Parenting With A Purpose: Instruction Spoke
BIBLICAL BASIS – What does God say about this topic?
Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 23:12, “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.”
Psalms 43:11, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
What purpose does this concept have in the parenting wheel?
Biblical Discipline is Motivated by Love: The Bible is clear that (a) discipline must be motivated by love and (b) the lack of parental discipline is an indicator of an absence of love. Read Hebrews 12:6-11 below and think of its application to parenting.
Hebrews 12:6-11, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth [correction; discipline], and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
These verses help us understand biblical love and biblical correction and how they are to be applied. It is clearly stated that God corrects us because He loves us. His love motivates Him to correct us so we can be partakers of His holiness and that it might bring about righteousness. Biblical correction starts with love. Parental instruction needs to be motivated by the same principles we find in Hebrews 12:6-11.
Having a Biblical Vision for Parenting: Parents must have a biblically-based vision for their child so they know what they want to teach through parenting. Proverbs 29:18 tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Having a clear vision of where they want to lead their child helps parents know what to instruct and how to instruct them. As Proverbs 1:7-8 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:” It is a blessing for all when parents have a clear vision of what they want instilled in their child’s heart. Having a clear vision in parenting means taking biblical teachings and principles and applying them to specific life issues that arise. Biblical teachings and principles provide the foundation for a day-to-day parenting plan. When parents encounter a season of struggle or challenge with their child, having a clear vision to help navigate the journey is a great source of comfort and guidance.
Biblical Principles Must be Taught Intentionally: For children to know and desire the will of Christ for their lives, they need to be trained and taught in accordance with His word. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” If left to themselves, children, like adults, will pursue the flesh rather than godliness. Proverbs 29:15 is a sober reminder of this when it says that a child left to himself will bring shame to his mother. The Christ-centered honor and respect between parents and children talked about in Ephesians 6:1-4 will not just happen; rather, it is the product of purposeful instruction. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Recognize that the Bible Provides More Parenting Principles than Specific “How-To’s”: The Bible’s parenting plan does not prescribe specific parenting action for specific child misbehavior. It does not stipulate specific “how-to’s” in dealing with sibling rivalry or correcting a misbehaving child in a store. Rather, it describes the proper point of view that parents should acquire and to which they should adhere.
Sowing Good Seeds Into the Lives of Children: Our children have much to gain by how they handle their own actions and emotions, how they relate to others, and how they go about making wise decisions. There is joy in the lives of parents when they can observe their children reflecting wisdom (Proverbs 23:24). Godly wisdom can produce a harvest of the fruit of the Spirit, blessings of the beatitudes, and honor and respect for the 10 Commandments and other biblical precepts.
APPLICATION – The act of putting something to a special use or purpose.
What does this concept look like in “real life?”
Establishing the Fundamentals: As Daniel purposed in his heart to follow God (Daniel 1:8), so ought parents to purpose in their hearts to instruct their children in the truth of God’s Word. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The “how” of instructing children in the truth of God’s word will vary from parent to parent and family to family. While the Word has graciously allowed for flexibility in the “how-to’s” of discipline methods, there are some fundamental elements that need to be in place with whatever discipline method parents choose to use. Examples include training our children (Proverbs 22:6), teaching them diligently (Deuteronomy 6:7), not avoiding correction (Proverbs 23:13), and not provoking them to anger (Colossians 3:21).
Building Blocks: Listed below is one way to consider the building blocks of parenting.1 This model includes three core building blocks along with three modifiers. The modifiers tell us the spirit in which the building block needs to be applied. The building blocks are what we DO and the modifier describes HOW it is done.
Building Block Modifier
Communication MUST Command
Consequences MUST Compel
Consistency MUST Confirm
If we think about constructing a wall out of blocks, we can more easily see the need for modifiers. A wall constructed of blocks stacked together without mortar might have the appearance of being strong; it might even hurt to run into it. However, the block wall could probably be pushed over or even dismantled one by one. The modifier (i.e., how it is done) is like the cement that holds the blocks (i.e., what we do) together. The mortar between the blocks is what unifies the strength of all the blocks and can create a structure that will provide strength and security when the storms of parenting come.
