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Raising Christian Children

Christian parents face just as many obstacles as non-Christians in raising kids. When you add all the distractions and the pressures in today's world, Christian parenting becomes even more than a challenge. 

A huge part of that challenge is passing on your faith to kids whose priorities are more focused on video games, sporting events, and the latest trends in clothes. And let's not forget to mention peer pressure and media pressure that offers temptations to kids to do drugs, drink alcohol and get involved sexually. Today's kids face an overall absence of godly examples and moral living in a society that is moving toward "freedom from religion" instead of "freedom of religion." 

But the good news is that there are things you can do to raise godly kids and even share your faith with them along the way. 

Living Your Faith
First, as a parent you must live out your faith in your own life. It is impossible to give away something you don't have. Kids can spot a phony from a mile away. They're looking for the real deal from their parents. 
Living your faith can start with simple things, like showing love, kindness, and generosity. If your kids see you finding ways to "be a blessing," it will become a natural and normal way of life for them too. 

Sharing Your Faith
Second, start sharing your faith early in the lives of your kids. Being a part of an active Christian church shows your kids that you think spending time with God is important. Make it a point to let them hear you talk about the great things happening in the church. Let them hear how much you've been helped by being in the midst of people with similar beliefs who pray for you and you for them. 
Sharing your faith also means reading the Bible with your children in a way that causes it to come alive for them. Find age appropriate Bible resources and lessons to incorporate into your family-fun times, as well as your child's education. Make family devotions and Bible reading a priority in your weekly schedule. 

Also, incorporate Christian entertainment, videos, books, games and movies into your child's life. Instead of feeling deprived of fun, let them discover and enjoy quality and inspiring forms of amusement that will also encourage them to develop spiritually. 

Another great way to share your faith with your children is to allow them the opportunity to make and develop Christian friendships. Their faith will be strengthened if they can share the same values with their friends. Make sure your church offers a children's program and youth group that your kids will want to be involved in. 

Lastly, show your kids what's in it for them. This is probably one of the most difficult things for many Christian parents. Often people are brought up to believe that faith is some kind of obligation you fulfill by attending church on Sunday. And let's face it, kids today aren't interested in obligations unless there is some kind of pay out at the end. 
Here are some great pay outs: 

When you give your life to Christ, you secure your place in heaven. What kid do you know that doesn't want something they don't have to earn, but rather is given to them as a gift?

When God enters your life, you receive unconditional love. What a concept for a young person! Someone who will love and accept them as they are with no strings attached.

Being a Christian means experiencing freedom. As you develop your relationship with Christ, you can be free from worry and anxiety, addictions, and so many other problems that seem to plague young people. When you do things God's way, you receive the benefits of that relationship.

Having God's favor on your life is like unwrapping a gift every single day. God's favor is an amazing blessing that makes people want to be good to you for no apparent reason. What young person wouldn't want God's blessings in their life? Of course, it wouldn't be fair to tell your kids about the pay outs and not tell them about the responsibilities that come with Christian living. Here are some of those: 
Putting God first. This means making the commitment to seek God. This isn't an easy concept for kids. There's a lot of competition for first place in the life of a young person. But parents can help kids understand that God wants them to be happy and successful even more than they do. What a great thing for a young person to hear!

Finding ways to be a blessing. Many kids are very self centered. The concept of "being a blessing" means taking the focus off them and onto someone else. This is best learned if they can see you living it. Include them in the process when you can. You'll be amazed at how good your kids will feel about themselves.

Acting right on purpose. This means treating people with kindness, respect, and patience, even those that are hard to love. Even parents, brothers and sisters. Right behavior is Christianity in action.
Sharing your faith doesn't have to be complicated. Start by living it in your own life so your kids can see it in action. Demonstrate your commitment and the value you place in an ongoing relationship with God by finding ways to be a blessing. Kids learn best by example and modeling your faith is the best example they will ever see. 

Biblical child training

There is an explosion of information today, much of which is false or unverifiable. Man desperately needs an accurate and reliable source of information that will provide beneficial and verifiable results when used. The Bible provides that source. When an intensive investigation has been honestly performed and a specific subject has been systematically developed from the Bible, the result is dependable information by which man can successfully live his life. In a day when most information is based on man's constantly changing opinions and his limited observations, it is exciting to see the objective truth of God's revelation presented. This truth is information by which man can live his life with the confidence that he is right. It is also truth that will produce predictable results when properly utilized.

