Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Effective Parenting in a Defective World Resources on sale now.
About this series
Effective Parenting in a Defective World
How to Raise Kids Who Stand Out from the Crowd
Raising children is a tough challenge in today's world. Peers and pop culture exert a never-ending pressure on kids. Parents often feel helpless, as every godly principle they teach their children seems to be contradicted by the corrupt principles of this defective world. But the good news is, God has a plan for effectively raising your children and you can learn from it. Packed with practical advice, this series will give struggling parents a vision for their children's future and life-changing help for today.More from this series
You know when you get around the table and you start talking with brothers and sisters, if you have grown up, or in my case, I have grown kids, you talk about, in my case, how I disciplined them, there’s a lot of laughs. You really do laugh at the crazy things you did as a parent. And then you find out all the crazy things your kids did that you didn’t even know about.
But I will tell you, when you’re in the midst of disciplining and raising your kids, it isn’t funny at all. The biggest heartbreaks and the biggest heartaches I have ever had in my life were over issues with my kids and feeling like a failure or feeling like I didn’t know what to do or being paralyzed by fear at some choices I saw them making.
The biggest arguments I have ever had in my marriage were around how we should discipline our kids. We have one person who tends to be overly strict, and one who tends to be overly passive, and meeting in the middle is hard.
We are going to talk about how to effectively discipline your kids, and I’m not sure there is anything more important for the sake of your children than that. If you’ll pull out your notes, I want to give you two case studies to get us going.
Case study number one is called, The Reuben Hill Minnesota Report. It was an empirical study with thousands of teenagers over a period of time, to determine what kind of parenting styles produced what kind of children. We all have a parenting style.
In order to do this, they created an x and y-axis, a horizontal axis and a vertical axis. The x-axis or the horizontal axis, from zero to one hundred – zero being very low on discipline or control, a hundred being very high on control. The y or vertical axis, the zero at the bottom would be unloving, unaffirming, literally, giving nothing to your kids. And then a hundred would be, maybe, over the top loving. This is the parent who kisses their children seventy-two times, walks out the door, and goes, I knew it should have been seventy-three, before they go to bed.
And so what that produces are four very clear quadrants of a parenting style and each of these quadrants produces, in general, a very predicable kind of response from kids.
Quadrant number one I call: The Permissive Parent. These are parents who are very fearful. They don’t want to disappoint their kids, they parent in such a way that they are so afraid they are going to, maybe, damage their children’s psyche or they are fearful that they will be rejected.
And the result is children with low self-esteem and inferiority. Parents who, for all the right motives are very permissive, create kids who don’t like themselves very well, and who are very insecure.
The second quadrant are those who are very low on discipline and then also low on love. This is like the worst of all cases. This is the neglectful parent. They are preoccupied with business or work or TV or social activities or church or, more often, they find themselves in an addiction or in a very nasty divorce. And, basically, through multiple circumstances, they are very unloving and very permissive and there are no boundaries, there is no affirmation, and most of these kids find themselves in a counseling room somewhere, trying to work through the very painful issues of, I didn’t matter, I wasn’t loved, I was estranged. They have no relationship with their parents.
They basically live a life that says, I never want to be like my parents. And how could anyone, let alone God, love me, because my parents didn’t?
Quadrant number three is the Authoritarian Parent. This is the parent who ends up with a fighting lifestyle with their child. This is the Nazi parent. This is the person who is low on love, but very high control. And so, it’s sort of like these parents, they don’t just win the wars, they win every single battle.
This is at the table when you mildly roll your eyes, “I saw you roll your eyes! Don’t you do that! You rebellious little child! You go to your room right now. You didn’t clean up your plate.”
And the kids are like, I can never measure up. The bar is so high. The intensity is always up. They get the structure, but they don’t feel the love and there is not an atmosphere of, You’re accepted even when you blow it.
These kids, very predictably, rebel. They have this silent, little meter inside that goes, I can’t wait to get out of this house. And my super high-control parents will not control me later.
The fourth quadrant in this study was the Authoritative Parents. They had a fellowshipping style. Interestingly, they were very high in control. These were strict parents. But they were very high in love. They communicated to the kids: You matter. That behavior isn’t acceptable, the boundaries are clear, the rules are very clear – but it was a fun, fellowshipping, encouraging, highly invested – and it produces kids with high self-image, great coping skills, and a good relationship with their parents with lots of ups and downs along the way.
So if you could choose one style of parenting, which one would you like to be? Notice at the bottom, this balanced, authoritative – high love and high on discipline produced children with high self-esteem, excellent coping skills, and a positive relationship with their parents.
Some of you may have not been around for the very first message, but we said that kids have two primary needs: significance and security. We said that the way they feel significant is when we love them, we affirm them, we treat them as special, we value them regardless of their behavior.
We said the way they experience security is we set very clear boundaries and were consistent and enforced them. Isn’t it interesting when someone does a sociological study over time, with thousands of parents and teenagers, they find: Aha! What produces great kids with great coping skills, with high self-esteem, who make their own decisions are parents who are high on love and high on discipline.
Now, I’d like, before we go on, because most of us would like to just drift and think, Well, I’m pretty much a four. Right? No one wants to be neglectful.
But what I’d like you to do is I’m going to guess that you have tendencies. Okay? So you’re probably all fours. But what I would like you to do is think: If you err on the side of being a little too permissive or being a little too strict, which would it be? Just so that you can listen for what God may want to speak to you.
Turn the page, if you will. Study number two is right from the Bible. Anytime from Scripture we have God parenting us as His spiritual children, and giving us clear guidelines about what discipline is, why it matters, and how to do it, we ought to pay attention.
