I have been noticing this fear creeping into my life, just like I have seen it in the lives of countless other parents that I have counseled through the years. You can see it on the "Kids First" license plates in Indiana. You see it at the late night drunken parties with mom being the drunkest of them all (my former neighbors). You see it in the anger that children harbor when they don't get their way. You see it in the stress of parents who feel they need to keep their child happy. A great movie where you see this fear is in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Watch how the parents respond to their children's folly. Fear, fear fear. I see this fear all over the place.
What is this fear? It is the fear of a broken relationship with our children. I want to dig into this a little bit because this fear is a threat. It threatens to usurp our role as a parent AND it threatens to remove love of our child and replace it with something that may seem motivated by love, but in the long run will destroy our children. So let's get this fear in check, so we don't destroy our kids in the long-run.
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him." (1)
אִוֶּלֶת קְשׁוּרָה בְלֶב־נָעַר שֵׁבֶט מוּסָר יַרְחִיקֶנָּה מִמֶּנּוּ׃
"Foolishness is in the heart of a child, but the staff of discipline will drive it far from him."
Picture this- A child with little monsters of all sorts living inside of him. Little purple in green monsters, shaggy, with sharp teeth and round eyes. Wiley little things that fill the child, the teens mind with a lot of goofy ideas. Here are some of the goofy things I have seen kids get in their mind:
1. To smart off to mom.
2. To talk with a phony accent when addressing parents.
3. To decide that it would be okay to talk inappropriately to women & call them terrible things.
4. To destroy things and call it "fun".
5. To put chemicals in their bodies and call it "no big deal".
6. To degrade someone & then say, "I was only joking...jeeeze!"
7. To decide to talk to their parents & elders in some valley girl swag, which is really a way to disrespect them.
8. To not be thankful when given something or some sort of privilege, take advantage of that privilege, and then get mad when held accountable.
9. To mumble under their breath when they are made to delay gratification...another sign of defiance of authority.
10. To dress like a ho & then get
mad at parents when they tell you they don't want you to dress like a ho. And then they defend themselves by saying all their friends also dress like hos, therefore it should be okay to dress like one too. And then get mad at the parents because they don't want you to look like a ho, attract guys who like hos. I better stop this rant.
11. To wear pants that reveal your underwear, because it is trendy...which was also trendy among homosexual male prostitutes in the prison system (the origin of this trend). Then do it anyhow behind their parents back.
I will stop there. Hopefully your kids are reading this too.
Anyhow, back to this issue of fear. And back to the shaggy monsters.
So the parent picks up the staff, a shepherd's staff. On one end is a hook, to bring your child close. The rest of it is a stick, to beat off those little monsters. To drive them far from your children, because their heart is full of these (thanks Adam).
1. How do we beat off these little monsters? With discipline. According to the passage.
2. Does this have to be PHYSICAL discipline?
Maybe. I wish I could say "yes" and make it clear, but perhaps this is dependent on the particular child. At it's core, discipline is there to redirect and educate your child through strategic punishment. Discipline is not suppose to be enjoyable for the child.
3. What do you do if the teen is stronger than you?
How do you drive out the continual creeping monsters then? Well hopefully you addressed the respect issue when they were a tot. But, not all of this were at that point early on & perhaps some have screwed up a bit in their parenting. A good rewording of this question may then be, how do you start shepherding in the teen years? I would say, by doing it. And by helping the child understand the value of roles...namely you are the authority in the house, and the parent. Which is a God given authority/rule. By loving your child through tender times & through hearing out their point of view.
4. But what if my disciplining results in my child distancing himself/herself from me?
This is a big fear. What is our role and parents? Is it to make our children like us and to enjoy decades of family get togethers? Though we wish this to be true and would certainly be grieved if this didn't happen, our child is so important that we dare not settle for this. This is a self-centered endeavor.
5. What is the role of parents?
We need to memorize our role. That is to
train up our child to know the Lord in a nurturing, shepherding manner.
The Bible also says that he who refuses to discipline their child actually hates him (Prov. 7:24).
Will our children get mad at us when we are using the "rod"? Yes.
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord."
This is a great verse on what it is and what it is not.
It IS to training them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
It is NOT to do it in a harsh, overwhelming manner. Discipline? Yes. Dominate? No. This can be very difficult for some. I think it helps to remember that we are never at war against our children but FOR our children (see Ephesians 6). Boy this is tough at times. Especially when we are self-centered. Shepherding a person is like shepherding sheep. They are prone to wander & prone to follow the crowd (Oh God, keep my kids from the wrong heard & help me have the courage to remove my kid from the wrong heard if I need to). Anyhow, shepherding a person is like shepherding sheep. If you beat them & overwhelm them, what good is that? A shepherd is gentle but firm when needed.
Let's look at the bright side...
what if we follow the Lord and it works? What if we were to faithfully live out our role as parents & our kids loved us? Will there be battles? Heck ya. As long as we live in this fallen world, with fallen people, there will be battles & we will screw up often. Battling for the soul of our child/teen is a normal, good part of life. We will not make them happy at times. But what if they DO turn out well...as respectful, god fearing, Jesus following, caring adults? What if our diligence and being willing to go to battle for them resulted in them eventually coming to their senses? Will they do it otherwise? Will they know the fear of the Lord if we live in fear of them?
Better to stand before God and hear, "Well done." than to live with self-centered fear of what may or may not happen.
Oh adults, let's put aside fear and refresh our understanding of what our role as parents is. May we drive the little fuzzy monsters away with our shepherding rod, so our child does not come to ruin.
Oh Lord, help us to get off the couch & into the battle for this upcoming generation.
1. New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Pr 22:15). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
2. The Hebrew Bible: Andersen-Forbes Analyzed Text. 2008 (Pr 22:15). Logos Bible Software.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2007).
3. Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.) (Eph 6:4). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.