What the Bible Says About . . . Child Training is a study designed to help parents to better understand their role and to reveal the mechanics for successfully raising children. To accomplish these ends this book will carefully define parental accountability, authority, and responsibility. It will also describe the nature of a child and explain his Biblically defined stages of development. With these principles firmly established, the book will present the Biblical system for training children.

This system is divided into two distinct phases, controlling and teaching. The control phase is the establishment of the parents' right of rulership over the will of the child. When parents can control their children, they have laid the necessary foundation for the fulfillment of the Biblical commandment for children to obey their parents. The teaching phase can only be accomplished by parents who have first trained their children to obey. This is because, before a child will receive the instructions of his parents, he must first respect their word; and before he will respect their word, he must first become obedient.

Colossians 3:20a "Children, obey your parents in all things;"

Children will not accept instruction from those whom they do not respect. The Biblical commandment for children to honor their father and mother is fulfilled when children respect their parents enough to accept their advice and instructions of wisdom.

Ephesians 6:2a "Honor thy father and mother,"

Parents who utilize this system consistently from the time their children are very young have God's guarantee of success. It is possible for even those parents who have failed in training their child during his early years to gain control and still produce an obedient and respectful child.

Isaiah 55:11 "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

What the Bible Says About . . . Child Training is unique in that the subject is handled solely from the Biblical viewpoint. The author accepts the Bible as absolute truth and as infinitely superior to any human system of thinking. There has been no attempt to modify God's Word to make it compatible with human philosophies, psychology, sociology, religious views, or public opinion. God's Word is accepted as is, without human adulteration. The Bible is also accepted as living and powerful information that is as relevant today as in the day when it was first revealed.

So you are the father or mother of a child who is dependent on you for support, protection, and most of all guidance. All parents must realize that the physical ability to have children does not automatically qualify them for the task of properly training children. Therefore, what do you do now? This chapter outlines the dilemma most parents face in raising their children.

Being a parent today is a difficult and often bewildering challenge. There are so many conflicting theories about child training that even the reputed "experts" disagree with each other. Everyone has his own opinion on how children should be raised. Prior to the late 1940's, this confusion didn't exist. Old fashioned child training methods were passed down from generation to generation. But, in 1945 the new psychological approach became popularized by Dr. Benjamin Spock's book, Baby and Child Care. This book sold nearly one million copies the first year, and about thirty million copies to date (second only in sales to the Bible). This means that more than one-third of all parents over the past fifty years have had this book; and many of them have followed its advise religiously. Dr. Spock taught parents not to inhibit (restrain) a child, but to give him freedom to be himself; and not to use physical punishment (chastisement) in disciplining a child, but lovingly reason with him instead. A steady stream of books and magazine articles have carried that message of behavioral psychology forward to the present day.

To add to the parents' confusion about proper child training has been the religious teaching on love that equates Christian grace and love with tolerance of even wrong doing (permissiveness). We need to examine the issue of Christian love from the Biblical viewpoint to determine its proper use in child training. First, let's see what Biblical love is not:

  • It is not love to raise a child who lacks self-discipline and is therefore guided by his or her lusts for attention, food or drink, sex, play and entertainment, wandering, loafing, or seeking to gain something for nothing. Which of these lusts have hampered your own life? Do you wish you would have been better trained in self-discipline?

     
  • It is not love to train a child not to be responsible for his own actions and not to accept the consequences of those actions. What has it cost you as an adult to have blamed others or justified yourself for your own mistakes and failures? Would you have progressed further and sooner in your life had you been trained to be more responsible as a child?

One of the benefits of this book will be the clarification of how parents can demonstrate true Christian love to their children by a balanced and responsible exercise of their authority. It will be demonstrated that when toleration of wrong behavior is applied to the raising of children, it results in an overly-permissive approach that produces tragic results. Distinction between the attributes of love and the practice of love needs to be understood, and then kept in mind throughout the study:

  • The attributes of Christian love are expressed in I Corinthians 13:4-7 and Philippians 2:1-4 as being patient, kind, not easily provoked, merciful, and humble -- all which Christian parents would desire to emulate. However, these attributes in no way nullify the equally important attributes of righteousness and justice. For example, a righteous government can not apply the attributes of patience, kindness, or mercy to law breakers. In the practice of proper government, justice can not be served by a tolerance of criminal activity. Governments must uphold righteous law for a stable condition to exist within a nation.
  • Likewise, parents are to provide for and comfort their children; but they are also required to set and enforce righteous standards for them. The practice of Christian love in parenting is exercised when parents combine the righteousness of setting legitimate standards for their children with the justice of fairly punishing for disobedience. It is in a child's best interest to learn right from wrong as well as to develop self-control over his self-centered nature. Loving parents will therefore train a child for his own benefit. This training process will require personal sacrifice on the parents' part, and that is even further demonstration of true Christian love in practice.