The book of Hebrews is written during a time of persecution. It’s written to a mixed group of Christians and non-Christians, and under the persecution and difficulty, although they started well, were obeying God – well, right now, it’s getting tough and they are drifting. A lot like our kids do, right?
They know what’s right to do, but they are not doing it. And so God brings, I call it, “The velvet vise of discipline,” He brings consequences in their lives to get their attention, to get them back on the right path for the right reason.
Follow along as I read this case study. It was written in about A.D. 66 or 70. It’s written to Jewish Christians and a mixed audience. And the introduction is, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons?”
In other words, It is difficult, you haven’t been martyred yet, it’s really hard. And then he is going to quote Proverbs chapter 3, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son.”
And now he gives the instruction, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” In other words, Don’t chafe against the difficult circumstances in your life; accept this as God’s discipline.
“For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline, it’s true – then you’re an illegitimate child, and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!”
And then he gives just an illustration that they would all kind of lean back and say, “Well, that’s true.”
“Our human fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.” God disciplines us for our good, that we might share in His holiness. There’s a clear target on the wall. He wants to make us like His Son, He wants to make us like Christ, He wants to make us whole, He wants to bring out the best in our lives and through our lives.
And then he gives us a summary, axiomatic principle about discipline, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Circle the word trained. It’s a process. When God is a part of disciplining your life, He uses adversity and difficulty and health issues and financial issues and circumstances and stock market drops. He uses things that you can’t control. But He is your heavenly Father and He wants to use those things to discipline or align your life so that you get the very best.
I’m going to ask you to do one thing on your notes, if you will, up on the top where it says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,” would you put a line right through discipline and write the word action. It’s an interesting word. It’s: Yasar.
And we translate the word discipline, and then he uses the same word in English, discipline or rebuke, but this word is action. God uses certain actions to bring about desired behavior.
Later on, he says, “He rebukes you,” that’s a different Hebrew word. It’s Yacheg and this is word, so I just want you to put action and words.
Because what you’re going to see is all through the Old Testament, all through the Wisdom Literature, here’s what God’s plan is: discipline isn’t just painful things you go through. Discipline is the process by which God uses actions or consequences, along with very specific words and instructions to bring about the very best.
Now, I want to spend most of our time in the practical side of this and so let me just walk through what I think is a summary of this passage and then the points of the passage so we can get to, Okay, how do we practice it?
Because I think discipline, for many, it’s like a dirty word. It’s like, Oh, hard, or we have a picture of someone doing terrible things to little people to make them obey. This is the biblical view of discipline. It’s teaching obedience to God and His Word – how? Through consistent consequences – actions – and clear instructions – words – in an atmosphere of love.
Okay, you look at it, I’m going to read it again. I want you to get, This is discipline, regardless of what your parents did, regardless of what the media says, regardless of what you’ve heard, whatever emotional baggage – discipline is teaching obedience to God – why? and His Word, so your kids get the very best.
How do you do it? Through consistent actions, through clear instruction in an atmosphere of love. And so, well, why? The necessity of discipline is to deter destruction. Undisciplined children, undisciplined children of God, they destroy themselves.
We watch kids, we incarcerate more children in this country than any country in the world. We have more people in prisons than any place in the world. We have a culture in America that is very undisciplined, that doesn’t respect authority, and you know what? If you don’t discipline your kids, just lock on, someone will someday. Right?
How many of our kids have, they were really struggling and they went into the military and what happened? Structure, discipline, expectations. And they hated it. I’ve never had anyone go, “Boot camp! Man, I went into the Marines, boot camp was awesome!”
What do they tell you? “I hated it.” And then what do they tell you? “I’m a man.” “I owned my own responsibility.” “I get up on time.” I clean my own boots.” “I watch my brother. He’s got my back; I’ve got his back. We’re a team.” “This isn’t about me.” Whoo. Right?
Sometimes it’s not the military, sometimes it’s the juvenile hall. Later, it’s a prison. And the recidivism, the reason why so many people, after they are in prison, they have never learned discipline, it provides structure – I’ve had a lot of inmates tell me, “I am scared to death. I almost don’t want to come out, because I know how to live here. You eat at this time, you do this, there’s structure, there’s consequences. When I get out, I don’t know how to do that, and I just find myself with the wrong people, doing the same thing, repeating the same behavior.”
About seventy percent or more of all people who come out of prison go right back. So we’re talking about a pretty serious topic. You want your kids to have self-discipline, to learn to say, “no” to short-term attraction, and endure short-term pain to get long-term gain.
Secondly, the means of discipline are actions and words. So all we are going to learn about is, for your kids, as a parent or grandparent, what actions or consequences and what words do you use to align them to keep them on the right path?
Third, the motive of discipline is not to punish or make them feel bad. It’s to express love. What is the whole passage? Endure hardship; God is treating you as sons. If He doesn’t discipline you, you’re illegitimate and you’re not even loved.
I did one of my theses for some graduate work I did and I had to do all these studies and I was just shocked because a lot of them came out of interviews with juvenile delinquents. And in all the studies, these are juvenile delinquents, these are people who are incarcerated and they would ask on survey after survey, “How did you know your parents loved you or didn’t love you?”
And among the top two responses, among juvenile delinquents were, “When my parents disciplined me, I knew they loved me. And you know what? When they didn’t, they didn’t give a rip. They didn’t care.”
Now, your kids are never going to tell you that, by the way. Your kids are going to buck you, “Why can’t I do that? I want to do everything I want.” But they desperately long in their soul for that security, that consistency. But, so it’s to express love.
