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weary warrior

Now or Later?

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I wrote this a while back to address some misconceptions that I see Christian families often have concerning discipline and children. I'm not talking off of the top of my head here, I have raised 7 children, they are currently ranging from ages 15 -25, and all are born-again believers who are Godly assets in their church and fit testimonies to Christ. I hope it is a blessing, and I welcome discussion and feedback...

 

Now or Later?

    A two-year-old child is nothing more than a twenty-year-old adult in training. After watching various parents raising their children over the years, and spending the last several years raising children of my own, I have come to this conclusion. It is a concept that some will immediately disagree with while others will agree with but maybe not fully understand the application. But some of you know what I am talking about

 

    Where is the point in a child’s life that they cease to be a child and are instantly an adult? There is no such point for most people. I understand that some folks are forced to grow up very fast due to a tragedy or particular traumatic circumstance, but that is not the normal case. I know people that are over forty years old that can drive, vote and procreate but they would not be considered a mature adult if judged by their behavior. They are not responsible, wise or profitable to society in very many ways. In truth, maturity is a process that is taking place over time, and most of the characteristics of adulthood that we would recognize and require from both ourselves and our acquaintances have to learned and instilled.

 

    The question then is at what point do we start teaching these characteristics of the mature adult to our children? When do we stop tolerating poor attitude from a child, using their very childhood as an unspoken excuse, and begin the work of crafting and forming a man or woman that is an honor to their parents and a blessing to their God?

 

    I believe that when a child is old enough to understand that they are being corrected and to understand what that correction is, it is time to begin. Now, let me hasten to insert here that I am in no way saying that we should deprive children of the joy of childhood. The laughter, imagination and wonder of a child is a gift from God, and as parents, many of us too often miss out on the opportunity to join with them in their fun and innocence. If we were to join with them a little more in their innocence then we could occasionally get a little taste of what we left behind so many years ago before mortgages, elections and terrorism filled up so much of our daily reality. The weight of living life will begin soon enough for them, don’t make it drab now. I am not speaking of this. I am speaking of molding a personality.

 

    In a nutshell, any attitude in any daughter or son of mine that would be a shame to both themselves and to their parents when that child is twenty-six is just as unacceptable when they are six. Do you know of a young person in college, or perhaps that is newly married, that is petulant and moody when they are told “no”? Can you think of anyone old enough to vote that cannot deny themselves anything their body wants, be it food, drink, clothing, electronic toys or entertainment? Do you know a person with children of their own that is waspy, sharp-tongued or catty with others? It is most often nothing more than childish behavior that they never matured out of, for the parent felt that you should overlook certain attitudes in a child because they are just children. However, when they were no longer children, the attitude was too ingrained and then couldn’t be removed.

 

    A Christian reading this will likely say that these personality traits that I describe are not merely childish attitudes, but are in actuality the fruit of a sinful, carnal heart, and should be addresses as such. I would not argue the point. Selfishness in a person is a sin, be they four or forty. But, the core personality of a person, the traits of their spirit that makes them who they are, is formed from an early age, and is much harder to change as an adult.

Have you ever been acquainted with a sinner, an unsaved man, that was known for being a person of weak personality, not given to diligence, not of great moral fiber, never really trusted? Did you ever witness such a person get truly born again? And once born again, did they suddenly gain a backbone, a stubborn grit when it came to doing right, courage in the face of adversity, and dare I say…guts? It has been my experience that a person with weak character that is then converted and becomes a child of God does not often automatically get a full character transplant as well. They are changed, yes, but not replaced.

 

    In contrast, I have known sinners that were wicked indeed, but lived their wicked life with up-front honesty, courage and truthfulness. They would get drunk, but would not sneak and hide it. They would engage in immorality, but figure no one was getting hurt by it, and certainly would not cheat on a friend. Would not shirk, could not lie or steal from you, their neighbor or the IRS. Lost, condemned human souls, but human beings of strength and moral fiber. They did not hold the same morals that a Christian does, nor that God would accept, but what they held they held strongly, honestly and openly. Then they met Christ, saw the wickedness of their life and hopeless of their eternity and repented toward God. And in the end, they were as straight, honest, up-front and diligent about their life for God as they had been before when living for themselves.

So, in the end, a weak sinner makes for a weak Christian, and a strong sinner will most often make for a strong Christian. It is a view that is hotly contested in some circles, but one that I firmly hold to be true.

 

   When I look at my youngest son, I do not see a Christian that should be living his life for his God, but a six-year-old little human being who’s character is being formed daily. If I do not help him be a man of good, strong character first, then I cannot expect him to be a man of God with good, strong character later when he is old enough to understands the gospel and turn to Christ for himself. There is no magic point at which he instantly becomes a man and is now ready to learn acceptable adult character. No bar-mitzvah of the soul where we all celebrate on a given day his sudden emergence into a new state of teach-ability and formability.

