,not theirs
…aim to re-present christ in such a way that captures heart + imagination more than material things.
…do not stand in stand in judgment of struggling parents b/c when they were struggling God, He did not stand in judgement of them.
The grace of the gospel scares many people because it doesn’t come with bullet points and a check-list. Gospel-centered parenting demands that you actually (1) live what you say you believe and (2) think through the implications of the gospel.
Result? The gospel creates an entirely different culture and family. One that is imperfect, grace-saturated, humble and joy-filled.
How much of a contrast is this with other approaches?
- Bribery: “Clean up your room and I’ll let you have a treat.”
- Behavior modification: “Do your chores and get a star. Whoever has most stars at end of week gets gift.”
- Emotionalism: “Please obey me, you know I get so upset when you don’t..makes me want to cry…”
- Punishment: “You didn’t pick up your blocks so no television until further notice.”
How do those work? The work great! They teaches kid to be perfectly selfish and not obey out of love and trust but w/ self-seeking motives. These approaches miss the entire point of discipline: love for God, identification of sin, need for empowering grace of Jesus. Instead, kids learn to jump thru hoops to avoid displeasure, which ultimately putsdistance between parents and kids. The path of parenting is intended to be paved with the gospel. The gospel creates a culture of grace.
#2 VERBAL INSTRUCTION (within a gospel-centered home)
1:8,9 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your heard and pendants for your neck.
4:1-6 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her and she will keep you; lover her and she will guard you.”
A common understanding of parenting is to see it simply as care, which is why many think childcare is adequate replacement. Parenting is not less than that, but it is much mroe. Parenting is about shepherding and shaping your children on God’s behalf. Understanding this, childcare is ultimately a form of outsourcing the shaping of your kids. They are being shaped wherever they are.
A major component of that shaping is verbal instruction and correctin. Proverbs: Teach. Instruct. Commands. Precepts. Insights.
13:1 A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
This is providing information and teaching to help kids understand themselves and the world. Life is a classroom. Instruction give kids principles and absolutes to live by. Hooks to hang life on. We’re all being shaped, but the question is what we’re being shaped by.
28:23 Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.
1:10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent…
16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
19:15 Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.
These verses highligh the sowing and reaping principle of the Scriptures. What you sow, you will reap. A leads to B. “Sow a thought reap action; sow action reap habit; sow habit reap character; sow character reap destiny.”
It is easy to be increasingly negative (critique, correct) with your kids. But the gospel is primarily a message of encouragement and should make us encouragers. Try to say “Yes” to your kids more than you say no or make a correction. Create an atmosphere of love, grace, learning. Make sure don’t hear “I love you” only during discipline.
#5 Confession and forgiveness.
Ask your kids for forgiveness. Only way kids will see their need for the gospel is if you seeyour need for it and live that out before them. There is something incredibly beautiful (and humbling) about asking 3 year old for forgiveness – and receiving it.
How? Some practical suggestions:
UNPLANNED times: Dt6:6-9 (sit in your house, walk by the way, lie down, when you rise).Most of these opportunities are going to happen among the normal routines of life. Constantly teaching. Best stuff is random. Share what you’re learning/God is doing.
PLANNED times: Shared meals. Daddy-dude times & daddy-daughter dates. Regular family worship. Start early. Experiment. Change w/ seasons. Keep it simple:Bible+prayer+song.
DIALOGUE, not monologue. Develop a regular habit of talking. Get to know your kids. Moving target.
BE AVAILABLE. Parents often too busy to talk unless something wrong. If you do that you will never get their hearts.
#3 PHYSICAL DISCIPLINE (within a gospel-centered home)
13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
29:15,17 “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother…”
What is the “rod”?
The “rod” in the Bible refers to spanking or paddling. Every parent has to come to biblical conclusion on this. The vast majority of commentators agree that this refers to spankingw/in gospel-centered context. Now, it is important to note that this is controversial topic – especially in Seattle, even w/in the church – so be careful to follow me. It is probably not what you think.
Why physical discipline?
#1 Teaches sinful disobedience has consequences. It is a tactile demonstration of consequences of sin. There is not a sin you can choose that will not sooner or later bring some form of pain into your life. Spanking conveys this vividly to young kids before they do something worse that could scar their life. We want our kids to learn that sin has consequences when the stakes are small, not when they’re big.
#2 Teaches, vividly, to distrust disobedient impulses hearts and trust their parents – and their God.
Pr 22:15 Folly (disobedient impulses) is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Physical discipline teaches kids to think, “Wait a minute every time I follow disobedient impulses of my heart I receive negative consequences…I know my parents love me, have my best in mind…maybe they know what they’re talking about. Maybe its me, not them.” It helps them see their fundamental problem is not their behavior, but their heart. Overtime, it helps them identify their need for God to change them from the inside out.