    John 15:13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

When righteousness and justice are practiced according to God's principles in the training of children, there will be a balance for our responsive love; and then incorrect and unsuccessful extremes will be avoided. Parents can be firm in setting and enforcing righteous standards without being tyrannical or abusive. They can sacrificially give of themselves on behalf of their children, but still not give in to the demands of an immature child.

WARNING: Let's face the truth, most parents don't evade training their children properly because they "love" them so much. It's because we parents from previously untrained generations are self-centered, lazy, and lack the character to handle conflict with our children. We will stand by and allow our children to raise themselves, rather than sacrifice our time or our emotions for their benefit -- i.e., to love them. Perhaps committing yourself to truly loving your children before reading this book is your first step to successful child training.

You can begin to see why knowing how to train children is a challenge today. We have the remnants of old fashioned child training; the new humanistic behavioral psychology methods; and a wishy-washy, luke-warm tolerance of all things. To top these opinions off, we have a multitude of Christian books on child rearing that give forth a wide range of personal advice and opinions. Many of these books lean heavily on the theories of behavioral psychology rather than on the principles set forth in the Bible. Others intermingle elements of psychology with Bible verses and/or the religious concepts of love, thus adding to the general confusion. A few even attack specific Bible verses in an attempt to justify their personal positions!

It is no surprise that mass confusion about child rearing exists. About the only thing the reputed "experts" do agree upon is: "there is no set pattern for training children." In other words, they say that there is no one, right way to parent. Many of these "experts" have taken the position that parental use of any physical discipline constitutes child abuse. This has caused conscientious parents to question their right to discipline their own children. With advice like this, it is no wonder that the past several generations of parents have turned to their own understanding for their best guess on child training.

These parents develop a system of child training consisting of a mixture of the confused information available. It probably contains some behavior modification, some non-Biblical love, and the use of force when all else fails. This system will produce great instability for both children and parents as the parents over-compensate from one extreme to the other. As a result the parents exist between ineffectiveness and guilt; while their children exist between frustration and anger.

Without any clear system, parents will default to the trial and error method -- the hope that the second child will benefit from the mistakes made with the first, that the third will benefit from the mistakes made with the second, and so forth. Some parents believe they can be successful by simply avoiding the mistakes they think their own parents made. The question for all parents who are raising their children on their own opinions is this: how do you know when your system is correct?

As a parent, you have only one change with each child. You spend a major part of your life raising a child, and all that effort can seem painfully wasted unless there are positive results. Are you satisfied that you know how to handle that one chance to the benefit of each child? Have you considered the cost to your children and to yourself if you fail to train them properly? These are awesome questions that every parent must face.

What is the answer? Is there a system for child training that can end all of this confusion? Is there one that you can know for sure is correct and that can be utilized to obtain the right results? Yes! This book sets forth the only system for child training given in the Bible -- a system you can use with confidence in becoming a successful parent.

I John 5:14 & 15 "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; And if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."

God promises blessings for parents who properly train their children (Proverbs 10:1a; 23:24 & 25; 29:17; 31:28).

God also warns of cursing for parents who don't (Proverbs 10:1b; 17:21: 29:15b).

Our children are now 37, 34, and 32. The joy my wife and I have experienced from seeing each of them consistently apply God's Word to their lives, and in the training of their own children, exceeds any human happiness we have known from anything else in our lives. Each adult child has experienced his or her share of tribulation; ill health, death of a loved one, deprivation, painful relationships, and shattered dreams. However, they have all acted maturely, i.e. taken responsibility for their own actions, accepted their own consequences, and depended on God to deliver them through their pressure-filled trials. Two of our children experienced a brief period of seeking their own way -- following their own opinions. Eventually, they each willingly turned their lives back to God. Praise Him!

God's grace exceeded His promises in our family's case. Our oldest child was already nine when Virginia and I were saved. None of our children had the head start of Biblical child training, church, or Christian education during their very important formative years. But, my wife and I committed ourselves to God and to following His Word after our salvation, and He was faithful and fair to our children.

Over the years, I have spoken to thousands of concerned parents and a particular question often arises: "Is it really a promise from God that our children will turn out okay if we properly train them?" Some Christian authors have denied this concept. Please note that it is not just Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." that indicates a guarantee. All of the other passages cited in this lesson warn us that young adults are the products of their upbringing. It seems very clear to me that parents who raise their child to be a fool (one who rejects God's Word in living his life) will reap the promise of cursing. Equally clear is the promise that training up a wise child, who honors his parents as well as God's Word, will result in blessings for both parents and child.