 

   If your young child has a personality trait or an attitude that would horrify you if they were a grown adult, that attitude should be just as unacceptable to you while they are yet a grinning, tow-headed three year old full of mischief and questions. If your son kicks you and yells “I hate you” while only three, it is just as abhorrent and dangerous as it would be if he were seventeen. The anger, self-will, mean spirit, rebellion and physical violence are the same, the little body is just not yet big enough to do anything about it. If you are in public and your fifteen year old daughter were to yell “NO!” at you and storm off when she had been given a directive you would be horrified and embarrassed, looking for the floor to swallow you up. Yet so many mothers and fathers just get a wearied, harassed look of consternation when treated like this by a preschooler, and then they follow the child out to gently reason with them and express their sorrow at the “unkindness” they had been shown.

 

  You are not doing the child any favors. We live in an entire universe of order and authority, and if a human being is not soon taught by their parents that all of God’s creation does not exist to serve and appease them then they will have to learn this the hard way by much harsher teachers. The laws of nature, the laws of God, the judicial system of any given country, the military and the boss down at the office do NOT exist to serve me at my whim, but have set their boundaries long before I ever arrived on the scene. They expect me to move within the boundaries set forth like all of humanity before me, and will make my life miserable if I do not.

 

   Folks, there is a BIG picture of man and his place in history, in life and in society, and we must teach our children the lessons and rules of life with others and all of it’s realities. We must do this while they are young and easily molded, for it is a terrible disservice to them to put the hard work off for years because we don’t want to be the bad guy. To begin all of a sudden to try to change them when they are already half-grown, partially formed and beginning to take a set in their permanent, emerging character is a little like exposing them to chickenpox on their honeymoon. It would have been a whole lot easier to go through it and get it over with while still a toddler.

 

   When God gave you a child, he gave you a clean slate. Begin drawing a pretty picture right off. It’s much too hard to erase and start over later.

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Amen!

I have never understood the concept of "letting kids be kids."  Childishness was never encouraged in my family.  We were allowed to have fun and play at appropriate times and even be silly to a certain extent, but were always told to act our age and were told, "you know better than that," and "you're too old to be acting that way."

I am the youngest of seven and every one of us had chores and responsibilities as far back as I can remember.  I was taught how to mow the lawn when I was still so short that I had to push the lawnmower with my arms above my head.  We weeded cracks in the patio and driveway, trimmed the lawn with hand clippers, and were strongly admonished if we whined or complained about being asked to do so.

I also disagree with the idea of separate church services and groups for children and teens.  When I hear people say that "kids need to be around other kids," I think, "No they don't; kids need to be around adults."  It's fine for young people to spend some time with each other, but if they spend the majority of their time with each other, how in the world are they going to learn how to become adults?  

In church, they need to learn how to hear and pay attention to the word of God like adults do.  Reducing church to colorful dinosaurs, childish sing-songs, coloring books and illustrated Bibles, trains children to believe that the word of God and church is like a circus.  Then, they get to be a certain age and it just stops and is suddenly somber, lacking of colorful toys and, in their view, boring.  To them, it's like leaving a circus tent that leads directly into a funeral parlor full of smelly old people.  

In my house and the houses of most of my friends with whom I grew up, childhood was not something to be perpetuated ad infinitum.  It was something we wanted to get past as soon as possible.  We craved responsibility and wanted to be like the adults as soon as possible.  In contrast, I have a 25 year old nephew who is married to a woman ten years his senior.  He likes to go to toy stores and ride tricycles around the store and she has an obsession with Hello Kitty and has rainbow colored hair.

 

Edited by Brother Stafford

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weary warrior:
Just recently listened to Dr HENRY BRANDT's - Guiding Children (in 2 parts, 9-10 Feb. on BBN radio) Excellent! I believe your thoughts and admonishment are also excellent insight into child raising.

The thought which comes to mind is "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15 The rod doesn't have to be a 'rod', although with my two sons, it was sometimes a belt, ruler, etc. Every child is "fearfully and wonderfully made:" Psalms 139:14. I believe this speaks to the uniqueness God builds into each one of us and our children and differing discipline needed.

I would gladly recommend your insight accompanied with Dr. Brandt's 'Guiding Children' but include a heavy dose of prayer and Bible time.

Bro. Stafford:
As you point out above, it's the parent's home that remains the base for Christian living and Biblical teaching/values that remain with the child later in life. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6 I failed to provide this for all my children and as a result (not the pink hair) but characteristics I don't prefer appeared and I'm sure will be transmitted to their children, my grandchildren. Yes, scripture bears you/me out here, in many ways.

 

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