Should you withdraw affection?
Another question is frequently asked: “Is it effective to withdraw your affection from a child in order to keep him in line?”
A cold shoulder can be just as painful as a slap. If you are about to discipline your child, you must do it in a tender way. Can you spank a child tenderly? Compassionately? You’d better not spank him if you can’t. The Lord disciplines and chastens you, not because He has withdrawn His affection, but because He loves you. The Christian concept of love is described in 1 Corinthians 13–kindness, gentleness, tenderness, compassion. . . . Children should feel that they cannot lose your affection. Your love for your child is independent of his behavior. Your child should also be sure that he will be chastened if he needs it.
You can say to your child, “No, you can’t do that,” because from the depths of a loving heart you know it is not good for the child. On the other hand, you can say, “Stop it!” because you’ve lost your temper. Your tone and attitude make the difference. The child knows the difference–and so do you. When you discipline your child in an attitude of love, he will be strengthened and so will you. When you lash out at your child in a spirit of hostility and anger, you do not help the child, and you hurt yourself. This lashing out need not be in terms of physical punishment. It can be verbal or silent, yet be just as devastating in its effect on the character of the child as physical punishment administered in anger.
Get on your knees and ask God to forgive you for your anger. God disciplines us, not because we have angered Him, but because what we are doing is not good for us. When we discipline our children, we should do it because they need it, not because we have lost our temper.
It is very important that you do your disciplining in a spirit of love. If you cannot do it in a spirit of love, you are the one who needs to get into the closet. This is why spanking and other forms of discipline have been in such ill repute–the one doing the spanking is generally out of control.
Turning a cold shoulder to your child is just another way of saying, “I don’t like you.” At what point are you justified in withdrawing your love? How much badness will justify your anger? Where is the line? There is none. Wherever your love falls short, you need to repent. Though few can claim perfection, let us be sure that the shoe is on the right foot. If you are out of control, don’t blame your child.
“These children get me down!” Such phrases are frequently heard. Who sets the tone in your family? You or your children? On occasion a mother in all seriousness will say, “If this three-year-old would behave, I’d be happy.” She doesn’t sense the irony in such a statement. It would be too bad if the happiness of adults depended upon the behavior of three-year-olds or children of any age!
You are on trial
There will be times when your children will not understand or appreciate your expectations of them. There will be times of steady resistance to your discipline. It may stretch over days or weeks or months. During times like these, you, the parent, are on trial. The fact that your children are disgusted with you is no reason for you to be disgusted with them. Broken fellowship? Yes, but it need not be on your part. Your responsibility is to chasten lovingly, in the best interests of your children. (Read Proverbs 3:11-12.)
Your love for your children should be as God’s love for you-–a constant thing. The Lord Jesus appeals to you, saying: “I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20). “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden” (Matthew 11:28). God can’t give you your own selfish way and peace at the same time. He must let you suffer when you do wrong, but He is there to release you whenever you are ready. He would not be doing you a service to let you have your evil way any more than you would be doing your child a service to let him have his evil way. If at any time you desire to confess your sins, God is there, waiting for you. If the fellowship is broken, it is not on God’s part. The breaking of the fellowship is on your part. Just so, you as a parent should never be the one to break fellowship with your child.
The challenge to you, as parents, is to bathe your children in a steady, consistent love that comes from God as you train them in the way that they should go.
This lesson has stressed the fact that the outstanding task of parents is to make disciples of their children. You should train your child in the way that he should go. You should train him in a spirit of love that is consistent, regardless of the behavior of the child. Lesson 10 will deal with the child’s resistance to training.