How are we to raise our children? This is a very important question, perhaps one of the most important responsibilities given to adults in our lives. What is our standard to know what is right from what is wrong? What authority can teach us how to raise our children? As this article is written by a disciple of Jesus, we will look to Jesus of Nazareth for guidance on how to raise our children.
While Jesus does not directly address raising children, he does give us enough principles to do a good job at that important task. The three key principles that he gives that have a direct bearing on child training are these:
"Honor your father and your mother" (Matt. 19:19 is one of the several places he validates this command of Moses as having originated from his Father).
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6)
While many other principles given by the Light could have a bearing on child raising, this author thinks that these three form a foundation that we would do well to carry out.
Sadly some people may no longer know what the term "honor" means as there is so little proper honoring happening any more in the U.S. culture. To "honor" means "to hold in great value; to esteem highly; respect; to revere". If children are not honoring their dad and their mom, then we are failing at perhaps the most important thing.
Even worse than not knowing what "to honor" means, is to not know what "love" means. The attack on the definition and concept of love has been both intense and effective. The meaning of "love" has been changed-redefined to mean just about anything other than how Jesus of Nazareth defines it [see article on What is God's Love?]. Certainly a key aspect of God's love - obedience to His Son - has been all but lost. As this is true, it is a natural consequence that parents have no idea that a key aspect of their children's love for them will be manifested by their children wanting to - and thus actually - obeying them.
Finally, as parents we should desire righteousness, first for ourselves, and then for our children. A person who is hungering and thirsting for righteousness quite simply cares passionately about doing what is right themselves, and helping other's around them do what is right. If this is done in a humble spirit, self-righteousness will be avoided. Once again, and sadly, with the turning away from the heavenly Father and His Way, people are like lost sheep not knowing what is right and what is wrong. If you have no correct standard (or even consistent standard, let along correct) of right behavior, then how can you possibly seek to hunger and thirst to keep that standard of right-ness? In like manner, if you don't have the correct standard of righteousness, how can you possible train your children in that standard? The truth is that most people, including religious people, make up their own standards and don't listen carefully to the Light.
What Does Dishonoring Look Like?
Again, and sadly, many people in the U.S. culture don't know what it looks like for a child to honor their dad and their mom, as there are so few parent's training their children to honor them any more. We have already given the definition of "honoring" above. Please understand, though, it is not the young children's fault that they are not honoring their parents, but the parents fault due to their turning away from the heavenly Father and His Way. No blame can be placed upon young children (younger children, ages 2 - 14) who dishonor their parents - instead, the parent's have trained their children to dishonor them.
So what does dishonoring the parent look like? Here are the manifestations of parents raising their own children to dishonor them. These examples build in degree of dishonor or disrespect:
These examples are not comprehensive, but should convey to the reader the point. If the child is manifesting these things, then the parents are failing to do a decent job at raising their children to honor them. If the child is manifesting the behaviors and/or attitudes of 7. to 11., then the parents are not only failing to train their children to honor them, they are actually training their children to hold them in contempt and to, eventually, intensely dislike or even hate them.
Parent's were created by God to have a place of authority over their children and as such, to ensure their children honor them to the best of their ability. When a parent abrogates that basic role of authority - for whatever reason and in whatever manner - they create in their children a deep disrespect, dishonoring and even hatred of the parent(s). It should come as no surprise to those parents that one day, the deep disrespect of their children manifests itself. Often it is manifest by ignoring their parents and thus not have any significant relationship with them.
"Therefore everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever ignores me before men, I will also ignore him before my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33)
The role the heavenly Father gives to parents is to be reflective of His relationship with His children (those who have faith in Him) in that He is in authority while His children honor Him and submit to Him as an aspect of their love for Him ("If you love me, you will obey me"). As the parent reverses the God given proper role of their having authority, and instead, hands that authority over to their children (to any degree or in any frequency), the parent does two terrible things.
Children raised this way will almost certainly never come to the place of truly submitting to the Son of God, and thus, they will ignore him before men even as they will ignore their earthly father and mother.
An Important Distinction:
Imperfect Children or Unrighteous Parents?
Please let the reader understand this critical distinction. Few natural families have perfect children, but the perfection of the children is not the primary point. The primary point is this - are the parents recognizing the child's dishonoring words, actions or attitudes (behavior) and immediately doing something to stop the behavior. Or stated another way, when the child sins and dishonors the parent, is the parent taking action such that the child's words, actions or attitude of dishonoring is stopped. If parents are not taking some firm and effective steps to immediately and effectively address the sin (effective results in changed behavior), then they are abrogating their role as parents worthy of respect, and will only create contempt in their children - which contempt is manifested in the disobedience and rebellion (the dishonoring) of the children.
