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Challenge #3 - Children, Part 1

From the series Keeping Love Alive - Volume 3

New and experienced parents agree, raising kids is hard - and it puts a strain on one’s marriage. In this program, Chip asks… how can couples effectively parent their kids and still keep their marriages fresh? As he picks up in his series "Keeping Love Alive, Volume 3", Chip provides moms and dads with timeless, biblical principles to intentionally raise their kids… together.

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Message Transcript

If you’ll pull out your notes, there has been a radical shift in culture, if you haven’t noticed, in the last five to ten years, but even more over the last thirty to forty. Your child’s world is more violent, more difficult, more fearful, more uncertain; what’s right, what’s wrong.

We’ve got gender fluidity, we have a complete shifting of values and culture, and it is a very difficult – we have technology that bombards your kids at ages that, I won’t go into all the research, but basically, it creates a world that is violent, uncertain, fearful, and defective.

We live in a day now where eighty percent of all children will at one time live with only one of their parents. Only about twenty-two to twenty-three percent of all the families in America currently – and this is a five-year-old statistic so it’s probably not this good – live in a family where both mother and father that are the biological parents of those children.

So, one out of five families have sort of a design with a mom and a dad that these are our kids. What is great is in God’s grace, those of us that have a blended family or those of us that have been through rough times, we become great trophies of God’s grace as He redeems those things.

So, all to say that the challenge in parenting is how do you navigate your child through these landmines of change and moral relativism, of overload, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, and all the stuff coming at them? And so, if you’ll open your notes, I want to give you four principles for positive parenting, effective parenting in a defective world.

These are four principles, I’ll talk about how to develop your child’s personal life and how God made them, there’s another message on discipline that probably most of you would like a little help on, and – but this one is the overall principles.

Principle number one is this, is that effective parenting begins with positive, clear-cut objectives. In other words, you have to have a target on the wall. You’ve got to get super clear about, “What are we trying to accomplish as parents?” The key passage in the New Testament is Ephesians 6:4. In the Phillips translation it says, “Fathers, don’t overcorrect your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Bring them up with Christian teaching and Christian discipline.”

Underline, “Don’t overcorrect your child,” that’s a negative command. And then underline, “Bring them up,” which is a positive command.
Notice who it’s addressed to. Parents have both responsibility, but I did my thesis in seminary, because I had these two little boys and I’m a dad, and my dad worked really hard at it and we restored some things, but I didn’t learn how to be a dad from my dad.

And so, I looked up every verse in the Bible on men, parenting, and then I had a graduate degree in another area, and so, I did the social research on what does the best social research say in psychology and sociology about what are the case studies that make for parents that raise positive kids?

And what I can tell you is the Bible is really clear that men have a unique role. Men and women have about the same influence in terms of mother and father on your child’s self-concept. However, men have a disproportionate impact on the moral development of both little boys and little girls.

And there’s something about God has made the fathers as the one morally responsible for, you know what? We do all this together. Women obviously have greater nurturing ability both psychologically, but physically for sure. But in terms of who is going to own responsibility for what happens in this home? A lot of men, one, we feel very inadequate, but guys, I’ve got to tell you, this is our mission. Fathers, don’t exasperate your children. It’s easy to be hard on them.

And so, “But bring them up,” the word means, some of your other translations will say, “Nurture them.” The word means rear, nurture, to nourish. In classical Greek it meant the physical development. And then as you know, words develop over time.

It later became, by this time in Greek literature, it meant the total development of your child. In other words, the education, the moral development, the relational, the IQ emotionally. In other words, you want to bring them up and you have two tools. Notice, put a box around the word “Christian teaching” and put another box around “Christian discipline”. Christian teaching is you shape your kids with words. Christian discipline is you shape your kids with actions.

Some parents struggle a lot because they talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and their kids don’t obey. Most kids are far better of their students than parents are of their kids.

And what your kids do, you have, you’re sitting on the couch and you’re sitting over here and they hit their sister or brother, or they slam the door or do something and you’ve told them thirty times. And you, “Hey! Stop that right now!” Thirteen seconds later, “Hey! I told you! Quit hitting each other!” But, see, what your kids watched is you don’t get up out of the chair. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

And then, here’s what they know. They have watched you. “Hey! Dagummit!” And possibly stronger, “How many times have I told you?” And they look calmly, look at each other and go, “I better stop hitting him.” Because what they have learned is they have studied you. Until you get angry, until you’re out of control, probably nothing is going to happen.

By contrast is you can actually learn to do this is you can say, “Bobby, Jimmy, come here. Okay.” And then you get down at their level and you look them right in the eye. And in a soft voice you say, “I am going to tell you one time. Don’t hit each other. If you do, there’s no more warnings, okay? This is what is going to happen.” And, of course, they have learned from how you used to do it, and you go, “Sit down,” and now you are waiting. And the moment you see it, you get up and you say, “Bobby, Jimmy, right now. You to your room, you to your room, I’ll be there in just a second.”

