Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shepherding a Child's Heart - Part 1

Verse of the Day:
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

Last week, the Lord really brought me to the peak of my anger with DearDaughter. This second pregnancy has been physically rough on me and as a result I get tired very easily. I have discovered that when I am tired I am easily irritated, angered, and am very impatient. I sinned very wickedly against DearDaughter as I yelled at her in the most horrible way a mother could yell at a dear Little One and not just once but many times through the course of the week.

I am a very stubborn and prideful person and in order to bring me to the end of myself, God really has to push me into the deepest pits of sin to make me recognize my wickedness. Although I know I hurt DearDaughter very much through my uncontrolled anger last week, I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to fall into that pit while DearDaughter is still young and can forget those ugly times. I also thank God for His faithfulness in me by allowing me to recognize my sin so that I am able to turn from it and run to Him for His help and strength to overcome it.

I have a woman's forum, A Forum for Christian Woman, and posted an interesting article called, "Is It OK to Spank?". This article, along with my difficult week with DearDaughter, motivated me to seek a biblical response to that question. Well, a DearFriend gave my husband and I Tedd Tripp's book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, as a wonderful gift before DearDaughter was born. I read it immediately after DearDaughter was born and really appreciated this piece of encouragement. However, at that time, DearDaughter was only a few weeks old and the book was not very "practical" for me yet since I was still only focused on learning how to feed and put DearDaughter to sleep. Now that DearDaughter is at a stage where her own sinfulness and rebelliousness against authority is becoming more evident, DearHubby and I have returned to Mr. Tripp's book for guidance. Providentially, our Sunday School class at church has taken this particular time to also discuss Mr. Tripp's books.

Below are excerpts from Mr. Tripp's book. As a disclaimer, these are only excerpts and I would really recommend reading the whole book to put the following excerpts in context. Mr. Tripp gives 3 tools to Biblical childrearing: communication, the rod, and appeal to the conscience. The focus of these excerpts are on the 2nd tool, the rod.

The sincere entreaty accenting every syllable caught my ear.

"Dear, you know what Mommy said and you did not obey Mommy. And now I'll have to spank you. You know, Dear, that I am not mad at you, but you must learn to obey."

The baby was mute in the face of correction, but then she was only a doll. And the mommy? She was a 4-year-old Lauren. The speaker behind the speaker was obviously her mother.

As I listened to this little 4-year-old, the clear structure and gracious manner of this make-believe discipline session impressed me. The lines were well-rehearsed. Lauren had heard them many times. There was no anger. only firmness in her voice as she prepared her baby for what was to come. The objective was also clear - "You must learn to obey." There was nothing in the manner of this young imitator of "Mommy" that looked or sounded like child abuse. Yet our culture regards all corporal punishment as cruel and abusive.

The Rationale Behind the Rod
Many questions about spanking shildren flood our minds. What is it designed to accomplish? Is it really necessary? Isn't there a better way? What is the idea behind it? Will it make your children resent you?


The Nature of the Problem
What is the nature of the child's most basic need? If children are born ethically and morally neutral, then they do not need correction; they need direction. They do not need discipline; they need instruction.

Certainly, children need instruction and direction. But is their most basic problem a lack of information? Are all the problems gone once they are able to learn a few things? Of course not!

Children are not born morally and ethically neutral. The Bible teaches that the heart is "deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV). The child's problem is not an information deficit. His problem is that he is a sinner. There are things within the heart of the sweetest little baby that, allowed to blossom and grow to fruition, will bring about eventual destruction.

The rod functions in this context. It is addressed to needs within the child. These needs cannot be met by mere talk. Proverbs 22:15 says, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." God says there is something wrong in the child's heart. Folly or foolishness is bound up in his heart. This folly must be removed, for it places the child at risk.

Throughout the Proverbs, folly/foolishness is used to describe the person who has no fear of God. The fool is the one who will not hear reproof. The fool is the one who will not

submit to authority. The fool is the one who mocks at the ways of God. The fool lacks wisdom (fear of the Lord).

The fool's life is run by his desires and fears. This is what you hear from your young children. The most common phrases in the vocabulary of a 3-year-old are, "I want. . ." or "I don't want. . . ." The fool lives out of the immediacy of his lusts, cravings, expectations, hopes and fears.