This does not mean that the sin (children's disobedience) won't recur, perhaps even regularly for some time - depending upon how long the parent's have trained their children to dishonor them. However, if the parent is consistent with recognizing the sin and then appropriately addressing it, the parent is doing a good job at trying to train and raise their children to be decent people who respect some authority other than themselves. This is extremely important as those children will have a much better chance at someday wanting - and knowing how to- submit to their heavenly Father and Master's authority. "If you love me, you will obey me" says the Light of the world.
Contrary to popular belief, the concepts of love and discipline are not mutually exclusive.
The heavenly Father's love is selfless behavior motivated by a heart of compassion...it is wanting what is best for another person (according to the perfect Standard of Jesus and his teachings) even when that costs us something.
It is that simple and that clear.
Having a proper understanding of the meaning of the Father's love is extremely important since His Son said the greatest commands have to do with love. It is very popular today to re-define love in a way that nullifies it's true meaning and instead defines it to fit or justify my desires or behavior. If love is effectively re-defined from what the Light of the world says it is, then his teachings and commands regarding love are essentially nullified. When this happens, the spiritual war is essentially over as falsehoods have replaced the Truth. In this light, please note what God's love is not. Let's start with repeating what the Father's love is, to make the contrast clear:
The heavenly Father's love is selfless behavior motivated by a heart of compassion...it is wanting what is best for another person (according to the perfect Standard of Jesus and his teachings) even if that costs us something.
Here is a list of some popular things that God's love is NOT:
Now most christians will turn to Paul's words regarding love instead of looking to the One who is the perfect representation of God's love towards the people of the world. Let's consider Paul's words: "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
While Paul lays out some excellent character virtues (good thing), he also expands the definition of love here to include other concepts (bad thing), thus setting the stage to redefine love in the future by adding to it. In other words, Jesus' definition of love would include only "does not seek its own" (selfless) and motivated by a heart of compassion - unfortunately Paul leaves out the motivation of compassion. Again, please dear reader, I am not faulting Paul's list here of excellent virtues that we all should seek to manifest towards others in our relationships with them. I am merely making the point that Paul expands the definition of love such that he invites others to redefine it in the future by adding more concepts to it. The contemporary list above - what love is not - lends credence to this concern as people are in fact adding to "love" and thus nullifying the love defined by Jesus himself.
If you cannot destroy something obviously good by attacking it head on, then another effective way to make it ineffective is to add so much stuff to it that its true meaning gets lost [please see, The Purpose of this Website].
Discipline has come to be viewed by the vast majority of people in the US, including christians, as a 'negative' thing that is harmful to their children. One only need to look around them at the behavior of children in general to see where this belief leads people. Of course, if people have turned away from any type of objective standard (for example, the standard of the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth) by which to judge what is proper-correct-right child behavior or correct parents child raising methods, then they will be blind to what is happening all around them. Sadly, this is where the majority of people in the U.S.A. are today.
What is discipline? In its purest form, it is the practice of self-control using various methods to achieve the desired result. Discipline is often motivated or enforced externally rather than internally. Examples of self or internally motivated discipline for adults would be, 'I need the discipline to eat less to lose weight', or, 'I need the discipline to exercise three times a week for at least half an hour'. Examples of externally motivated discipline would be, 'soldier, if you don't do 100 push ups, you will get punished' or 'employee, if you don't work 40 hours per week you will get released from our employ'.
What is discipline for children? It is training children to obey parents using both positive and negative motivations. It is consistently applying both reward or praise and punishment or correction. It is truly that simple. Of course the overall environment that the children are to be raised in, is one of doing what is best for the children based on the Light's teachings, with a motivation of compassion for them and to see them be what the heavenly Father wants them to be. And what does He want them to be? Selfless, compassion-motivated servants of others. Sound familiar? Remember love? Most people say, 'Oh yes' to the selfless, compassion motivated servants of others model, but in reality they train their children in exactly the opposite direction, to be self-loving, selfish people wanting to be served.
The Parent's Natural 'Love'
As parent's, we have a natural love for our children. Unfortunately, the natural love we have is a corrupted form of love which still has at its core, a selfish motivation by the parent. The natural love says, "I want my child to be happy", and the parent's unspoken motivation is often, 'so I won't have to deal with unhappy children'. And how do the parents seek to make the child "happy"? Essentially it is attained by letting or giving the child what the child wants. This is the fundamental error of the major child raising philosophies of the world. Instead of having a standard of right and wrong that the parents are attempting to raise and train their children in, the parents primary standard is "I must make my child happy". This leads to all kinds of serious problems for both parents and children.
As mentioned above, the concept of "love" has been redefined to mean hundreds of things, many of which are sinful. This might be particularly true in the context of raising children. Current philosophies in the world regarding methods to raise children all have one thing in common...they ultimately work against children honoring their parents. Stated another way, the basic role of parent as authority and child as submitted to that authority, is attacked from just about every angle. 'After all', the contemporary parent reasons, 'asking my children to do what I want will definitely not allow them generally to get their way, and thus they will be unhappy'. The result of this philosophy is simple - selfish, self-centered children. This is the exact opposite result of this One's desire:
"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35)
And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you. "Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? "But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'? "He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'" (Luke 17:6-10)
This is the great tragedy of the world's child raising ways. Instead of children being prepared to be servant's of all, they are being prepared to be unjust, selfish, cowardly lords in the world.
