Winning the Battle for Your Child’s Heart
Pearls from Proverbs Part 3:
“If a child will not obey an earthly father which he can see, how will he learn to obey a Heavenly Father which he can’t see?”
Are you winning the battle for your child’s heart? There is a battle for each child’s heart, and we, as parents, are called to stand on the front lines, fighting for the eternal souls that God has given us.
Do you recognize the eternal impact that your daily family training and chastening will have? There are not many things in life more important than the training of your child. When God blesses your home with a child, He is entrusting you with the responsibility of an eternal soul, that will never die. What the child chooses to do with his life will impact eternity for good or for bad. When we view our role as parents through this prism, it causes us to realize that the training of the next generation is an incredibly serious responsibility that we often treat too flippantly.
Our society places a great emphasis on providing “stuff” and fun for our children, but not equipping them with a biblical set of values. Proper training cannot be done without proper chastening. Chastening is not something that we do to our children. It is something we do for our children. Proverbs 3:12 tells us that a parent who loves his child will chasten him, just as our loving Heavenly Father chastens His children.
If our children are going to grow to be men and ladies, greatly used of God, then they must be properly chastened in our home. There is a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation, and we must get on the front lines with this battle. One of the keys to doing this is biblical chastening. In this article, I would like to look at eight biblical principles of chastening.
1. The Command of Chastening
Chasten thy son (Proverbs 19:18)…
Chastening, or discipline, in the home is not an option for you to consider implementing. It is a command. We are mandated to chasten the children that God gives us. It may not be something that we enjoy or look forward to, but we must understand the eternal value of correcting, guiding, and disciplining our children.
2. The Time for Chastening
Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying (Proverbs 19:18).
“You win or lose the battle for your child’s heart and will before his third birthday.”
I heard this quote many years ago, and I believe it to be true. I kept this principle in mind as God brought children into our home and have reminded myself of this truth often. The time to begin training and chastening your child is early in his life. I do not mean to imply that a parent’s job in training and discipline is completed by age three or earlier. However, I do want to refute the popular notion that training should not begin until a child is three years of age or even older. Recently, some politicians in California were seeking to pass legislation that would make any type of corporal punishment illegal before age three. That is too late! Popular parenting teachings will encourage you to divert your toddler’s attention to something else when he disobeys or even to just ignore his behavior until he finishes his tantrum. No! This behavior should be nipped in the bud immediately, not ignored indefinitely.
We must remind ourselves when we are dealing with our lovely, precious, beautiful children, that we are dealing with a wicked, sinful nature that has been passed down to them. Our children have a natural enemy that we must be willing to fight for their sakes. Behind that beautiful face is a sinful heart. Proverbs 22:15 teaches us that “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.” It is natural for them to act foolishly, rebelliously, and sinfully. We must conquer that nature with careful, consistent, loving discipline. It is our job to “unbind” the foolishness that is woven throughout their heart and mind. This process is not easy, but it must start early! The longer we wait, the stronger the hold will be on their hearts and the more difficult it will be to untangle the strings of sin and foolishness in their hearts.
I believe that the training of a child begins before that child can even walk and talk. Once they learn to crawl, their opportunities to find trouble increase exponentially. We must begin to gently teach them the way they should go during these early stages of life. Children can understand the word no at a very young age, and they will test your resolve to enforce that. If you have ever raised an infant, you know exactly what I am talking about. How many times has beautiful little “Suzie” sat in her high chair, throwing handsful of Cheerios on the ground? Following a gentle correction from her mother, she picks up another handful of Cheerios, looks right at her mom and throws them even farther. Behavior like this may seem cute and humorous at the time, but if it is not dealt with, these seeds of disobedience will rapidly grow into an uncontrollable harvest of rebellion.
Children are amazing (at least mine are) :-). They can learn much more, much earlier, and much more quickly than we usually give them credit for. If you have a young child in your home, I would encourage you to lay the foundation of godly habits very early in that young life. With God’s help, you can win the battle for a child’s heart and will during the infant and toddler years.
We must chasten our children “while there is hope.” The time for chastening is now! The farther in life they go without proper guidance, the less hope there is for their lives.
3. The Purpose of Chastening
What is the purpose of chastening? If done correctly, the purpose is not to release the frustration or anger of a parent. It is not to save a parent from embarrassment, or to make a parent look good in front of peers.
We can easily find the purpose of chastening by breaking down the word – it is to make chaste. The purpose is to punish or reprimand for the sake of improvement. Chastening should be to cleanse, correct, and purify the hearts and minds of our children. Another word we use for chastening is discipline – that is, to instruct a disciple. Our goal should be to train chaste disciples of Jesus Christ. Chastening and discipline are imperative ingredients in that pursuit.
