An Encouragement for Child Training & Discipline

I was recently looking for some good audio resources for a friend and ran across some good comments and suggestions from Pastor John Piper on another topic. The entire text of this sermon can be found here at the Desiring God website.

We were just discussing this morning at our elder’s meeting the importance of parents encouraging parents, and especially older parents helping the younger parents, in learning how to train their children. We were particularly discussing the difficulty (or awkwardness) some young parents may have with bringing their little ones to home fellowship or other church meetings. Much of the struggle may be caused by the fact that children must be trained to sit still and not be distracting, and we may not know how to do it effectively. I am convinced that we often need to see an example of it being done well before we will best be able to do it well ourselves (I know this was true in our family).

I offer these encouragements from John Piper because they are helpful, but realize these comments are only scratching the surface. I hope it inspires you young parents to develop solid relationships with older parents to learn from them, and that it motivates you more experienced parents to seek out the younger ones in order to minister to them the help and instruction they need. At the end of the quote I offer some more advice and a list of some good books to consider reading.

Here are his comments, in response to a common objection:

“My children won’t sit still long enough to listen to a Bible passage or receive instruction.” This is a real problem in the church today. In visiting other places, Noël and I see it again and again. Many parents seem to have lost their bearings when it comes to handling the disobedience of their children. It is a strange irony that intelligent parents who have strong and good convictions in most areas often seem to be nonplussed as to what to do when their children disobey. It seems as if many Christian parents have absorbed the notion that you can’t really (or shouldn’t) expect obedience from a child. So, if the children don’t do what you say, you try to humor them or bribe them or pen them up.

I believe God’s word to this situation is that we parents need to recover the expectation that our children obey us, and that in all love and humility we administer firm and just discipline to secure that obedience. Nothing has changed in the nature of children to make the Word of God from Proverbs unwise. Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 19:18a: “Discipline your son while there is hope; do not set your heart on his destruction.” Proverbs 22:15, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it from him.” Proverbs 23:13, 14: “Do not withhold discipline from your child; if you strike him with the rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 29:15, 17, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother . . . Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”

As soon as a child is old enough to understand your command and has the physical ability to do it, he should be taught what is right to do and then punished for not doing it until he will obey at home and in public. If I thought that I was talking to a group of child abusers, I would say many other things. Hugging and kissing, and tumbling, loving, forgiving, and spending time with your children are all just as important as spanking. I may be wrong, but my pastoral judgment is that among Christian parents in their 20s and 30s the tendency is to have expectations of obedience that are too low and too late, and discipline that lacks firmness and rigor and consistency. I am no expert in child psychology. I speak from my understanding of Scripture, my experience with three sons, and my observation of others.

That is good biblical advice, and helpful practical admonition. If you want to learn more, let me suggest a couple of helpful books with practical tips.

  • “The Shaping of a Christian Home,” by Elisabeth Elliot

  • “Don’t Make Me Count to Three,” by Ginger Plowman

  • “Withhold Not Correction,” by Bruce Ray

In addition, if you’re a young parent struggling with these issues, MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO ATTEND OUR NEXT PARENTING CLASS – at any cost of time or commitment! We discuss these practical issues in great detail, and build those very relationships that enable us to draw from the wisdom and experience of others when we are at a loss for what to do (or just need encouragement to keep on going).

Blessings to you and your family!

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