The goal of discipline is to teach obedience. It’s not just to make them a happy camper. You want them to learn to obey, to submit. And, by the way, the whole idea of submission is, usually, if you want to do it, it’s not submitting. It’s learning to do what you really don’t want to do, by faith, thinking, This is really better for me.
And don’t they learn that in sports? You know what? It’s August and we are going to do two-a-days. “Coach! I love to run line drills! I love doing two-a-days! We are going to bust it, bust it, bust it!” Why? Because they are learning to endure the pain now for the fourth quarter later.
Or they go and they want to be a musician and they want to play like this and the piano teacher goes, “Do the scales. Do that.” “I know how to do scales! I want to get to the fun.” If you don’t discipline yourself and do scales so you can do it backwards and forwards, you can never…right?
Short-term pain, going into training so that something happens a bit later. It’s for the good, for the higher good.
The result of discipline is, you can fill this one in, can’t you? Short-term pain that produces long-term gain. I want to give you a physical picture of this and then I want you to think with me, because this is hard. Okay? Can we just go into this like, This is really, really hard.
When you make your kids, through words and consequences, do what they don’t want to do, when they are really little, they do things like this. And I don’t know about you, when my kids did that to me, I felt like a terrible parent.
When they get older, they do this. When they get a little bit older, they slam the door, “You don’t love me! Why don’t you trust me?” And everything in you wants to give them what they want, instead of what they need, because it brings initial peace for the moment.
So most of us are willing to trade short-term peace for long-term pain. But what a parent does and what God does is He teaches us to endure short-term pain to get long-term gain.
Now, you’re going to have to do this in their social relationships, you’re going to have to do this in what they watch, you’re going to have to do this with their friendships, you’re going to have to do it in their spiritual development, you have to do it in their physical development. But it’s kind of hard to see, so I’m going to give you a picture, just in the very simple, physical realm so you can say, “Oh, I get it! It makes sense.” And then I’ll have a little application for you.
My dad was a really good athlete and so part of learning every sport was what he taught me. When something broke, he picked up the phone, “Is there a repairman?” Because that was his idea of anything. He couldn’t fix anything. And that genetic gift was passed on to me.
But my dad could shoot a basketball, he was on a football scholarship, he won the state of Virginia in Golden Gloves. He was just an amazing athlete. And so I learned all this kind of stuff.
And then I became a Christian and I had this amazing opportunity to marry this great woman and I got to adopt these two little boys and I had no idea how to be a good dad and I was so conscious about being a good dad.
And, man, we had devotional times and I’m reading them Bible stories. And then I’ve got about six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven years under my belt and they are in sixth grade and these two older boys are ready to go to junior high. And I have felt like I’m struggling, but I’m trying to be a good dad.
And so, we were down on the floor something and I said, “Hey, guys! Hey, Jason, Eric, how you doing? How many push-ups can you do?” And Jason was at that little chubby season that you have sometimes about twelve years old. And, egggghhh, he could do one. And Eric was thinner. Quite thinner. He could do three. And I thought, remember, guys? Any of you remember what junior high was like? Remember what junior high locker rooms were like? Remember your first shower in junior high? Remember when you did sports in junior high?
And all of a sudden, this picture was, I’m the worst father in the whole world! They are going to go to junior high; they’re going to get killed! They are going to get massacred! Man, I have been so concerned about their spiritual development, their relational development – I’ve been asleep on the job.
So being the loving, kind, zealous father who always has a great process, who brings things into being – it’s all a lie – I said to them, “Guys, tomorrow morning we’ve got to address this. Six a.m.” “Dad, what, are you kidding me?” “Yeah, we’ll do push-ups and sit-ups every morning for the next three months.”
And they did more than roll their eyes. “Are you kidding me? Dad, give me a break!” “No, no!”
And this was not like, “Hey, here’s an idea. What do you think, guys?” It was, “I’ll see you at six a.m. Set your alarms.” “Oh, Dad.” So they get up and, “Okay, here we go. Come on, guys. Let’s go, let’s go! Jason, come on! Come on, let’s go! Come on. Okay, okay, look, son.
And so after a week he’s up to three and he’s up to five. And three weeks later he’s got twenty and the other has got ten. Two months later, they are ripping off forty and fifty. Three months later, they are watching their bodies change. Four months later, they’re at a garage sale, find a bar and a bench press. Five months later, they are in the garage pumping iron. They look like different boys. And they walk into junior high as men prepared for what they are going to have to face.
Now, here’s what you need to know. Their dad is a jerk. And sometimes they whisper, “He’s a jerk. He’s a jerk. Eric, can you believe this?” It was a very loud whisper. To which they got, “Guys.” “Sorry, Dad.”
I was a complete jerk. Every morning, hold their feet, push-up, push-up; and sit-up, sit-up. And I did them with them. Let me ask you a question. Are you willing to be a jerk? My one son who was the little chubby one, he really struggled in a lot of areas. But that became his outlet. I remember, later, when he got older and he said, “Dad, you want to go lift with me?” And I said, “Sure.”
He was bench-pressing two-eighty, three hundred. And then, “It’s your turn, Dad.” And then I’d take off all the weights, “Here, I’ll help you.” And he ended up with a broken hand, I think he won the CCL in wrestling. And it was where all these deep issues and issues in his heart he was trying to figure out.
Listen carefully, you need to be willing to be a jerk and say, “You can’t date that boy. You can’t date that girl. You can’t go to that movie. I love you too much. No, we are not going to play three different sports and have our whole family in a minivan every night, because everyone else gets to. No, this is what we are going to do. Yes, tell you what, we are going to sit around the table and you can roll your eyes as much as you want, but we are going to eat together and I want to hear what’s going on. You don’t have to have your heart in it, but we are going to join hands and we are going to pray for one another.”