Proverbs gives us three purposes of chastening. May we keep these end results in mind as we deal with our children:
a. To eliminate foolishness
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him (Proverbs 22:15).
Our goal in correction should be to associate negative consequences with negative actions so that our children will realize that the brief pleasure associated with doing wrong is not worth the pain that sin will bring. Then, in the future, they will choose the wise path and refuse the foolish choice because of previous correction and training.
With our children, following chastening for their disobedience, I always ask them, “When we disobey, it makes us what?” and they will respond, “Sad.” Then I will say, “And when we obey, it makes us what?” And they will say, “Happy.” This began with our kids long before they were two years old, as soon as they understood the words happy and sad. I will also ask, “When we disobey, it makes God what?” And they answer, “Sad.” Early in life, I want them to associate disobedience with sadness for them, their parents and their God. And, I want the contrast made very clearly that obedience brings joy to them, their parents, and their God.
b. To bring the child closer to God
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Proverbs 23:13, 24).
Anyone who understands the Bible and the nature of God knows that these verses are not advocating child abuse. In Luke 17, Christ made it very clear how He felt about those who “offend” little ones. What God’s Word is teaching here is that chastening, though it is never enjoyable at the time, must be done if our children are going to develop a proper love and respect for their Lord. In addition, chastening, if done correctly, should draw your child’s heart closer to you, not drive him from you.
Chastening should eliminate foolishness from the child’s life, and it should draw him closer to God and to his parents. That is why confession and restitution are a vital part of proper chastening. When a child disobeys God’s Word, fellowship has been broken. Proper chastening will lead a child to repentance before God, which will restore a right relationship with Him.
c. To impart wisdom
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame (Proverbs 29:15).
Proper chastening will not only teach a child what not to do, but also instill wisdom in that child so that he will know which path to choose in the future.
4. The Methods of Chastening
a. Corporal punishment
God’s Word is very clear that spanking, not beating, is one form of punishment that should be utilized at times. It has been said, “Never slap a child in the face; God has provided a better place.”
Parents should never discipline their child in anger or with the intent to inflict lasting physical or emotional pain. Rather, temporary discomfort must be given at times so that our children will think twice before acting in the same manner in the future. When our country believed and practiced this type of biblical discipline, we had generations of young people who were far more respectful, obedient, and controlled. We did not have widespread ADD, ADHD, shootings at school, blatant disregard for authority and the host of other vices and diagnoses that have plagued our young people in recent generations. In days gone by, young people, even those who may not have been Christians, had more of a reverence and respect for God and His Word. I believe much of the fault for our nation’s spiritual condition lies with a generation of parents who failed to see the importance of biblical chastening in their homes, choosing rather to take the destructive path of permissive parenting.
The punishment should fit the crime. In reality, corporal punishment should be a minimal part of our discipline regimen, especially as the children grow older and a proper foundation has been laid. Sometimes, our child’s failures should be dealt with through simple verbal correction and training. Open and honest communication with our children will help to guide them on their way.
Let your children see you weep over their failures. They should know that you are chastening them from a heart of deep love for them. If they have given you their heart, it will hurt them deeply to see you brokenhearted over their sin. A compassionate, loving parent’s tears will go a long way towards drawing a child back to the right path.
d. Communion with God
Pray! The work we are doing is too big for us. No matter what methods or techniques we use, the task of rearing a child for God’s glory is not possible without God’s intervention. Parent, you must intercede on your child’s behalf.
I was recently talking with a young husband who is serving God in the ministry. His father is a preacher, and all of his siblings have given their lives to living for God and serving Him. I often seek to glean wisdom from families who have reared godly children. I asked him to tell me some of the things that his parents did that he thought may be responsible for the path that he and his siblings had chosen. His response was, “I don’t know what to tell you, other than the fact that I can’t count how many times I remember waking up in the middle of the night to find my mother praying at the end of my bed for me.” Let us not underestimate the power of a praying parent!
5. The Example in Chastening
My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (Proverbs 3:11-12).
Chastening is an attribute of our Lord. In every dealing with our children, we should ask ourselves, “How would our Lord handle this situation?” Fathers, we are to be a picture of the Heavenly Father in the home. Would He treat His children the way you treat your children? We must constantly seek to guide our families with the mind of Christ.
6. The Spirit of Chastening
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Proverbs 13:24).
Chastening is an expression of love, and chastening must be done in love. Love is the key. Love for our Lord and love for our children should guide every act of discipline in our home.