Building Block 1: COMMUNICATION with modifier of COMMAND
Description of Building Block 1: This building block and modifier help answer the question, “How do we communicate instructions, limits, and expectations with our children?” The building block, Communication, forms the basis of all relationships. The modifier, Command, refers to the ability to speak or direct with specific authority. As parents, this means striving toward being seen as a trusted leader. If parents are not viewed as an authority figure in the home, it will be difficult (if not impossible) for them to be commanding in communication.
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say: Are children able to rely upon the word of their parents? The “yea, yea; nay, nay” principle of Matthew 5:37 teaches us that we have the responsibility to be clear in our communication. Do children know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when we say ‘yes’ we mean nothing short of ‘yes?’ Or that when we say ‘no’ we mean ‘no?’ Below are four aspects of communication. Is our communication:
Clear – direct, unambiguous, plain, free of abstraction?
Concise – specific and intentional vs. loud and long?
Commanding – presented with authority and assertive when it needs to be?|
Controlled – reflects gentleness, kindness, and respect?
Parental Leadership: As parents, we can and should use discipline and instruction to point a willful child toward becoming a willing disciple. However, this is accomplished not by manipulation or overly harsh consequences, but by providing the child with effective leadership. Parental leadership provides clear guidance that includes planned and purposeful discipline that is communicated effectively. Leadership is an attitude and mindset as well as a set of behaviors. When it is rooted in biblical wisdom, it can produce the desired fruit of discernment and obedience in our children (Proverbs 1).
Your Words Matter: Words can do great things in leading children, especially when information is communicated in a purposeful way that is built upon biblical principles. Joshua certainly displayed that type of leadership when it was time to trust and go forward into the Promised Land (Joshua 1:1-9).
Building Block 2: CONSEQUENCES with modifier of COMPEL
Description of Building Block 2: This building block and modifier helps answer the question, “How do we implement consequences, and how do we know which one to use?” The building block, Consequences, teaches about the effects and outcomes of one’s behavior, whether positive or negative. The modifier, Compel, refers to the ability to convince others of the need for change.
Discipline Must Be Purposeful: Hebrews 12:11 states, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” This verse affirms that consequences are to have impact. To apply such consequences, parents need determination, discernment, and the right attitude. The consequences we give our children should be powerful enough to compel them to reestablish self-control in a present situation and then, ideally, to act correctly in similar future situations. Such consequences need to be purposefully unpleasant enough so that the child can recall from memory what happened the last time he disobeyed.
Avoid Extremes Regarding Spanking: Spanking is a specific discipline method often considered when discussing the rod of correction mentioned in the Bible (Proverbs 22:15). This is a matter of which there are many opinions today and in which people tend to go to extremes. At one extreme, some parents fear that spanking their child will cause him to solve problems by hitting, teach him to become violent, or that he will learn to fear his parents. Consequently, these parents will avoid using spanking at all. The other extreme includes those who believe physical force and fear is the only way to manage a child’s behavior. Neither extreme is biblical in application or in producing the fruit of honor and obedience. Rather, age appropriate and under-control spanking that is administered by a loving parent will avoid the pitfalls of both extremes.
It is wise to consider that this method is most effective for younger aged children (2-7) when used for limited and specific misbehaviors. The term “the rod” has a deeper meaning than just using a specific stick or hand to administer a physical consequence. It also points parents to the importance of knowing why correction (in whatever form) is important and needed for children. Without correction, children will not learn valuable lessons about obedience, sacrifice, and love. The deeper meaning of the rod is about building character and restoring relationships. When these principles are lost, then correction becomes powerless, regardless of the method.
Discipline Must Keep the Child’s Best Interests in Mind: The power of the modifier “compelling” for this building block lies in how it brings purpose to consequences. It can also provide assurance to the child that his parents have his best interests in mind even when they are implementing consequences. A child will often rebel against consequences, but there is a part of his heart that will find comfort in knowing he doesn’t have to lead the home or be in charge.
Building Block 3: CONSISTENCY with a modifier of CONFIRMING
Description of Building Block 3: This building block and modifier help answer the question, “How do we maintain consistency with how we are parenting?” The building block, Consistency, allows parents to provide children with a predictable set of guidelines for living. The modifier, Confirming, refers to the ability to instruct with assurance and truth.
