Series: Parenthood Category: Core Seminars, Discipling / Mentoring, Children, Parenting
Summary of last week’s Getting to the Heart of Behavior:
The scripture teaches that the heart is the control center for life. A person’s life is a reflection of his heart. Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The behavior a person exhibits is an expression of the overflow of the heart.
This understanding is important for childrearing. It teaches that behavior is not the fundamental issue. The basic issue is always what is going on in the heart. Parents get sidetracked with behavior. It makes sense: the thing that alerts you to your child’s need for correction is his behavior, and so behavior easily becomes your focus. Your correct the unacceptable behavior and go back to doing what your were doing. Problem solved, right?
If only. Your child’s needs are far more profound and deeper than that. His bad behavior does not just spring forth uncaused. The things he says and does reflect his heart. If you are to really help him, you must be concerned with the attitudes of heart that drive his behavior.
Now, of course, you must require proper behavior. God’s law demands that. (And next week, Lord willing, we’ll get more into matters of obedience and proper, biblical use of discipline.) We’re simply saying … don’t be satisfied with correcting behavior and leaving their hearts unaddressed.
(And, for that matter our own hearts. I trust we’ve all been convicted over these last weeks to apply these parenting principles to our own hearts: What does your obedience look like? Do you pout and disengage when you are frustrated or angry? Do you have a “fussy heart?” A greedy heart? That sin you won’t let go of…what’s behind that? A heart that is discontent?)
Just a reminder as we go through this course, that the more earnestly we deal with our own sin, the better equipped we will be to help our children face up to sin.
So today, we’re going to talk about communication. And we’ll cover four things:
• Why we communicate?
• What we communicate? • How we communicate? • When and Where do we communicate?
1. Why Do We Communicate? Two basic answers:
Answer #1: We image God when communicate.
God is a communicator! It is his nature to reveal himself – and in particular with words. Scripture is God speaking to us. (Hosea 6:6 – knowledge of God > sacrifice) To know and be known, to relate, to express, to communicate knowledge – these are all in that list of things we do because we are made in God’s image. Why is that important? (Perhaps that sounds a bit “academic” to you). Well, among many other things, it reminds us that we’re not just wolves in a pack, if you will, nipping youngsters into submission to establish social order. We’re living souls – who have been given charge of other living souls, to nurture them and teach them.
Which is an excellent lead-in to answer #2 to our question:
Answer #2: Why do we communicate? Because we are commanded by God to communicate truth to our kids.
One of the Bible’s best parenting job descriptions is Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which we read last week – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Parents are commanded to communicate the truths of God to our children. And if you stop & think, that’s a pretty weighty command. Listen to this brief account in Judges 2. Israel had taken possession of the Promised Land and seen the Lord’s promises fulfilled in astounding ways.
But listen to what happens:
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers ….” Judges 2:10-12
They neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel?! How could the very next generation not know what God did (and turn their back on him)? Apparently, they weren’t told. We, as parents, are charged with the responsibility of teaching truth to our kids. We are the primary means by which God uses to communicate truth to the next generation. (US – not the pastor or Sunday school teacher)
Why do we communicate? It is our God-given task, that our children may know their Creator and what he has done for us in Christ, and in so doing LIVE!
2. What do we communicate?
There is MUCH about life that our children need to learn from us. We have to give them practical instruction on everything from dental hygiene to dating – things that are necessary to function well in this world. So there is much we can give them that is helpful – but does not give LIFE. We need to train our children to think biblically.
But even more than thinking biblically, what do I really want for my kids? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish as a parent? What exactly is your objective? As a Christian parent you must have one supreme objective for your children: that they be conformed to – gradually changed into – the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29a – “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” – this is God’s will for His children.) I want Christ for my kids.
A couple things are necessary for Christian maturity: the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. We cannot impart the Holy Spirit. But we can impart the scriptures. The scriptures are necessary for Christian maturity. And it is our task as parents to impart them to our children and use them with our children.
• Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
• Isaiah 55:11 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. • Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow; it judges the thought and attitudes of the heart.” • 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
We must teach them the scriptures, the truth about God. It is the scriptures that convict. It is the scriptures that distinguish good from evil. It is the scriptures that introduce us to God and train us to image him faithfully. God in Christ is the good news. God is what we want for our children. So we communicate His Word.
Tie this up with what we heard last week – we don’t want to teach external behavior and ignore the heart. It is insufficient, potentially deceitful, and even deadly to merely teach your children Christian behavior, to teach them to act like Christians. We teach Scripture, praying that it will permeate their heart – confident that God’s WORD is what possesses the power to transform our children. We don’t want to create Pharisees—little people who know what part to play or what to say, but don’t know God personally.
(And yes – we will still often struggle to get to the heart, and so sometimes obedience is all you can accomplish – but more on that next week.)
3. How Do We Communicate?
We often reduce parenting to three elements: rules, correction and punishment. And thereby reduce parenting to three roles: lawgiver, cop and warden.
• Lawgiver: You give your children the rules. (Don’t get out of bed) • Cop: You police your children for breaking the rules (Why are you playing with your dress-up clothes when I put you in bed?) • Warden: You enforce the sentence handed out for the infraction. (Now mommy has to discipline you.)
Every family needs rules, correction and punishment. No argument here. But I want to talk about other dimensions of communication and of means of communication that are too little employed in the shepherding of our children.
So in addition to:
Rules, Correction, and Discipline
We also are to use things like:
Encouragement, Rebuke, Entreaty, Instruction, Warning, Prayer
1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. “
Warn, Encourage, Help, Be patient
One thing we get from this verse is that different occasions and different hearers need different approaches or tools. How many times have I pulled out Parent Sermon #241 and started preaching it to my son who really needed me just to listen? How many times have we rebuked a child for laziness at homework time when they really needed encouragement – or instruction?
Let’s go through some of these briefly:
Rebuke: A rebuke censures behavior. Sometimes a child must experience your sense of alarm, shock, and dismay at what he has done or said. Perhaps your child picks up language outside of the home. Use of “that word” publicly or anywhere else is not acceptable behavior (“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…”)
In our home, children screaming at or disrespecting mommy is a cardinal offense. I want it to be extraordinarily clear that my kids don’t get to treat my wife that way.
Entreaty: This is earnest and intense communication. It can be pleading, urging and even begging. It is the earnest pleading of a father or mother who, understanding his child, the way of God, and the need of the moment, is willing to bare his soul in earnest pleading for his child to act in wisdom and faith.
Use this carefully. This is not to be used over spilled milk or mere foolishness. It’s Proverbs 23:26 “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways….” You entreat when you see wandering. You entreat when you see danger like the pull of pornography or sexual immorality, or when you see a cold heart.
Instruction or teaching: This is the process of providing a lesson, a precept or information that will help your children to understand their world. As a parent, you are the main means by which God is going to move your children from complete ignorance to knowledge of the world and the wisdom of God.
As parents we often get into a defense posture with our parenting, spending a lot of time correcting and punishing our children. It is very helpful to think about instruction as one of main tools in our arsenal as parents. When our kids do poorly in an area, one of the first questions we should ask ourselves as parents is, “What have we taught them about ___________?” [Example: cleaning their room]
If we use entreaty sparingly, we want to use instruction daily and frequent.
This idea of instructing our children is in a lot of places in Scripture, including Psalm 78. The psalmist writes, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (v. 4).
Warning: Warnings put our children on guard against a probable danger. A warning is not a threat when best used. It is merciful speech. It’s the equivalent of posting a sign informing drivers of a bridge that is out.
Example: Proverbs 14:23 says “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” That’s a warning.
Example of a helpful warning: We ask our children to actually stay in their bed and try to sleep during nap time. So, we sometimes say, “Sweetheart, you’ve gotten out of your bed yesterday during nap time. If you get out of bed again today I am going to have to discipline you.”