And then under control, without any anger, you administer discipline. And when they do it again, you do it exactly the same way. And then you do it exactly the same way. And for two weeks, they will wear you out. And after two weeks, you know what? You can say, “Okay, I want you to pick up your toys and it’s time to go.” And guess what they do. They pick up their toys and it’s time to go.

And they talk back and are sassing and doing this, and very calmly…you have to teach them, instruction, “This is right. This is wrong.” When they are small, they are concrete thinkers. When they are small, we talk too much; when they get older, preteens and teenagers, we talk too little. It’s absolutely, I’ll just use the word, stupid. You’ve got a four-year-old. “Don’t you understand it? When you do this and you do that and this is what God says and you could really hurt your little brother and someday if you ever do this.” And the kid is going…

Their brains develop – they are concrete. Right. Wrong. Do right, good consequences. Do wrong, bad consequences.

And that’s it! They don’t need long lectures. Then what we do when they get older, “Oh, well, they are teenagers, they are just going to be like that.” And you don’t talk with them. What they need then is you need to lay across the bed and, “What’s going on? What are you thinking? What was going through your mind when you did that?” And you stay connected to them.
So, you have two tools and we will talk about how to do that. But here’s the principle. It’s the principle of focus. Most parents parent out of fear. What you want to have is a crystal-clear focus. And I call this God’s dream versus the American dream for your child.

Under God’s dream, write down Romans 8:28. And then add verse 29. If you have been around church circles or been to any Christian bookstore, Romans 8:28 is on a plaque somewhere, “For we know that God works all things together for the good, to them that love God,” right? Got it? “…according to His purposes.” We sort of leave off 29. And 29 talks about, “Those whom He also called, He also predestined,” and what He predestined, though, was, “to conform them to the image of Christ.”

God’s target for your child, this is going to be hard to take, is not to make it in the NBA, is not to make the traveling team, is not to have a beautiful voice, is not necessarily to be able to play the violin, the piano, and the trumpet. It is not necessarily to get all straight As. God’s number one agenda for your child is to make him or her more and more like Jesus.

And so, that’s your target. Your target is their character, and their spiritual, and their moral development. Now, if they happen to be a good athlete, if they happen to be musically talented, if they happen to make the traveling team – in other words, if you would look at the average parent and look at where their energy and time goes, to what they try to develop. I live in a place where parents will move out of one neighborhood to another to get into a school system and their kids need to have a 4.3 in all AP classes and they still may not get into Stanford or Harvard or Columbia.

And we have kids every year where they might have a perfect score, but they don’t get into that. And if, from their family background, if you don’t become a doctor or a lawyer or get into one of those schools, we have kids who line up every year where the train is, and they step in front of it and they commit suicide, because they don’t measure up and they have brought shame to their family.

Their value is completely in their performance. And we don’t want to do that, but we tend to do that. The culture is the American dream is your kids need to be upwardly mobile, they need to have more than you, and unconsciously it’s you want them to be successful. Do you realize how miserable “successful” people are?

Not all of them, but if that’s the goal, if your whole world is, “I only am what I can accomplish, what I can achieve,” and then they buy into bigger is better, more is better, until I have this, own this, wear this.
And so, what you need to understand as a parent, you have to have a crystal-clear target. What are you trying to develop? Because your target will determine where you put your energy and your time.

Now, here’s the amazing thing. When a child understands that he is deeply loved by God, when a child understand their value as apart from whether they are good at sports or not good at sports, or whether they get all As, or…

Now, of course, do we want our kids to do their best? Do we teach them to be disciplined and all the rest? But that’s far different from it all boils down to…

Because, the truth of the matter is, unconsciously, we as parents, live vicariously through our kids and we really think that when they do really well, that’s what makes us look good.

What would change in your parenting if you had a crystal-clear target that said, “I am going to use words and I am going to use actions to help my son and my daughter,” whether from the time they are two or four or eight in different ways, preteens to teenage, “what kind of environments? What do we do? Where do we go? What does, what is going to look like our family table eating together? The research is amazing. If you never opened a Bible or never prayed, if you ate together three or four or five times a week, it will transform your kids.

IQ goes up, success in everything goes up, there are certain things that we were designed to do: eat together, being tucked in, feeling like someone cares about you, being heard. Those kind of things are what parents do and we are now living in a day where screens, pace, and speed are beginning to pull more. And now, it becomes more and more natural, because so few people live what I’m talking about.

But then ask yourself, “How are most parents doing with their kids?” It’s not pretty. Crystal-clear target.

Second, effective parenting demands that we practice what we preach. Paul would write to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapter 4, “I’m not writing these things to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you,” here’s that word again, “imitate me.”

We have touched on this already somewhat, but it’s the principle of modeling. More really is caught than taught. I jotted, this is an unknown quote, I don’t know where it comes from, “Let every father remember that one day his son or daughter will follow his example instead of his advice.”

You cannot impart what you don’t possess. You have to be significantly what you want your kids to become.