Steadfast Parenting: A simple definition for consistency might be to do the same thing over and over. So, one could imply that good discipline requires a parent to do the same thing over and over. However, consistency is deeper than just “doing the same thing over and over.” It is a steadfast adherence to the same principles or course of action in an intentional parenting plan.
Another definition of consistency means that there is agreement and harmony among the parts of a complex thing. For example, a husband and wife raising children of different ages can be a complex arrangement. However, there is blessing when agreement and harmony guide the parents in applying instruction, communication, and consequences.
Parental Modeling of Christ-likeness: Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” In essence, he was telling them, “Follow me as I am following Christ.” This same principle applies to parenting. Parents must follow hard after God so that their children have a good model to follow. In so doing, children who become disciples (students/learners/followers) of their parents will ultimately be directed toward Jesus Christ. Excessive inconsistency prevents discipleship. Instead of causing children to want to listen, inconsistency (in practice or principle) causes confusion. Inconsistency breeds exasperation in children and gives them reason to look at the parents in a dishonoring way (Ephesians 6:4).2
Consistency in Principles, Flexibility in Application: As parents, our response to our children’s issues needs to be consistent from day to day; however, our actual disciplinary tactics will vary based on the needs of the situation. To be consistent in approach, we are to pursue consistency in our attitude (i.e., the way we think and believe) and our composure (i.e., how we behave). We develop this consistency by being firmly grounded upon biblical principles. This allows parents to vary disciplinary tactics while remaining consistent in what they are teaching their children.
The Parent’s Attitude Speaks Loudly: The power of the modifier “confirming” also plays an important role in this building block. We are confirming when we reflect a definite assurance that our composure and attitudes are establishing a measure of order and truth. Consistency in these areas confirms parents’ values, vision, and determination to stay the course for their child’s benefit. This is not to say that parents have perfect composure, always know how to handle situations with their child, or never lose their cool. However, Deuteronomy 6:6 reminds parents of the significance of having these biblical words and precepts in their hearts throughout daily life in order to more effectively impress them upon their child.
Consequences such as time out, appropriately-applied spanking, and rewards/punishments are all “How-To” aspects of Instruction. Remember that consequences, however, are just 1/3 of the Instruction recipe. The effectiveness of Instruction is largely based on the strength of each ingredient in the recipe. Consequences must compel, be communicated clearly and effectively, and be used consistently.
How does this concept benefit children?
The Security of Knowing: Children want and need instruction and discipline in a way that the consequences and expectations are clearly communicated and consistently applied. To say that children want instruction or discipline is not to say that they will enjoy it or appreciate it. Rather, children thrive when they know where the “ground floor” is and have a healthy measure of predictability in their lives. Children flourish with proper instruction and discipline.
Parents Aren’t Perfect: Parents who are in the process of instructing their child will need to continually evaluate their approach to ensure that it is motivated by biblical principles. By modeling a willingness to admit mistakes and take a different approach, parents will help their child accept and heed instruction. The wisdom of knowing that it is ok to say we are sorry and ask forgiveness for parenting mistakes models an important biblical truth taught in the following scriptures.
Mark 11:25, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Colossians 3:13, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye.”
1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Actions and Words Must Match: Parents who model Christ’s expectations in their home and whose “walk matches their talk” will have a significant advantage in their instructional efforts. Examples: What parents say about loving others will not be nearly as impactful as how they treat others, Telling children to take responsibility for their actions will not be nearly as powerful as modeling it by acknowledging faults and saying, “I’m sorry.”, Consider what a child is learning if they are told to forgive others when parents are not willing to forgive another person who has hurt them.
PERSONAL REFLECTION – How am I doing in this area?
In thinking of the Instruction spoke (with training and discipline elements), how has your understanding or application of that word changed from this study? If it is the same, what point(s) from this study connected with what you already knew?
What expectations do you have about your role and your spouse’s role in instructing your children? Consider your strengths and weaknesses and how you can help each other.
What is a family strength in the area of:
Communication that commands?
Consequences that compels?
Consistency that confirms?
Where does the family need to improve in:
Communication that commands?
Consequences that compels?
Consistency that confirms?
What will be your first priority or area to address?
Do you need any additional information or support to help that make happen? If so, what would that be?
- John Rosemond, Parenting by the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child (New York: Howard Books, 2007).
For Further Information:
Parenting Podcast Episodes: Disciplining Our Children