If contemporary people who hold the most popular philosophies would just be honest, they would have to say, regarding the teachings of the Light just above, that Jesus is wrong...'he does not have a proper understanding of self-esteem, nor of how to properly motivate people for positive change'.
No matter the specific form or doctrine, what contemporary child raising philosophies teach is that exercising authority over one's children is harmful to them. One very popular form of these philosophies is generally labeled as "positive thinking". This philosophy teaches that anything "negative" - words or behavior by the parent - is harmful to the child. Of course "negative" would include rebuke or correction or discipline in most forms. A sister philosophy comes wrapped in the "self-esteem" lingo. This doctrine states that anything that would cause harm to a child's self esteem is harmful to the child. Again, "harm to a child's self esteem" would include rebuke, correction or punishment.
These philosophies have one fatal flaw. They negate the teachings and behavior of the Perfect One, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth was not a "positive thoughts, self-esteem" teacher. Rather, he is and was the Truth. And what does the Truth have to say about the positive thinking, self-esteem teachings?
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him?" (Matthew 7:11)
"And He said to him, Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)
"I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing (of eternal value)." (John 15:5)
"...and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it'. And Jesus answered them and said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" (Mark 9:18-19)
"But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." (Luke 12:45-48)
The Light of the world's teachings hardly fit into the popular positive thinking and self-esteem philosophies, and in fact show them for what they are - teachings and beliefs seeking to nullify the truth's of the Truth. There are literally many dozens of more teachings of the Light of the world which stand in contradiction to the popular positive thinking and self-esteem beliefs.
In regard to applying the positive thinking, self-esteem teachings to child raising, their primary flaw is that they work on the assumption that children are basically good. The flip side to make only positive statements is this - 'Try to minimize all 'negative' statements (again this included rebukes and corrections) about the children's behavior'. People believe that these philosophies will somehow make the child behave better. Strange that there are so many children with uncontrollable behavior problems (little tyrant children) created by these philosophies yet they continue to grow in popularity. The only reasonable, explanation is that the adults creating the tyrants must believe that being a tyrant is not all that bad.
"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12)
At a more fundamental level, it seems the primary flaw with the positive thinking philosophy is its denial of the nature of people and thus the nature of the world. People are not essentially good, rather, we are essentially bad-selfish, wanting the best for ourselves and less for others. That is the fruit of the tree. The root of the tree is that we love our lives in this world such that we seek to keep and preserve and make comfortable our lives in this world. We don't really love the Father with all that is in us, for if we did, we would so value being with Him that we would see that this world is a hindrance to that goal and desire. Our love for our lives in this world makes us takers, not givers, and thus usually willing to advance our life in this world at other's expense. Ugly, but true to the person who has eyes to see and thus is not in denial about themselves and the world we are in.
Children are beautiful, little, immature humans, and they should be valued simply for being that - they are made in God's image and likeness. Children ought to be viewed as little, valuable works of art in the making, with the potential for much good or much evil DEPENDING LARGELY UPON HOW WE RAISE THEM. These things, however, do not mean that children ought to be treated like fragile vases that need to be handled with extreme care, and thus all rebuke or correction or punishment (disciplinary measured currently defined as 'insensitive, harsh, rough, damaging or the most popular, abusive') will cause harm to the vase. A truly "loved" child ought to be treated with care as well as be trained in truth, righteousness and hard work.
The truth is that children are loved and valued by their heavenly Father, even while His Son makes it clear we are not worthy of that love and valuing. As parents with children, we have a very serious obligation to raise up our children to be self-less servants in hopes of their one day choosing to be servants of the King. A good servant is one who serves others - one who puts their wants and needs behind them so that they may meet the legitimate wants and needs of others. A servant, as Jesus of Nazareth defines it, could never be a self-filled, self-loving, self-serving person.
Unsure of what your child raising methods are doing to your children? Just sit back and watch them and you will see IF you don't have a filter over your perspective. A truly "good heart" is manifested by good words, actions and attitudes. It does the child harm for their parents to be in denial about their child's words, actions and attitudes. If your child is regularly manifesting selfish, disrespectful words, actions or attitudes, then they do not have a good heart, all your objections and justifications not withstanding. And as such, you really ought to put away your previous and current child raising philosophies and methods and change to ones that work for your child's eternal good.
Please truly love your child enough to raise and train them to be selfless servants who love what is right and good and therefore will one day seek to have as their Master, the Righteous One himself.
For child raising in the context of the larger spiritual Family, please click here.
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