Exodus 20:12 "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

Ephesians 6:2 & 3 "Honor 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."

I have never known of a child "going bad" who was raised by a Christian father and mother who both practiced: a right marriage (father in leadership, mother in support, both operating in love and justice), and; correct child training principles (with a proper balance between controlling and teaching). On the other hand, I have met a great number of young adults who have paid a terrible price because their Christian parents failed in properly training them. Some of these young adults have been delivered by God's grace from not being trained and now understand the source of their problems. Each and every one of these restored ones are now committed not to repeat their parents' mistakes.

My prayer is that parents who read What the Bible Says About . . . Child Training will commit themselves to: train up their children in the way they should go.

Sibling rivalry is as natural as "the terrible twos" and "teenage rebellion". That is, it is part of the natural man (the sin nature) to be envious (covetous), greedy, even to war with each other (James 4:1 & 2). As always, parents are responsible to be the external control for their children until they develop internal controls. Parents, you have a responsibility to maintain peace for the subjects (children) in your kingdom (home) (I Timothy 2:2 & 3). You can't force your children to love each other, but you can make sure that they can lead quiet and peaceful lives.

You can teach your children that the Lord hates: "A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6:19). And, for the responder to an attack; "Recompense to no man evil for evil" (Romans 12:17a). And, the basis for all manners; "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves" (Phillipians 2:3).

Sharing

One of the reasons for sibling squabbles, as well as those with other children, is concerning possessions. Parents would like for their children to share their toys freely with others (of course, we don't offer our car, stereo outfit, new clothes, or other prize possessions to others). But, it's not sharing unless it comes from the heart and forcing a little one to give up a prized possession to another won't change the heart. In fact, if the other child has been grabbing or whining for the prize, giving it to him supports stealing more than giving. It is the grabby child who is being selfish, not the one who owns the item. Russell Madden wrote in The Freeman, December, 1993, about forced sharing:

    "Children grow into adults who accept the notion that those who demand the property of others are entitled to receive it, and those who defend their own property are immoral. The demands of the homeless, the uninsured, the student, the businessman, and the retiree, jealous of others who have what they do not, are echoes of the whining cries of those spoiled children who 'want' and 'need' the toys of their playmates.

    Parents should tell their children first that what is theirs is theirs: They need not share if they do not want to. By the same token, they cannot use the toys of other children -- if those children prefer not to share. The idea of property is fundamental. Should a child wish to use another's toy the proper course for him to follow is to ask. If the other child declines, he should offer an exchange of some kind: this duck for that elephant. If the answer is still no, they should either increase their offer or be satisfied with what they already have. Under no circumstances should a child be allowed simply to seize the property of another. If another child should take a toy your child does not want to give up, the aggrieved party should feel free to come to you to rectify the problem, i.e., to return the toy, not to take the side of the thief against the innocent victim."

It is good for parents to encourage their children to share with those in need. Our children learned a lot about themselves, and others, by making up Christmas baskets and delivering them to other families, and by volunteering help to those in need. But, private property rights are important to teach as well.

Sophistication

I am extremely concerned about children becoming sophisticated in Christian families because they are allowed to have too many adult experiences before they are emotionally ready. A child is not an adult. By all accounts he is immature -- physically and psychologically. If he becomes exposed to adult experiences prematurely it can actually harm his maturing process.

Sophistication: "The act of adulterating; a counterfeiting or debasing the purity of something by a foreign admixture; adulteration." Noah Webster Dictionary, 1828. "The use of specious, but fallacious reasoning." Oxford English Dictionary, 1971. Other factors of sophistication are: "An argument not based on sound reason; not pure or genuine; reasoning sound in appearance only, shallow, superficial." We might say a person is sophisticated when they can use a specialized vocabulary and convincingly argue their point, but who really doesn't have the depth of understanding to match their experience -- a know-it-all who doesn't.

Children start to develop this attitude when parents allow or encourage them to "act adult" too early. For instance, a child of four to eleven calling his parents and other adults by their first names, or speaking in a familiar fashion to them, or asking adult (personal) questions, or making personal comments to them. It also occurs when a child is constantly made the center of attention in adult groupings. A child who is treated as if his opinions are of equal value with adults becomes puffed up in self-importance. This leads to frustration when he finds he really isn't allowed to live according to his own immature ideas. When parents promote premature adulthood in their children it produces an unhealthy independence, rather than a desired self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is based on personal responsibility; independence is based on a false sense of self-importance (conceit) and is usually accompanied with self-centeredness (being spoiled).