How do many people chasten their children? They chasten in anger, frustration, and impatience. They snap at their children, yell at them, scare them into submission, and at times physically mistreat them. Think about what we are doing when we respond this way. What are you trying to train when you chasten? You are trying to correct bad behavior and instill discipline, character, and control. However, when you discipline improperly, what are you modeling in front of your kids? You are modeling bad behavior, and a lack of discipline, character, and self-control – exactly what you are reprimanding your children for doing. Is it any wonder that we lose our children’s hearts and so often see them go on to live self-destructive lives of bad behavior? You cannot train self-control when you are out of control, and you cannot train patience when you are impatient. Our chastening must flow from a heart of pure, deep love.
7. Guidelines in Chastening
Every home needs rules. I believe that the direction and guidelines of the home should be decided before God ever blesses that home with children.
This is not your chance to make a wisecrack about the length of this article. Although my writing may be lacking in the brevity department, our family rules should be concise. In Exodus, God gave Moses Ten Commandments with which to govern an entire nation. If ten rules were enough for an entire nation, your family probably does not need an encyclopedia of guidelines for each child to memorize by his second birthday!
Tiffany and I established what we called “The 3 Ds of Discipline in the Thompson Home” before our first child was born. Our children know these rules. They know what is expected, and they know the consequences of disregarding these rules.
“The 3 Ds” are:
Obedience is our primary focus in discipline. Out of an obedient heart flows all of the other desired character traits that we want in our children. Because of that, we want our children to learn the importance of immediate and complete obedience very early in life. We have sought to instill obedience to their parents, God’s Word, their pastor, their teachers, and other authorities in their lives.
We are seeking to rear obedient, respectful Christians. We want them to learn to have respect for:
2. People – other adults and authorities
3. Peers – Treat siblings and other children properly.
4. Property – Be good stewards of what God has given to others and us.
Christ told us in John 14:6 that He is “the truth.” In John 8:44, we learn that Satan is the father of lies and there is no truth in him. This is a very clear contrast. It is imperative for Tiffany and me that our children learn to tell the truth, no matter the consequences. Because of this, we discipline dishonesty.
Our home is governed by these three guidelines. We have sought to keep the rules limited, explained, and enforced.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
The key to effective chastening is consistency. We must do our best to establish the rules of our home and then consistently enforce them. Inconsistent chastening causes confusion, frustration, bitterness, resentment and division in the heart of the child.
I’ll illustrate with the example one of law enforcement’s guidelines. Highway 101 is a major highway right near our home. The speed limit is 65 miles per hour. If I were driving 55 miles per hour on highway 101 today and I got pulled over, I would be confused, upset, frustrated, and angry – and rightfully so. What if I said to the officer, “The speed limit is 65!” and he replied, “That was yesterday. Today it’s 45.” “But, officer, the sign says 65!” “I know, but we changed it for today. Sorry, here is your $300 speeding ticket.” Then, when I drove on it tomorrow, I drove 45 miles per hour just to be careful. Again, the sirens began flashing behind my car. As the officer approached my window, in dumbfounded confusion, I would ask “What am I being pulled over for now?” His response: “The speed limit is 85. I’m giving you a ticket for driving too slow – you are a hazard to the safety of the other vehicles.” That arbitrary setting of the rules of the road would be ludicrous and unfair. It would drive a wedge between my civil authority and me. I would have animosity and bitterness towards them. I would be confused, upset, and hurt by their betrayal.
Yet, that is exactly what we do to our children when we let them get away with something today and then we blow up and berate them for doing the same exact thing tomorrow. Our children walk on eggshells because they don’t know what is expected of them or what will be the trigger that sets off a temper tantrum from their parent. This inconsistency leads to confusion of what is right and wrong, frustration over how to please their parents, bitterness over their unfair treatment, and resentment toward their human authority.
None of us is perfect, and we will never be perfectly consistent. However, we should make our guidelines and expectations very clear; then we should strive to consistently enforce those guidelines.
8. The Result of Chastening
Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea he shall give delight unto thy soul (Proverbs 29:17).
What are the results of proper chastening? Children who grow to live right, think right, and act right, bringing rest and delight to your soul. I would encourage you to study the effects of chastening in Hebrews 12:5-11. Verse 11 tells us that after chastening is done, “it yieldeth the peacable fruit of righteousness.” Chastening is never enjoyable at the moment, but it is always worth it in the long run.
Parent, do not take the seemingly easy road of permissive, inconsistent parenting. Rather, determine to win the battle for your child’s heart through godly, loving, caring, patient, and consistent chastening. With God’s help, you can vanquish Satan’s attacks on your precious children and see a generation of Christ-honoring young people living for His glory! It will take work, prayer, steadfastness, and love; but it can be done – and the end result will definitely be worth every effort that you invest!
Now, go fight for your family!