It is a question of authority. Will the child live under the authority of God and therefore the authority of his parents, or under his own authority-driven by his wants and passions?

This is the natural state of your children. It may be subtly hidden beneath a tuft of rumpled hair. It may be imperceptible in the smile of a baby. In their natural state, however, your children have hearts of folly. Therefore, they resist correction. They protest against your attempts to rule them. Watch a baby struggle against wearing a hat in the winter. Even this baby who cannot articulate or even conceptualize what he is doing shows a determination not to be ruled from without. This foolishness is bound up within his heart. Allowed to take root and grow for 14 or 15 years, it will produce a rebellious teenager who will not allow anyone to rule him.

God has ordained the rod of discipline for this condition. The spanking process (undertaken in a biblical manner set forth in chapter 15) drives foolishness from the heart of a child. Confrontation with the immediate and undeniably tactile sensation of a spanking renders an implacable child sweet. I have seen this principle hold true countless times. The young child who is refusing to be under authority is in a place of grave danger.

The rod is given for this extremity. "Punish him [a child] with the rod and save his soul from death" (Proverbs 23:14). Your children's souls are in danger of death-spiritual death. Your task is to rescue your children from death. Faithful and timely use of the rod is the means of rescue.

This places the rod in its proper setting. Use of the rod is not a matter of an angry parent venting his wrath upon a small, helpless child. The rod is wielded by a faithful parent, recognizing his child's dangerous state, employing a God-oven remedy. The issue is not a parental insistence on being obeyed. The issue is the child's need to be rescued from death-the death that results from rebellion left unchallenged in the heart.

The Function of the Rod
What does the rod of correction do for the child? How does it work? In Proverbs 29:15 God says, "The rod of correction imparts wisdom. . . ." Elsewhere, the Proverbs connect wisdom with the fear of the Lord. Fearing God and acquiring wisdom comes through the instrumentality of the rod.

The connection of the rod with wisdom is of profound importance. The child who is not submitting to parental authority is acting foolishly. He is rejecting the jurisdiction of God. He is living his life for the immediate gratification of his wants and desires. Ultimately, to refuse God's rule means to choose his own rule that leads to death. It is the height of foolishness.

The rod of correction brings wisdom to the child. It provides an immediate tactile demonstration of the foolishness of rebellion. Properly administered discipline humbles the heart of a child, making him subject to parental instruction. An atmosphere is created in which instruction can be given. The spanking renders the child compliant and ready to receive life-giving words.

Hebrews 12:11 puts it this way: "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."

The rod of discipline, while it brings pain, also brings a harvest of righteousness and peace. The child whose parents use the rod in a timely, appropriate fashion learns to submit to authority.

Don't all kids learn to obey eventually? Not according to the Proverbs. "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother... Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul" (Proverbs 29:15, 17).

God has commanded the use of the rod in discipline and correction of children. It is not the only thing you do, but it must be used. He has told you that there are needs within your children that require the use of the rod. If you are going to rescue your children from death, if you are going to root out the folly that is bound up in their hearts, if you are going to impart wisdom, you must use the rod.

What is the Rod?
The rod is a parent, in faith toward God and faithfulness toward his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely, measured and controlled use of physical punishment to underscore the importance of obeying God, thus rescuing the child from continuing in his foolishness until death.

A Parental Exercise
...By definition, the rod is a parental exercise. All the passages that urge the use of the rod place it in the protected context of the parent-child relationship. The command is "disciple your son." The Bible does not grant permission to all adults to engage in corporal punishment of all children...

An Act of Faith
The use of the rod is an act of faith. God has mandated it use. The parent obeys, not because he perfectly understands how it works, but because God has commanded it. The use of the rod is a profound expression of confidence in God's wisdom and the excellency of His counsel.

An Act of Faithfulness
The rod is an act of faithfulness towards a child. Recognizing that in discipline there is hope, refusing to be a willing party to his child's death, the parent undertakes the task. It is an expression of love and commitment...

A Responsibility
The rod is a responsibility. It is not the parent determintin to punish. It is the parent determining to obey. It is the parent, as God's representative, undertaking on God's behalf waht God has called him to do. He is not on his own errand, but fufilling God's.

