Friday, June 4, 2010

Lie No. 29: All Children Will Go Through A Rebellious Stage

One thing I quickly discovered when I became pregnant with Patrick was that people, including Christians, expect children to be a handful. More than a handful, really. They expect them to be downright bad. Maybe you have heard some of these phrases or even repeated them yourself:

"Enjoy the peace and quiet now because you're never going to have another moment of it again after that baby's born."

"Just wait until he can walk. You'll never be able to keep him in one place again."

"Just wait until he learns the word 'no.'"

"Just wait until those teenage years."

"Just wait..."

Even when they see the fruit of healthy, godly parenting in a peaceful, content, and obedient child, they assume that somehow the mother just got "lucky", or if you're in a Christian circle, "blessed." I can't tell you how many times in the last few months of being pregnant with baby number two I have heard variations of this same statement: "You got so lucky with your first baby. He's so good! You better watch out for number two. She's gonna be a handful!"

Of all the things to say to a pregnant mother, somehow, people think that terrifying her about the monster about to make it's debut into her life is the best route. And sadly, the most likely reason for this is that they themselves have experienced all of these terrifying scenarios personally, and simply assume that that's just how children are. And so it is passed on from generation to generation, and no one ever bothers to ask, "Could there be another way? Is it possible to raise children who truly love, honor, and obey their parents on a regular basis, and do it with truly joyful hearts?"

As Christian parents, we NEED to ask those questions, and we NEED to understand that the answer is a resounding "YES!" Just as we parents are all sinners who have absolutely no hope of accomplishing anything good without the help offered by the Holy Spirit, so our children are destined for rottenness without the help offered by us, their parents. Before a child is saved and has the Holy Spirit living within them, we must take on the responsibility of giving them the same moral direction and guidance that we, as adults, have learned to lean on the Holy Spirit for. As believers, the Holy Spirit is there to convict and encourage us daily, guiding us along the right path. We need to be that conscience and encouragement for our children until they are old enough to rely upon the Holy Spirit on their own. And even after that point, we need to continue to teach them and guide them in how to live obedient, submissive lives, as they grow into maturity.

This is no easy task. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that especially in the beginning, it will be much harder to adopt this style of parenting than it would be to just let your kids become the individuals that their flesh would naturally dictate for them. The amount of time and dedication that it takes to CONSISTENTLY enforce biblical discipline will seem overwhelming at times. But just as the life of a Christian is a lifelong battle, leading eventually to eternal reward, so the battle of parenting leads eventually to the sweet rewards of a peaceful, obedient child. Nothing good comes without great toil. So, the question is, are you willing to put in the work?

And remember, exactly as with our own Christian walk, you can work until your hands fall off, but if you are not relying on God to get you through every single step, you will accomplish nothing. The same goes for raising that child. Everything you do must be bathed in the Word and in prayer, both privately between you and the Lord, and as a family, washing your kids CONSTANTLY in biblical truths. And that, right there, is the primary drive behind my passion for mothers to recognize their God-given responsibility in being a full-time parent if at all possible. Again, I understand that there are times when a mother has no choice but to work in order to help feed her family, but those situations can often be changed by minimizing your lifestyle in order to fit the budget you have. Be careful about what is truly a necessity and what you can do without. You may enjoy having the big house, but if you have to move to a small apartment so that your children can receive the eternally vital teaching and training that they need from you, the sacrifice is well worth it! The same goes for homeschooling vs. public school. When your children spend more than half of their waking hours with another adult and 30 other influential children, they simply are not, no matter how hard you try, receiving the kind of consistent teaching and training needed in order to battle those spiritual fires successfully. We've already established that this work is going to be difficult; don't make it any harder on yourself and on your children than it needs to be!

Consider the following excerpt from Jonathan Edwards's Memoirs regarding his wife Sarah's parenting method and know that every word spoken there is absolutely within your capability as a mother with your own children:

"She had an excellent way of governing her children.... She had need to speak but once; she was cheerfully obeyed; murmuring and answering again were not known among them. In their manners, they were uncommonly respectful to their parents.... Quarreling and contention, which too frequently take place among children, were in her family wholly unknown.... Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age, and it was her rule to resist the first, as well as every subsequent, exhibition of temper or disobedience in the child, however young, until its will was brought into submission to the will of its parents; wisely reflecting, that until a child will obey his parents, he can never be brought to obey God." (quoted on p. 177-178 of Lies Women Believe)

Your children are, of course, human, and as a result, they have the same sinful nature that you do. As a result, they WILL disobey you at times, no matter what you do. Do not expect your children to be perfect. However, as we have discussed in previous posts about our own lives, just because we know that they will fail at times does not mean that we should expect it of them or excuse it within them. When they disobey, they should be met with love and acceptance, but also with discipline. They should always understand that while we love them unconditionally, we do not love their sin and there will be consequences for that sin. Just as your heavenly father rebukes those he loves, so we must do the same for our children. And, while I am still at the starting gate in my journey through parenting, I rest assured in the promises given to me in God's word, and can therefore assure you as well, that you will reap a glorious reward for all of your hard work should you choose to be the kind of parent that God is calling you to be.

"From everlasting to everlasting, the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children.... Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.... All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace." Psalm 103:17; 144:12; Isaiah 54:13

Some helpful resources: Babywise book 1 and book 2 by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam; Child Training Tips by Reb Bradley; and To Train Up A Child by Michael & Debi Pearl (Their methods can be a bit rigid; remember to implement lots of grace while still remaining firm in consistent discipline; also know that while "spanking" or use of the rod is a biblically encouraged method, it is never ok to physically abuse or beat your child. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to handle this, so please approach prayerfully and seek guidance from a trusted pastor or leader if you are unsure how to safely administer this approach.)


  1. Is it really in like with the Bible and the Gospel for parents to take the place of the Holy Spirit in a child's life?

    You stated, "Before a child is saved and has the Holy Spirit living within them, we must take that place in their lives."

    I do not believe that is a reflection of God's revealed truth. . . And I want to encourage you (challenge you?) to search and see if that is REALLY what you believe. . . or whether it is not really what you believe, merely poorly expressed.

    Grace and hope,

  2. TulipGirl,

    Perhaps I should try to rework the wording on that sentence. I do not believe that we as parents ever replace the Holy Spirit or can work in their lives in the same might and power as the Holy Spirit does in ours, but I do believe that we as their parents need to help navigate for them as the Holy Spirit does for us. They need that extra guidance until they are capable of maturely leaning on the Holy Spirit for moral direction on their own.

    I like the way the author of To Train Up A Child put it on p.18 of his book: "The parents' role is not that of policemen, but more like that of the Holy Spirit. When a child has his sails full of wind (strong drives), but no compass (moral discernment), his parents must serve as his compass and navigator. When a child is incapable of holding moral values, parental training and example will be his 'standard.'"

    Does that clarify a little better? Thanks for your question. I will try to rework that sentence so it is a little more clear.


  3. So much food for thought here . . . especially about the working mom vs. stay at home mom, something I am really pondering since we want to have kids before my husband finishes his PhD.