And you cause them to have some short-term pain, because you’re the parent. And what you know is it doesn’t matter whether they like you or slam the door or roll their eyes today, but you want them, ten years later, looking back and saying, “Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.”
That’s why we have coaches. They help us do things we would never do on our own, because they care and want to develop the best. We have developed a society that you want to be your kids’ little buddy and you never want to feel rejected, and it’s all about keeping the peace instead of making peace.
They have plenty of friends and plenty of buddies. Be willing to be a jerk for a season if need be to give them what they need, instead of what they want. Make sense?
Now, the question is: How do we do that? And as we do that, there is one theological issue I have got to share with you. It’s the difference between punishment and discipline.
And I’ll make this brief. But it’s very, very critical you know the difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment’s focus is to inflict a penalty for an offense. Punishment is: this past misdeed is the focus. The attitude from the parent is often hostility, frustration, and the result is fear and guilt.
And so, they took the car when you said not to and they got a little bump in it. Or they went behind your back, “How many times have I told you to do that? What’s wrong with you? You loser! You didn’t do your homework! This is what’s going to happen!” Right?
Excuse the outburst, but that’s not new to a lot of you. It got all built up, you’re going to make them pay, you won’t accept that. Often you have let it build up for a long time and you have these explosions.
For many of you, bedtime, constantly; homework, constantly; fighting with one another constantly. It’s chaos in your house. And then pretty soon then you lay down the law, then you feel guilty as a parent.
Discipline, by contrast, is training for correction, for maturity. That’s the purpose. The focus is future correct acts and the attitude is love and concern on the part of a parent. And the result for your child is security.
See, often we say, “Go to your room!” If you are angry; you never discipline out of anger. You have to go to your room first. And you may need to sit on the bed and have your time out and say, God, I am so livid. It doesn’t mean don’t have emotions and it doesn’t mean you don’t share them. I am so livid, this is metaphorical, of course, I want to wring their neck! I can’t believe he did that, they violated my trust, they did this, they did this, I’m so…okay. Whew.
And then here’s where you go, And, Father, I understand that God, the Second Person of the Trinity took on human flesh in the form of a baby by a virgin and lived a perfect life and then You laid Your life out on the cross and You became our sin offering, our propitiation, is the word, and all the sins of all people were placed on the Son. And He absorbed them and Your just anger and punishment and wrath, because You hate sin, was poured on Christ and that’s why He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Our sins and the judgment of God was put on Jesus and then, in that payment He died, rose the third day, for forty days walked upon the earth, five hundred eyewitnesses. He’s sitting at the right hand. God never punishes His children.
God never punishes you. He disciplines you. God is never mad at you. All of His anger, for all time, and all people was placed on Christ. And so when you do things that you know are wrong and you feel guilty and you hurt people, God’s motive and purpose is to realign your life to give you the best. His motive and purpose is to care for you. His heart is to express His love.
Now, those consequences may be severe when you are really disobedient. And then they look like the same thing punishment could be. But the heart and the purpose is different. Do you get that?
Jot, if you would, 1 John chapter 2, verses 1 and 2. All I want you to do is get this principle. The apostle is writing to this young church. He says, “I have written to you, my dear children, in order that you might not sin. But if you do sin,” knowing they will, “we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, the Righteous.” We have an Advocate with the Father. “Advocate” just means we have a lawyer. We have someone pleading our case. “We have an Advocate – Jesus Christ, the Righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sin.”
“Propitiation” is one of those really big, biblical words that means: He absorbed the just wrath of God. And then it goes on to say, “But not only for us believers, but for the whole world.”
Now, theologically, there are some people who would say, “I don’t want the free gift. I’ll take the punishment. I don’t want the free gift. I don’t want what Christ has done.” And God says, “Thy will be done.” He doesn’t force it on anyone.
But if you can understand that’s how your heavenly Father deals with you – He doesn’t punish you. He’s not down on you. That has been covered, it has been atoned for.
His heart’s desire, now, the discipline may get more and more and more severe if you don’t listen. And you may have to cause the discipline for your kids to be more and more and more severe until it gets their attention. But it comes from a different heart. Does that make sense?
See, the reason why you have a lot of conflict and you feel bad and you feel guilty and kids withdraw and they rebel is they need to know and feel your love, even when you’re disciplining them, because you’re not punishing them. It’s not, I’m going to pay you back. It’s not out of anger.
Now, then, the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: How? Well, what did we learn? How does God do it? Through consistent consequences, actions, and clear instruction. And so I want to go over those two things and give you some very practical tools about how to do that with your kids.
Consistent consequences go something like this: Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Think of that. If you spare the rod, consistent action, not talk, you hate your child. Why? Because God says, “If you loved him, you would give him what he needs instead of what he wants.”
He goes on to say, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” Every kid is like this. “But the rod of discipline,” action, “will drive it far from him.” Now, I am going to do something, and this will be, can I just go on record really quickly here? Will you please lean back? Take a nice, deep breath. For the next five minutes, I will be as radically politically incorrect of anything you have heard in the last thirty days, maybe more.
I am going to describe what the rod is. I am going to describe what it means when “biblical” spanking, I will give you some research on that when I get done, from psychologists, the American Psychological Association, that will instruct you very clearly about the non-negative impacts when done biblically. But you are living in a world where many of your kids do not obey and you have arguments and it’s time out and there’s this and there’s that. And God has provided a way, especially if you start young, to help your children obey and learn obedience that gets down into their soul that is very helpful.