Example of a problematic warning: “Do you want a spanking?” That’s a rhetorical question if there’s ever been one. Don’t ask a kid if he wants a spanking. Another example: “I’m going to count to ten and if you’re not in here by the time I reach ten, you’ll get a spanking.” The problem is that you’ve just taught the kid that delayed obedience is fine. (Example of David and his mother saying “You’ve got ten seconds to come in” and then she started counting and David waiting until “8” before he moved.)
Prayer: Prayer is not communication with a child but with God, but it nevertheless is an essential element of communication between the parent and the child. Understanding what and how our children pray is often a window into their souls. And vice versa: a child can see the parent’s heart as he or she entreats their holy God.
I have heard numerous stories from people who were significantly affected in life by seeing their parents pray regularly. (e.g. “…every day I’d come down and see my mom praying for us…”) Last week, we quoted from testimonies from Charles Spurgeon’s wife and a visiting friend about his leadership in family worship. Susannah Spurgeon said this about Charles’ prayers: “He seemed to come as near to God as a little child to a loving father, and we were often moved to tears as he talked thus face to face with his Lord.”
Again – to reiterate – we are not all Charles Spurgeons. I don’t think I’ve ever moved my family to tears with a prayer. BUT – let’s not make that an “auto-excuse.” We can love our God. We can pray to Him in earnest. And we can live that out before our children. Our praying with our children can teach our children: • That mom and dad are people under authority • That God is the one to turn to in our need • That we live a life of faith • …just to name a few
Summary: You’ve heard the line “If the only tool you have in your belt is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” As parents, we need to develop the rich toolbelt (if you will) that God has given us in communication. We need to avoid being merely the lawgiver, cop and warden. We want to be coach, encourager, challenger, leader, teacher and prayer partner.
One more thought on how we communicate: Consider when you have a monologue with your child, and when you are having a dialogue. There are times when we need to instruct, entreat, or warn, and our child basically needs to listen. But there are also times when we need to talk with our child, ask questions, and understand what is going on in this heart. I know that my sinful tendency will be to preach to my child when the moment might require me to dialogue with them to understand why they are struggling. I’d encourage you to consider what you tend to do as a parent. Deciding when to have a monologue and when to have a dialogue requires discernment, so we need wisdom from the Lord. [James 1:5!]
4. When and Where Do We Communicate?
Remember the verses from Deuteronomy 6 earlier:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deut 6:4-9
At home, along the road, when you lie down or get up seems to be saying: Speak of God and his commandments always and everywhere! You don’t just teach the scriptures, but you talk about them and apply them in all kinds of places and in all types of circumstances, whenever and wherever life takes you.
As an interesting point, “Tie them as symbols on your hands” seems to be a metaphor for having the Scriptures govern all of our behavior. “Bind them on your foreheads” a metaphor for suggesting the Scriptures should govern our thoughts.
Put it all together and the Deuteronomy 6 passage is saying we should use every opportunity at all times to teach our children that the scriptures are to govern all of life.
Conclusion Parenting is a giant act of faith. This communicating in a biblical manner the truths of scripture is seed sewing. We wait to see what comes up. By faith we wait – and pray – and trust.
If you’ve never read the story of Adoniram Judson, I’d encourage you to. He was raised by a minister in the late 1700’s – early 1800s. He graduated valedictorian from seminary (Brown University) when he was 19. Through friends he met there, he totally abandoned the faith – until through some amazing events God arrested his heart. Later he became the first American missionary from North America to Burma and did a number of amazing things. It is a great encouragement to godly parents of the sovereign, gracious work that God – and ONLY God – can do in our children.
For that matter, reflect on the many baptism testimonies we hear in our own church. Note how quite a few of them go something like “I grew up in a Christian home, but wandered from my parents’ teaching in college (or high school…). But God….!”
So don’t give up on communicating to your children!