Some will ask, “Why spank my child for not picking up his toys? Or, not coming to me right away? It is such a small thing.” Wise parents see beyond action to the heart that is producing that behavior. Heart is what you’re after. Folly is bound up in heart of a child. It is a seed to a tree of rebellion that will devastate him/her for a lifetime. Time outs + go to your room + stand in corner + face the wall. Don’t have the same effect.
Ask yourself, “What am I communicating to that child regrading the nature of God, his discipline and consequences of sin?” Error. God does not stick us in corner. He disciplines us, often w/ pain. There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ,but he’s still parenting us.
Heb 12:7,10-11 It is for discipline that you have to endure [context = suffering]. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
When should I exercise physical discipline? You should use physical disciline when any willful rebellion occurs. Your children should obey, “All the way, right away, with a happy heart.” (w/out challenge, excuse, or delay)
Many parents are surrounded w/ disobedience all day b/c they tolerate it. Tolerating it tells kids their willful rebellion is OK. Ultimately, you are training them to do the same thing w/ Jesus. Do not say “don’t make me count to three”. You must not warn. You must notask if want to be spanked. If you do, you are training them to wait for the warning and not trust your first word. Your first word should be your last word. Don’t give your children excuses: “He’s tired, sugar high, missed his nap, etc.” When you do that, you are teaching your kids to excuse their sin. Now, it is important to say that it is never an easy path for parents; ignoring a child’s sin and pretending all will be well is far more convenient.
Q: “When is my child old enough?” Your child is old enough to receive loving, grace-filled physical discipline whenever he/she is old enough to disobey. Generally, 1-5 as needed; 5-10 much less. The temptation will be to wait until your kids are speaking and able to articulate their rebellion. At that point you will already be behind.
How do I carry out physical discipline? How it is done is very important. Eph 6:4 “Do not provoke your children to anger” i.e. over-discipline is like using a sledge hammer to drive a thumb tack — that is abusive. The context of physical discipline is one of love and hugs. Your child needs to know you delight in them, but there are consequences for sin. The goal is not merely better behavior, but to rescue them from self-centered course of life. It is not punishment, but correction. It is not done in anger, but in affection. (note: never ever ever discipline your kids in anger). Not in harshness but inhumility. Physical discipline should be done in a spirit and demeanor that is balanced, controlled, thoughtful, age-appropriate, child-specific.
#1 Private place, not public. Discipline is an event. The temptation is to just “get it over with”. That is ultmately unhelpful and will short-circuit the discipline.
#2 Ask: “Who’s your daddy? Who gave you your daddy? How much does Jesus love you? Daddy love you?”
#3 Talk about what happened. Name the sin. (when kids are little this will be more monologue.) Use biblical terms for the sin.
#4 “Did you obey all the way, right away, with happy heart? Called?” Disobedience orsin.
#5 Ask, “Is sin wise or foolish? Do you want to be wise or foolish?”
#6 “Where does disobedience come from?” Heart! “My heart” “Who can clean your heart?” Jesus! Help them see God works from inside out. Help understand why they sin.
#7 Be sure to remind them, “I’m not mad. Love you too much to live foolishly.”
#8 Tell child how many swats he will receive. Doing so tells the child that you are in control. 1-5 based on severity.
#9 Give swats. Use something with a large surface area that will sting, but not bruise, or leave marks. You want your child to experience the sting of sin and the joy of obedience.
#10 After, take your child on your lap, hug, kiss, remind of love. Pray: Ask Jesus for forgiveness. Reconcile.
When all is said and done. Your child has tasted the consequences of sin, the seriousness of moral life, the nature of God and the beauty of the gospel. Guaranteed, within minutes they will be playing with no guilt or shame and you’ll know that something right just took place. Note: We’ll use it to teach them about mercy too and not spank them. Our kids love mercy.
“I love my children too much to spank them”
Pr 13:24 “Whoever spares rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
I know of nothing harder than spanking my children. Who benefits if you don’t spank the child? You do. You won’t enjoy it any more than they do, but love will force you to do it. According to Proverbs, you hate your kids if you don’t.
“I’m afraid I will hurt him”
It it is done in a controlled, biblical way it won’t. Aparently this has always been a concern for parents, and Proverbs reminds us…
23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.
“I’m afraid it will make him rebellious and angry”
29:17 …discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
“I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work”
There are a number of reasons why it doesn’t work: 1) inconsistent 2) failure to be effective. 3) doing it in anger.
Parent our kids, as God parents us in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Create a gospel-centered culture at home that is cultivated through verbal instruction and physicaldiscipline. The more you know him, the more you’ll like him. The more you like him, the more you will be like him. The more you are like him, the more you will parent like him. Then, pray your guts out and trust God to do what only He can in your life and life of your kids.