Now, you can totally choose to say, That’s not a practice that will be good for me. All I am saying is we are so afraid to talk about this, we have parents out on islands, struggling with their children, and by and large, creating huge psychological damage because of the yelling and the screaming and all the things that happened that your kids aren’t getting.
So I am going to tell you what the biblical rod or spanking looks like. You evaluate. You can hear the research. Then you can do whatever God leads you to do.
Number one, whenever you feel like this is important, you give them a clear warning. A child should never be pulled out of a booth and you never use your hand, by the way. It should never be, When is this coming? And my Nazi, crazy parent, out of the blue, is blowing up in anger. They need to know, and by the way, those small, little windows – this isn’t for every little offense.
This is when you draw a line in the sand and your son or your daughter steps up and goes, “No. I’m not doing that.” And, by the way, it starts early.
So there are times when it’s really clear. Do not, do not do this. There has been a clear warning. And you’re concerned because you know if they do it, they’ll get hurt, there’s great damage. And you say, “If that happens again, I want you to know,” when they’re really testing who is the boss, “that this is going to be the consequence.” There is a clear warning.
Second, you establish responsibility. So I’ll give you a real life example. I have many of them, but this is just one. My kids were in that five to six, seven age group, they had friends, the parents were about three doors down, the son was at our house all the time. This is not an exaggeration, he had been through three or four marriages. She had been through three. They had both alcohol and drug problems.
They had a mixed group, which I really understood, of all different ages. They older boys had people over, drugs, alcohol, violence. And I told my little boys, “Michael can come over here anytime. He can be a part of our family, he can eat. You,” parents are gone all during the day, “can never go in that house.”
We made friends, we actually, the mom and dad both came to Christ about three years later. But it was just like, the bar is like this and this is like this. And everything went on.
And so, of course, I don’t know how God works this. We are driving by and I watched my kids come out of the house. And so, clear warning, “Okay, look, do you understand? If I catch you going over to that house again, you will get a spanking.” Eye contact. “Do you get that?” “Yes.”
Well, you know. Two days later, same thing, they do it. So here’s, I did not, when I caught them the second time, they know what is going to happen, they’re going to get a spanking. Of course, am I angry? Yes. But I get under control. I did not ask them, “Why did you do that?”
Do you ever hear yourself saying, “Why did you do that? Why did you go with those friends? Why did you do that? I told you not to! Why did you go to that movie? Why did you spend that money? Why did you take the car without permission? Why, why, why?” I’ll tell you why. Because they are sinners! Like you!
Why do you mess up? Why do you do stupid stuff? Why do you lie? Because you’re a sinner! That doesn’t help anything. If you want to shame them, “Why, why, why, what’s wrong with you?” What are you expecting your seven-year-old to say? “Well, I was born in Adam and I think I’ve inherited sin. And I have not yet understood the propitiation of Christ and I’m really not up on the sanctification process, and because of that, I’m not renewing my mind at the level that allows me to…” Are you kidding me?
But here’s the important part: “What did you do wrong?” “Well, I just, the other kids were doing it and I just…” “No, no, no, no. What did you do wrong?” “Well, I didn’t mean to do it and it was Jason! He wanted to go and I wanted to…” “Stop. What did you do wrong?” “I went in the house; you told me not to.” “What do we call that?” “Disobedience.”
Your kids have got to own it. I see parents doing all this stuff. The kid does this, the kid, “Go tell them you’re sorry.” About what? “I’m sorry. I guess it’s over.” What you want to do is you want to teach: what did they do wrong?
Third, avoid embarrassment. Don’t ever do this publicly. Don’t do it out in the living room. This is a private moment, either in your bedroom, their bedroom, away from the crowd.
Four, communicate grief. See, this is why I wanted to teach you the theology of discipline instead of punishment. In other words, you’re not an out of control parent.
Now, many times, I have told my kids, “You can’t believe how angry I am right now. But here’s the core of my anger. I feel so betrayed. I love you. I trust you. We hang out. We do all kinds of things. When I tell you something and you tell me something, I’m your dad. I’m for you.” And you know what? It’s not all bad, in fact, it’s not bad at all. But if they see you well up or see a tear in your eye, “You broke my heart.”
Sin is not primarily about behavior, people. Sin is not, and your kids’ outcomes are not: they do this, they don’t do that, they do this, they’ll come out okay. Sin is always primarily a relational issue. You want them to learn: they betrayed your trust. They broke your heart.
Because what you want them to learn later, and what you need to understand, when you lie and when you cheat and when you log on or when you are tempted to do things, this isn’t about, How close can I get to some line? You’re breaking your Father’s heart. You betray your Father, the One who loves you, the One who sent His Son, the One who has your best.
And so, you want to communicate genuine grief, because you want it to be a relational issue.
And then I brought my little, from about, you have to choose, but somewhere around two or three or somewhere they get old enough where they, “No,” and they draw a line in the sand. And you never, you know what this is for? Loving, touching, caring, praying, and nurturing.
This never, ever strikes your child anywhere on their body, for any reason. “Well, I have to do it right now…” No you don’t. This is a rod. It’s a little, wooden spoon. It’s extraordinarily effective. And I want to show you how to do it. I’m not joking with you.
Because I have seen people, they get angry. You don’t do that. Every human being, especially children, have something here. It’s called adipose tissue. It’s a fancy way for saying, “fat.” Here’s your goal. You flick the wrist. Whoo. Whoo. This will produce an amazing level of sting. It does absolutely no damage. You want it to hurt.