A Physical Punishment
The rod is the careful, timely, measured and controlled us of physical punishment. The rod is never a venting of parental anger. It is not what the parent does when he is frustrated. It is not a response to feeling that his child has made things hard for him. It is always measured and controlled. The parent knows the proper measure of severity for this particular child at this particular time. The child knows how many swats are to come.

A Rescue Mission
The rod is a rescue mission. The child who needs a spanking has become distanced from his parents through disobedience. The spanking is designed to rescue the child from continuing in his foolishness. If he continues, his doom is certain. Thus, the parent, driven by love for the child, must use the rod.

The rod underscores the importance of obeying God. Remember, the issue is never, "You have failed to obey ME." The only reason for a child to obey Mom and Dad is that God commands it. Failure to obey Mom or Dad is, therefore, failure to obey God. This is the issue. The child has failed to obey God. The child has failed to do what God has mandated. To persist places the child at great risk.

Distortions of the Rod
Since the rod is an idea that has fallen on hard times in our culture, we need to clear our minds of some distorted concepts of the rod. I do not want you to think I am advocating one of the popular misconceptions of the rod. Here are some things the rod is not:

Not the Right to Unbridled Temper
....Nowhere does God give parents the right to throw temper fits at their children. Such rage is ungodly and wicked. The Bible censures it. James 1:20 says: "Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

Not the Right to Hit Our Children Whenever We Wish
...The rod is used in the context of correction and discipline...God warns against the danger of embittering children in Ephesians 6. The parent who bullies his child physically will surely embitter him.

Not Venting of Frustration
...I have never met a parent who has not had moments of frustration with his children. There are times when they exasperate you, leaving you hurt and angry. The rod is not a way for you to vent your pent-up rage and frustration.

Not Retribution
...It is not payment due...

Not Associated with Anger

The Fruit of the Rod
The rod teaches outcomes to behavior. Consistent use of the rod teaches your children that there are inevitable outcomes to behavior. Young children must learn to obey. When disobedience is met with painful consequences, they learn that God has built the principle of sowing and reaping into their world.

The rod shows God's authority over Mom and Dad...

The rod trains a child to be under authority...

The rod demonstrates parental love and commitment...In verse 5 [of Hebrews 12], discipline is a sign of sonship. The parent who disciplines shows he loves his child...

The rod yields a harvest of peace and righteousness...

The rod bears wonderful fruit...

The rod returns the child to the place of blessing. Left to himself, he would continue to live a lust-driven life. He would continue to seek comfort in being a slave to his desires and fears. The rod of correction returns him to the place of submission to parents in which God has promised blessing.

The rod promotes an atmosphere of closeness and opendess between parent and child...

I think the most convicting of these excerpts for me was the section about the Distortions of the Rod. Reading how rage is "ungodly and wicked" and how "man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" really put Biblical childrearing into perspective for me. It first starts in the parents' hearts' desires to obey God, to glorify Him, and to enjoy Him. It is not merely turning DearDaughter into a good person nor is it even just about getting DearDaughter to obey ME. It's all about turning DearDaughter's heart to our glorious God so that her life, even from the start, is drawn towards glorifying and enjoying God. These childrearing tools are not to be abused, but they are to be used responsibly to teach submission and authority so that DearDaughter will ultimately understand that she is ultimately in submission to God and His authority over her life!

At the end of Mr. Tripp's book, he spends some time breaking up the different age groups of children and the tools to be used and how. I've only focused on reading the first stage of that section, but if I recall, he explains that when the rod is properly implemented to children at a young age, as children get older, communication and the appeal to the conscience should be the major tools used to continue in shepherding a pre-teen's and teenager's hearts.

I thank God for allowing me to run into the article I posted last week and I thank God that He has allowed me to recognize my sins of anger and lastly I thank God that our Sunday School class, which is going through Mr. Tripp's book, came at this perfect time that DearHubby and I could attend it. By these 3 means, God has given me the opportunity to recognize where I am lacking as a parent and the opportunity to overcome these weaknesses with His help. Already, I have started to make changes in the way I deal with DearDaughter and I will post updates about our progress.

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