How Not to Raise Horrible Kids
I used to hate kids. I think I was trained to do that for some reason. Maybe it came from the feminist Disney movies I watched as a kid about how pathetic it was to settle down and get married to a decent guy. Maybe it came from my divorced, working mom who encouraged my sisters and me to not get bogged down with kids, who will certainly ruin your career and possibly even your entire future.
Then I got married and my husband was pro-kid. Against all my previous childhood training, we started feeling that Jesus was asking me to allow Him to change my perception of kids. Much to my dismay, I also knew He was calling me to have kids and stay home with them, despite the criticism I was going to endure from my high-achieving family.
I knew nothing about babies and honestly didn’t particularly want one, but we felt called to start our family, so there we were. Soon our son Judah was born, and he was cuter and more fun than I’d expected until he was about 14 months. Then he became a demon-toddler. I cried over the loss of my sweet little child and started dealing with daily battles with this horrifying little sinner.
We prayed about how to handle each situation and the Lord was faithful to give us wisdom. We didn’t have family help or advice (other than “told you so” and “get a job and put him in daycare”). The thought of reading parenting books sounded like the worst punishment ever after being immersed in training my toddling, fussing monster all day long. So we went to the Lord instead, and He blessed us greatly with answers to each issue we brought to Him. Looking back, we are thankful we sought Him rather than advice from people, as well-meaning and wise as they may have been.
At one point early in our journey, I was told I just had to read “Shepherding A Child’s Heart.” I was all for capturing Judah’s little heart because I knew the goal was not just to make him into a “good” person, but rather a little man whose heart would seek the Lord. I only ended up getting a couple chapters into the book, but the point was to seek “hearts” rather than just obedience. Which is a fantastic idea.
Except that it doesn’t work on toddlers (maybe it tells you this later in the book, but I didn’t get that far). At the time, the issue was often about putting on his shoes. He and I would be headed to a mommy Bible study or a playdate or a doctor’s appointment or something. The one thing that stood between me getting there on time was little Judah and his unwillingness to put on his shoes.
I asked him kindly to put them on. He didn’t. I knew enough to know that I should never lose a battle with a toddler, so I was not going to put them on for him. Then I remembered the book, and how I wasn’t just seeking obedience but a heart that wanted to obey. So I talked to him about Jesus and sin and repentance. I prayed with him. I forgave him and helped him pray.
I talked to him about Jesus and sin and repentance. I prayed with him. I forgave him and helped him pray. Click To Tweet
But his little shoes were still laying on the floor and Judah was not about to put them on. So I did it all again. The talk and the training and the encouragement and the forgiveness. I was really doing an admirable job working on his heart, but I had a real problem.
I couldn’t get the little terror to put on his shoes. Meaning, all the heart-work in the world would not work if I didn’t first teach my little child that Mommy and Daddy are the authority and that he must obey. So his heart isn’t in putting on his shoes? He isn’t obeying because he really wants to? At this point, I didn’t need to “get” his heart…I would get his heart once I taught him to obey. That could come later.
The truth is that you have to teach your kids to obey you or they will never obey God. That’s the first thing God calls them to do. Before they ever know Him, they learn to respect authority and live under the loving leadership of their parents. Learning obedience tills the hard soil of their little heart and softens it. You are going to need good soil in order to plant the many teachings you hope to instill in them if you follow Jesus and want to send out godly kids who aren’t tossed and turned by the waves of the world.
Another benefit of teaching kids to obey is that you end up having a much more loving relationship with them. You train them and discipline them not when you’re angry but as a teaching opportunity before you get angry. Usually, parents get angry when the kid keeps committing the offense. But if they had corrected the kid earlier and had a consequence, they never would’ve had to get angry. Anger and meanness from parents usually come as a result of disobedient kids. If you’re angry, you probably missed an opportunity to discipline them earlier. It’s a lot easier to love your kids and speak kindly to them if they aren’t constantly defying you.
Honestly, part of the reason our culture doesn’t value kids is that most parents aren’t training them. It’s hard to value a kid that is rude, disrespectful, loud, and obnoxious. We, as Christians, are required by the Lord to train and discipline our kids. We ourselves are supposed to be trained and disciplined in the ways of the Lord as well. It pains me when we as Christians don’t do our work because it makes our defiant, selfish kids speak poorly to the world about the life-changing power of Jesus. And it certainly doesn’t help teach the world to value children as He does.
We, as Christians, are required by the Lord to train and discipline our kids Click To Tweet
As parents, there are so many things that vie for our time and attention. Especially kid activities, which call us to them so early and ask us to feel guilty for saying no to them. They’re of limited value, though, and allow us as parents to gain the whole world for our children but forfeit their souls. We have to be home often to teach them to obey or we will be unable to give our children the consequences they need to train them at the moment they are needed.
I really believe that the Lord hasn’t made training kids that hard. He just wants us to walk with Him and come to Him for help along the way. Our job is to follow Him by doing what He’s called us to do. And if we have small people in our house, He has called us to train them. Everything else can wait.