It produces in kids, up through about, depending on their size and ability, up through about ten years old or somewhere in there, it produces a level of, “Oh, I never want that to happen again!” Which is what you want! And it’s immediate.
And then you want them to experience sincere repentance. The earlier you start, the better. And so when my kids were four or five and even older, we would go through this process and they are crying now.
And I would usually sit on the floor and I would have them on my lap and I’d just let them cry. I want them to cry. I want them to know, “I’m here. My arm is around you. You did what was wrong, you owned up to it, this is what happens. I’m for you.” I don’t know about you, I have cried in God’s presence. I have cried in God’s presence when I have done really stupid, or sinful things.
David cried in God’s presence. And then they cried for a while and then they get calmed down. And then sincere repentance. I said, “Well, are you ready to talk to God?” And when they were small, I coached them so they learned how. “Yeah, Daddy, yeah, I’m ready.” “So what do you say to God?” “I’m a bad person.” “No, you’re not a bad person, son. You’re not a bad person. You’re special. God loves you. What did you do?” “I went in the house when you told me not to!” “Okay. Why don’t you tell God?” “God, I’m sorry for going in the house when Daddy told me not to! I disobeyed!” “Okay. Why don’t you tell Him you’re sorry?” “I’m sorry, God!” “Is there someone else you need to apologize to?” “Uhhhh, you?” “Yeah, that’s right. Okay.” “I’m sorry, Dad.” “Aw, honey, I forgive you.”
And I put my arms around them and I teach them, “Lord, I thank You that whenever we break Your heart by doing what is wrong, that like it’s a mark on a chalkboard, and the moment we come, from our hearts, and ask You to forgive us, You absolutely erase it and love us. Amen.”
And then we would get up together and I usually tried to do something very positive, “Let’s go play Horse.” I want them to know, You’re not rejected. That’s biblical spanking. That’s the rod.
But what has happened in our day, I’ve got an interesting article by a psychologist in Chicago. And it’s called, The Killer Narcissist. And I won’t read it. But the essence of the article is: Why do we have wanton killings in schools? And the politically correct answer is: Because of these desperate, underprivileged homes and all the difficult things they are going through. And then what she does is she goes, “Well, actually, if you look at Littleton, if you look at what happened in Pennsylvania,” and she goes through all the different ones and none of them fit the profile.
It’s upwardly mobile, white suburbs, largely, of affluent kids whose parents have given them everything. And she says, “What happens is the movement of a narcissist to a radical killer is very small in the teenage years. And when you raise kids who think the whole world revolves around them, and they don’t get their way, they feel very hurt, because they don’t get the esteem, the entitlement, and, ‘life works for me,’ and it creates rage.”
And all the kids she goes through have parents who are educated, gave them everything. We are producing narcissists. Every kid doesn’t need a trophy. Every kid doesn’t need to know that the whole world revolves around them. We don’t go out to eat where our kids want. We don’t make decisions around all our kids all the time.
What you create is an expectation that the world revolves around them, and they are going to find out the world doesn’t. And when they do, really bad things happen. It’s a complete lack of discipline. But it takes being a jerk, sometimes.
And what I can tell you is, when you start very early, this is one, now, if a time out works, great. If this works, great. But this is a biblical way to help your children. And here’s the difference. The difference is is when it’s done, it’s done.
It’s not thirty minutes, “I told you to stand up! I told you to sit down! Okay! A ten-minute time out! You’re grounded for three days! Five days! You’re grounded until Jesus comes!”
And then I hang out in coffee shops and a couple high schoolers come in after school in backpacks and they’ve got the earphones. “Hey, how’s it going, man?” “It’s going pretty good. What’s going on with you?” “Oh, man, I’m grounded. Oh, yeah.” “Oh, bummer, man. This is coming up how long?” “Ah, they say two weeks, but I figure three days.”
Your kids are really good students of you. “Oh, Mom, the prom is coming up. I’m going to miss this. How could you do that? Don’t you trust me? You’re being so hard on me. You don’t really get it. All my other friends, and they go to church, and their parents let them do this. Nah, nah, nah, nah.”
And we have a generation of non-jerk parents and you keep the peace. And you will feel the pain. And God says, “I love you too much, and I want you to love your kids too much to let that happen.”
A lady wrote me, and I don’t know whether it was small group material or the book. She goes, “I recently shied away from spanking, even though every other discipline for my seven-year-old has not worked. I have been exhausted with the confrontations and the drama associated with even the minor things in life. This message was the kick in the pants I needed to do what is right before God. Thank you. This morning his attitude was the same as normal, we had fights, he wouldn’t do his schoolwork, he was argumentative, disrespectful, and disobedient.
“He is clearly challenging my authority. So I breathed a helpful prayer, I asked him to come upstairs away from the little brother, I picked up the spoon along the way. Anyhow, the bottom line, no pun intended, two quick stings later, he was sobbing and repentant in my arms, and apologizing. I held him and then he said this: ‘Mama, I am sure glad they make wooden spoons.’
“The rest of the day has been peaceful, we prayed together, no arguments, no disobedience. Thanks for the reminder that I need the courage to discipline.”
See, your kids, their conscience needs to be cleansed. Your kids need to have a clean moment of – if it’s ongoing, you’re shaming them. Now, I’m not saying that everyone should do this, and it’s not for everyone. I’m expecting there is a level of common sense in this room.
But you need to figure out, when they challenge your authority and they cross the line, you need to really think about what you need to do and, if possibly these verses and Proverbs may be as true as all the other verses and Proverbs that we claim. But these just happen to be unpopular.
