(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
“For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23, NASB).
In the last lesson, the emphasis was placed upon the importance of love as a foundation for training the child. But every parent soon encounters the child’s resistance to training–no matter how lovingly, or tenderly, or compassionately the child is treated. The material in this lesson deals with this problem.
Expect Resistance to Training
The following Bible verses indicate the need for discipline and imply that resistance to training is normal and can be expected: Proverbs 13:24; 15:10; 19:18; 22:15; 29:15; Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:11. If you think your children will be delighted with everything you want them to do, you have an expectation that is unrealistic. If you intend to keep your children smiling all day long, you are tackling a futile venture. If you consider yourself a failure because your children don’t like what you want them to do at times, you misunderstand the nature of your children. They want their own way. You can expect resistance.
“Train up” your child
A father tells of an incident that arose with his very beautiful daughter. She was offered a contract to become a model. There was only one obstacle in the way. Her dad would have to falsify her age on the contract because she was too young. She came home very happy and enthusiastic about this opportunity.
It would mean two hundred dollars a week for her while she was going to high school. Her mind was made up. However, because of his spiritual wisdom and personal integrity, her father refused to allow her to accept the contract. She argued: “Aren’t you interested in my future? What kind of a dad are you?”
She accused him of not loving her and not caring for her welfare. What was he to do? It was a very emotion-packed problem. However, there was a very simple solution. It is not right to lie about anything. He might expect that his daughter would be somewhat less than delighted with his decision. A father can not always expect his children to appreciate his position. However, he must do the right thing.
The Bible does not teach us to humor the desires of our children. It does say, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). It does not even imply that he will appreciate your training. He may stubbornly resist you every inch of the way. The parent must remember that he is doing the training. Because he is the trainer, he must have some concept of the goals toward which he is working. The day will probably come when the young woman who aspired to be a model will look back on this experience with her dad and say, “I’m glad he did it.” That she may not be able to appreciate it now, he can understand. He should be kind and gentle and patient, but firm in his allegiance to what he knows to be right and best. She does not understand now, but some day she will.
We have all gone through periods when we could not have what we wanted and could not understand why. Yet, when we look back through the telescope of the years, discipline and denial make sense. We need not be so concerned with our children’s reaction to our discipline. The important thing is our wholesome reaction to their reaction.
Express true love
The mother of a young child asks, “What do you do with a child who won’t do what you want her to do?” For example, she tells the child not to eat crackers in the living room. The child takes the crackers and eats them in the living room. If she insists on the child’s going back into the kitchen, the child begins to cry and says, “You don’t love me.” The psychology books say you should be sure your children know you love them. How do you demonstrate your love? By giving in? This child discovered that if, in her sweet little three-and-one-half-year-old style, she looked up at her mother and said, “You don’t love me,” her mother would take her up in her arms and say: “I do love you. You can eat crackers in the living room.” It is no wonder this girl is a neighborhood problem. Her mother says so and everybody agrees with her.
When your child questions your love, do you let him evaluate your affection for him? Who is a better judge of your love, the little child or you? Sometimes a young child may blurt out the truth to a parent who is motivated by resentment and hatred. But if in a tender, gentle way this mother can teach this little child that crackers are to be eaten in the kitchen, not in the living room; if she can demonstrate that whether the child pouts or screams, or throws herself on the floor, nothing will alter mother’s genuine affection for her, then she need not fear the child’s statement.
We are to “train up a child in the way he should go.” This is a foundation block, a key in training children: all of our actions must issue from a wellspring of affection, tenderness, love, kindness, and long-suffering.
Maintain the right spirit
When dealing with children, you must appreciate the fact that they are beset with the universal human weakness common to us all–the tendency to rebel or do wrong. However, you must hold up the standard and be the best example that you can. When you fail to live up to your standard, you should be just as quick to acknowledge it as you are to correct your child. All of us should have as our standard the conformity to Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:13). We are all to aim in that direction. Nevertheless, we are subject to the same temptations that our children face, and therefore we should have some appreciation of their deviations.
It is not unusual to go through some rough waters during the course of any day. Especially is this true in families where parents hold standards that are different from those of the majority of people. These standards may be challenged with all the vehemence of a youthful heart, just as parents challenged standards when they were young. But be careful that your training has a compassionate heart at its base. When your children challenge your standards and you must discipline them, be sure your spirit is what it should be. How do you show your love for a child? By training him in the way he should go.
Do not lower your standards
A boy who took a Red Cross swimming course failed in the final examination. The instructor naturally refused to give him a certificate. The boy went home sad and tearful because he had flunked the course. This touched the dad, who wanted to spare his son grief. Thinking he was doing the boy a favor, the father used his influence to get his son a certificate through a friend. As a result, the boy was given a Red Cross emblem to sew on his bathing suit. Some time later, while swimming with other boys who wore the same emblem, but who had passed the course, he dived into some deep water; and trying but failing to keep up with the other boys, he was drowned. Did his dad really do him a favor? Was this an expression of love? Was it the proper reaction to the boy?
At a popular restaurant a sign posted at the entrance read, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” A group not wearing shoes approached the hostess, turned on all their youthful charm, and used all their persuasive power to get in without shoes. The hostess finally yielded. Did she do them a favor? A sign that says, “No shoes, no shirt, no service,” means nothing if people don’t enforce it. An unenforced law is a farce. What did these youths learn? They found out that if you turn on enough charm, use plenty of persuasion, and apply the right kind of pressure, you can sometimes have what you want. They found that, for a time, there seems to be a way to get around the law. Is it fair to the youngsters to allow them to lower the standard? It is an unfortunate lesson for them to learn.
When you get something you are not supposed to have, you do not enjoy it. Your own conscience judges that you have no right to it; nevertheless, it is natural to want to violate standards, to cross limits. These examples illustrate this resistance to training. It is normal and can be expected.