Over-familiarization may be cute for awhile, but it is also nauseating after a short time; and it can destroy adult relationships. It also destroys the child's respect for his parents' authority and respect for adults overall. Timothy was no sophomore, but even he as an elder was commanded to show the respect of a son: "Rebuke not an elder, but exhort him as a father; and the younger men, as brethren; The elder women, as mothers; the younger, as sisters, with all purity" (I Timothy 5:1 & 2). (See also Job 32:4 & 6; James 5:5a.) Children should be taught respect and honor for all adults. Familiarity is a privilege of common knowledge, rank, or class; not a right to be given children before their time.

Like sophistication, mental over-stimulation distorts a child's perception of reality. If allowed as a life style, a child can become bored and dissatisfied with normal life. I don't know if only those who naturally have a compulsive personality are affected by over-stimulation, or if over-stimulation produces compulsive behavior. I do know that boys/men are most susceptible to its addiction. The desire for mental stimulation, like any addiction, is insatiable and will lust for more quantity and increased levels as it continues un-checked.

Stimulation addiction can begin at two or three-years-old in children who are allowed to sit mesmerized (hypnotized; compelled by fascination) in front of a television for hours at a time. The colorful cartoons and other surrealistic entertainment (inanimate objects like plants, animals, and symbols that talk and move) create a world for the child with more mental stimulation than the real world can compete. Turning the sound up and sitting very close are ways of becoming more a part of the fantasy world, while shutting out distractions form the real world.

If parents are going to allow any such entertainment for their children, a few cautions are in order: ten or more feet away, sound no louder than a person speaking normally in the room would be, and limited time (like 15-30 minutes). Don't even start the must-complete-a-program habit. When it is time to eat or go somewhere, the program is turned off. Ideally, parents would sit with their children to discuss the content of any program they watch.

Anything that heightens the illusion, "increases" the mesmerizing effect (large screen, dark movie theater, surrealistic sound system, front row seats, and ear deafening volume). A Star Wars, Raiders, Jurassic Park, Tornado, or any other movie with special graphic and audio affects can be entertaining, or a "trip," depending on the mental maturity of the viewer. Some eight to twenty-year-old children will return many times to such movies for repeated trips (or fixes). They don't go back to study the plot or character development.

Notice that total involvement of the senses, especially sound, is a key element of stimulation addictions. Therefore, headphones play a vital role for children who wish to turn off the real world and escape into their fantasy world. I've never known a child to "trip" to easy-listening or classical music. It requires the loud, accented beat of rock, rap, or heavy metal to block the mind from reality and replace it with fantasy. Headphones allow a child to exist in a fantasy world of his own making where there are no rules, no work, and no adults.

Video games, either on the TV or on an arcade machine, can also induce stimulation addiction. I've known parents who have experienced extreme trauma in breaking their child from an addiction to Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, or other equally exciting games. A child can play these games for H-O-U-R-S, and they become better than their parents over night (a side attraction). Even an adult can get hooked on video games or the computer with its infinite variety. Immature children don't have a chance against this level of mental stimulation. Parents would do well to limit their children's use of video games or on the computer to less than an hour-per-day; and only "after" all home duties, studies, and at least some form of physical exercises have been completed.

Video music is an even more intense experience. Many music videos add violence, sex, and the occult for heightened experiences. Children as young as twelve-years-old have been known to move into pornography, sexual experiences, and witchcraft under music video influence. Each of these areas is compulsively additive itself. When combined with the sensory stimulation of music videos they create an almost unbreakable hold on a child. The next logical step is to escape reality through drugs (suicide by degree) or by actual suicide (which is the number one killer of teens today). Children have no need for escape from reality. They haven't even experienced what reality is yet. Rock, rap, heavy metal, music videos' and games like Dungeons and Dragons or Magic -- the Gathering, by Wizards of the Coast would be forbidden in my home.

A child can also become warped in regard to reality when he has "too many" adult experiences, "too young" for his emotional stability. When he has already been everywhere and done everything by the time he is fourteen or fifteen, it will be difficult for him to relate to the real world. School, family, church, and even his friends will appear dull to him. A pattern will have been set for him to always seek ever-increasing stimulation. There used to be an old saying that went something like this: "how are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've see Pariee." A child becomes dissatisfied with the reality of life, if he experiences too much stimulation.

"excerpts come from What the Bible Says About . . . Child Training." 


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