Well, actions are one thing, but then words. Clear instructions or reproof. I gave you those two, little Hebrew words out of Proverbs and the second one had to do with very specific words. And so, four ways to use words to bring about correction.
And, by the way, we always start with words. Just clarification, I rarely spanked my kids. I rarely had to. But if that is a clear expectation and they know that when you say this or say that you actually mean it, a lot of times it’s, “Son,” and he looks at you, “it’s time to go.” All it takes is, “Eric?” You know what that means? Consequences are coming. Bam, he gets up. But if there is never a line, your words don’t mean much.
So number one: Say “no” firmly. Say “no” firmly. Here’s what I see happen. And, by the way, everything I am going to share, all these illustrations, Oh, I do that, I can’t believe I…well, where do you think I get them? This is our failure as parents over the years, okay?
And so this is like, and I’ll exaggerate just to make the quick point. Your daughter says, “Can I do a sleepover with these three girls? And we are going to watch this movie, and I think it’s really going to be great and their parents are going to be home and everything is going to be okay.”
And immediately the three girls just got out of juvie, it’s a triple X rated movie, the houses aren’t there, and both parents are drug addicts. Okay, am I exaggerating enough? And inside you’re thinking, Absolutely not! Right? Inside, No way. And here is your response, “Oh, honey, I don’t know. That doesn’t really sound like a good…”
And what do they hear? There’s a window. Right? “Come on, mom! Don’t you really trust me? Everyone is going to, I never get to do anything! I love Jesus and maybe this is my chance to really help them! Come on, mom!”
And then it’s like, “Well, honey, no, no. I just really don’t think so.” Your words are saying one thing, what is your tone of voice saying? There’s a window! So now it’s, “I can’t believe it! You don’t trust me at all. I can never do anything!” Slam the door. And now you’ve got drama.
Say what you mean, say it clearly, say it firmly. And if you don’t mean it, then don’t say it. So, same situation, she says that, or you fill it in. And you stop and if you’re not sure, you say, “Ooh, you know what? I need to pray about that,” and if you’re not a single parent you say, “I need to talk with your father. This is a big decision. I’ll let you know later.”
But if it’s an absolute one, what you say is, “Did I hear you right? Absolutely not.” “But, mom!” And then you give them this look, if you haven’t worked on this, this means, Oh, you are on dangerous ground. This is the look. “But, mom!” And you go…and you know what that look means? There is no more discussion. And you know what? They accept it. Say “no” firmly.
You know, are you – you ever go over to a friend’s house or they come to your house and the kids really like each other and they’re really having fun, and so they’re like running around and going nuts and going crazy. And you do stuff like this because you’re with your friends and, “Hey, hey, hey, hey! Kids, kids, kids. Stop running through here. Stop running through here.” You don’t mean it at all. So they run out, run out.
And, “Hey, how are things going?” Zoom! Zoom! They come through again, toys are coming off, “Hey! Hey! I told you guys. Slow down! Stop in here! Do not run through the living room while we’re talking.” You don’t mean it at all.
Three minutes later, bzzzz, here they come again, right? And then pretty soon, like, the number four time, you do something like this that embarrasses you in front of your friends like, “Hey! What in the blank did I say? I said stop right now!” And then you realize, Oh my, I am embarrassing myself and this is not really a good moment.
See, say what you mean. If you don’t, “Hey! Stop. I know you guys haven’t seen each other and you really like each other. You can go outside right now, run all you want. Okay? Listen. If you run through here again, seven-minute time out.”
And then, eye contact, “Do you understand?” Now, what are they going to do? They are going to run through one more time, correct? So your game face comes on and, whoom! here they go. “Stop!” And, hey, it takes time. You sit them down, and hopefully the seven-minute works. Say “no” firmly.
Second, clear warning of consequences. I tried to model that. Let them know. Kids are kids. Let them be kids! But warn them. “This is going to happen if you don’t do this or that.” Right? Give them a clear warning. And get their, don’t make a clear warning, “Hey, if you do that again, you’re going to be in trouble.” No. Stop them. Look them in the eye.
Third, use contracts.
You know, they don’t do their chores or they are disrespectful, they won’t do their homework, they are hanging out with the wrong people. They beat up their brother or sister. Right? It’s like they’re not responsible, they won’t do this. I mean, there are only four or five major things that any kid messes up with.
And what happens, you get into these wars all the time. Stop the wars. When you’re not upset, when it’s not – they haven’t done something wrong, it’s like, you have a good time. Maybe it’s after a meal, you go out for a Coke, whatever you do. And then you come and you say, “You know something, we have been battling one another. I love you too much.”
I remember sitting down doing this. “This is just no fun. I mean, I love you. You’re so fun to be around. But we keep arguing about: you don’t do your schoolwork,” or my one son, “You just keep beating up your brother every time we leave and the hole in the wall just was not really good.” True story.
And so, I said, “Okay, let’s just list the things that are a problem on the left side.” And then, you know, “I have tried everything. It’s not working. So, here’s a column that says, ‘Consequences that are negative.’ You tell me if you do this, what negative consequence would really help you obey? What would help you learn? And then, by the way, here’s the next column. Positive consequence. Like, if you really obeyed in that area for ‘x’ amount of time, what would be a good perk? I mean, what would just say, ‘Hey, man, that’s worth…’ Okay?”
And we just went through the four or five things and I had him write it down. And I remember he said, “If I was, like, grounded from basketball practice for two days.” Okay, “We’ll write that one down.” Well, of course, now, by the way, anytime you do this, they test it. You know why? They’re like you. It’s like Adam and Eve. “Do not do this.” “Okay.” Right? It’s part of the human condition.