Now, let me fast-forward, because having done what I’ve done for almost forty years and watching parents at different stages, I have been with parents that so work for their kids and it was education or it was success or sports and all the rest. And I like sports and I demanded that my kids do their very best in school and all the rest.

But I can’t even try to tell you what it’s like to sit down with someone that has grown children that make no contact with them anymore that are super successful, but they don’t have any relationship with their mom and dad anymore.

I have one particular friend who, his sister scored a perfect score on the ACT and on the SAT. They came from another country, they were immigrants, and the parents were, like, I mean, three or four hours of study after school every day, prepared starting in the sixth grade for the SATs. And she has a graduate degree from the most prestigious university and a doctorate from the Harvards of the world. And she has changed her phone number and address multiple times so her family can never get in touch with her.

And I can’t just tell you how many parents realized, “We were really successful and that the ladder was against the wrong wall.” And I sit with them and they say, “You know something? At the end of the day, whether they made twenty thousand or fifty thousand or a hundred thousand, or whether they went to this school or that school, you know, if my son or daughter, if I could do it all over, if they were kind, if they loved God, if they were others-centered, if they weren’t arrogant, if they had a strong marriage, if they cared for other people, and they were the kind of people that you would just love to be around, that would be so much more important than where I pushed them and what I wanted to see happen.”

Because you’ve got to define success and they will get it first from the target, and then they’ll get it from the teacher. And you are their teachers. You profoundly, more than anything else in all the world, shape your kids’ attitudes, their minds, and their hearts. So, we have got a target; we have a teacher, which is you; and then it happens in a very significant environment. And the environment is effective parenting not only has a crystal-clear, positive target, not only do we practice what we preach…

And by the way, when I say that, don’t hear perfection. In other words, we practice what we preach. What do we preach? We preach when we blow it, when we sin, when there’s an outburst of anger, when we do something that we know is wrong, what do we do?

We admit it, we are honest, we are vulnerable, we go to our Father, we confess it, and, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us.”

Right? So, that means that when I blew up with my kids and I disciplined out of anger, and then I realized it, because it was the third time and I can’t believe it, and it was all me, then I actually got with my kids and I asked them to forgive me. And I said, “I’m really trying to be the kind of dad that God wants me to. And the way I disciplined you was not how God wants you to. I did it out of anger. My voice was loud, I got super intense, I could tell you were afraid. And I’m sorry.” To a five-year-old, to a six-year-old, “Will you forgive me?” And you know what? Kids are amazing, “Yeah, Dad, I forgive you.”

“Well, could we do like I do with you? Because when you, when I discipline you, right? I may, I help you understand, I ask you, ‘What did you do wrong?’” I have them verbalize it. “And who did you offend or hurt?” “Well, I hurt my sister.” And, “Well, who else?” “Well, God, because He told me not to.” “Okay, well, let’s – I put my kids and sit them in my lap after I disciplined them, and I’d teach them to pray, “Father, would You forgive me? Thank You that right now, just like on a whiteboard, you wiped away it all and You love me and You care for me, and I am sorry that I hit so-and-so.” “Okay. Have you got it?” “Yeah.” And we’d pray together.

My youngest son, he’s a pastor now. He said some of the most precious, deepest times of connection he and I ever had was after I disciplined him.

It’s one thing when people accept you when you’re doing something good, right? But it’s something amazing when someone accepts you when you have blown it. And that’s what God does for us. And that’s what you want your kids to learn.

So, when I say you’ve got to practice what you preach, it doesn’t mean you have it all together, it just means you model for your kids exactly what God wants you to do.

So, effective parenting builds relationships that bond, is the key word. And when I say “bond” I mean a connection of the child’s heart with your heart. I put, there’s a couple divine examples.

The apostle Paul is speaking to the Thessalonians. And it’s interesting, he gives us two word pictures. He talks about his time with them. He says, “But we were gentle among you, like a,” circle the word, “mother caring for her little children.” How do moms care? They nurture, they love, they hold their kids close. “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you, not only the gospel of God, but also our lives as well, because you had become very dear to us.” Underline the word “loved you”, underline the word “to share with you”, and underline “dear to us”. Do you see the tenderness?

There’s a tenderness, there’s a tenderness with your kids. And then notice he goes on. He says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father,” well, how do fathers deal, “with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you,” right? There’s a goal out there. There’s an objective, “…to live lives worthy of God’s call, who called you into His kingdom and His glory.”

See, part of what dads do that is a little bit different than most moms, at least, is it’s not just we want you to be Christlike, we want you to figure out: God put you on the planet… “Children are like an arrow in your quiver.” What do you do with arrows? You don’t get a bunch of arrows and go, “Whoa, has anybody seen my arrows lately?” What do you do with arrows? You pull arrows out and you cock them, and you get a target, and you release them.

You want your kids to discover: Why God made you. This is why you’re good at this. This is why you have these passions. This is why you struggle with this. You are a unique thing because He has a calling on your life. Your kids will never be happier or more fulfilled than if they discover what God wants them to do, and they do it.