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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?