And so, of course, he wrote them down and I wrote them down and it’s a contract. He does it.
He’s going to miss basketball practice and then he’s, “Dad! You can’t do this to me! I worked all summer! I lifted weights, I practiced, I finally made the first team, I’m going to start next Friday night! If I miss these two practices, I won’t start! How could you do this to me?”
Now, I’m very calm. I said, “Oh, son, this is not – I’m not doing anything. This, the contract that we made, and I signed it here and you signed it there, and you know something? I am so bummed out. I was so forward looking to your start. I watched your hard work and, boy, I am so sad, but this is, this is your contract. You get to own your responsibility.”
Do you see the difference? See, get out of this arguing and drama and I had a lady come up with three boys. “I have the most wonderful boys but,” she gave me her top three problems. They are the top three or four of everyone. Sit down, write a contract with them. And they were, like, teenagers and one younger one. And they kind of looked, “Yeah, we’d do that.” But just sit down and use a contract.
Finally, use consequences. I’ll have, now and then, have someone say, “You can’t believe it! My daughter is completely out of control. She doesn’t come in at night, she is drinking, I know there’s marijuana we found. She is dating a boy that is totally outside the bounds. She is fifteen years old! We don’t know what to do. We have been to counseling. I am powerless! What do I do?” And I’m not the greatest counselor at all and that’s why I don’t do much of it. And you all think I’m joking. I’m not. But here’s my response, I said, “Oh, wow, you’re powerless?” “Yes! What can I do?” I said, “Well, like, does she drive at all?” “Well, yeah!” So, fifteen, sixteen, so she – did she buy the car?” “No, it’s ours.” “Oh. Well, who pays for the gas?” “Well, we do.” “Who pays for the insurance?” “Well, we do.” “Oh. Wow. Does she have a phone?” “Yeah.” “Who pays for that?” “We do.”
“Oh.” And I just went through and I started asking them questions. “So, you’re powerless? Does she have an outside job to eat food in your house? And does she rent the room?” “No.” I said, “Excuse me, you hold all the cards. And eliminate the drama. Here are one or two very clear boundaries. The next time this happens, by the way, in fact, the car is gone, this is gone, we’ll start with this one,” and you just begin to – the velvet vise of love.
And you be the parent. And, now, by the way, I got to the point with one of my sons where I did all that, because some of you are thinking, Well, they might just opt out. I got where seventeen and a half years old, tears down my face and tears down his face. “I wish you weren’t a Christian dad and I don’t,” no rules. “You can’t tell me anything.” I said, and don’t do this unless you’ve prayed it through, gotten good counsel from a counselor and probably a pastor and thought through. But you have tried everything.
And I remember sitting in front of the car, in front of my house, said, “You’re destroying our marriage, you are destroying our home, you’re seventeen and a half years old, if you’re man enough now to get a job, find a place to live, and figure out what you’re going to do for food, then I can’t teach you. So, you’ve got forty-eight hours. You can either come, you don’t have to believe anything I believe, but I will tell you this, either you come and have a good attitude and stop ruining our family, or you find a place to live.”
And I wasn’t bluffing, and he knew it. And I was crying. And later he came back and he said, “You know, Dad, it wasn’t all the discipline.” He said, “When you and Mom cried, I realized how precious and real Jesus is to you. I went into my bedroom for forty-eight hours, realized a lot of it was just my pure rebellion. And part of it was you pushed my buttons, Dad, and I pushed yours.”
But he said, “God really spoke to me.” He came out of the room, and I was just, I was waiting for the second shoe to drop. He was a manipulator. And it seems like rebellious kids are very smart. And then we watched a complete change. I want to give parents hope here. God can do anything.
Two of the three songs we sang, this kid wrote them and they are sung all over the world. My prayer wasn’t, my prayer wasn’t that he write songs. My prayer was, “Oh, God, keep him out of the ditch. Oh God, help him not do something so stupid that he is going to ruin the rest of his life.”
But all I can do is set a boundary over here and say, “You know what? In our house, you can’t treat people that way. And over here, no matter what you do, I’m going to love you.” And is it hard? It’s excruciatingly hard.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. But after they have been trained by it, it yields a peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
On the back page, I have given you a game plan. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
Here are some pitfalls to avoid. We have all done these, right? The screaming parent; the all-talk, you have a good talk or a nagging, nagging, nagging that’s not working. I just put this, “abusive parent.” If you’re striking your child or you’re out of control, get help.
The closed-lipped parent is just the passivity of you just think this is going to go away. When you don’t address stuff, your kid’s heart is telling him you don’t care. And then finally, the lightbulb parent is you’re totally inconsistent. This really, really matters on Monday, and on Friday you don’t care.
The game plan is just simple. Identify the top two behavior problems. Don’t try and tackle everything. Just what are the top one or two things that are just making you crazy and making your kid crazy? And then honestly evaluate.
Go back to the first page and ask yourself honestly which one of those, Where do I lean? Where do I need to address some issues? Many times, when my kids were disobeying, what I realized was, I wanted to blame them. The problem was me. I was inconsistent. I wasn’t avoiding some of those pitfalls.
And then, third, have a family conference. You sit down and often you start it with, “You know something? I have not been the dad I needed to be.” Either inconsistent or I didn’t do this. “But I want you to know, here are the top two issues, here is the plan, here are the consequences, I love you. This is how we are going to move forward. And then strap it on, they will test you, and you need to win. And then, finally, sit down and set some goals together and ask God to work in a powerful way. He will. There is hope.