I see a lot of children who are not being trained by their parents today. I also hear parents who are continually saying that they can’t control their young children (1-5 years of age). These parents want to talk about their issues openly in public, but do not have the stomach or backbone to listen to parents who have pioneered a proven pathway to training up a godly generation.
As a parent, you may be deceived into thinking that nobody notices your child physically throwing fits, loudly demanding their way, or bodily hitting you, but we see it and it isn’t cute. We wonder why you don’t have a spine, why you are obviously intimidated and dominated by a toddler, why you continually keep repeating yourself with no visible results, and why you are willing to sell and sacrifice your child’s soul?
If a child is allowed to “get his own way,” that child learns he is more powerful than his parents. And that is a frightening place to find yourself at three or four years of age—to discover that you are the strongest person in your world.
When you fail to discipline your children you are missing valuable opportunities to provide formation to their soul and spirit. If you wait for spiritual formation until they go to Sunday school or youth group, or Bible study then you are really missing the point of a spiritual life and the role of being a father and mother in the faith.
What ends up happening to an undisciplined child is that the parent simply is passively waiting for the child to grow out of their unhealthy behavioral patterns. Children will grow out of unwanted behavioral patterns as a child grows older. Certain behaviors change simply because they are getting older and previous practices of gaining affection or attention no longer work. So now instead of throwing a fit they simply cop an attitude. They choose behaviors that accommodate their new age and attitude. The reason that they can make the sociological adjustments and get by with them is because previous behaviors and attitudes were never checked or corrected and instead of modeling their life by their parents example they seek out the lifestyles of those in their peer group sub-culture.
Just because a child grows older by age does not ensure that they are maturing in godly character and a humble will. What the parent of an undisciplined child doesn’t realize is that the young child they were trying to make like them now resents them as they get older. This passive paradigm of child training is proven to be a catastrophe and is not in keeping with the sacred text of Scripture. You need to know the heart of each of your children and apply the biblical truths appropriately, but discipline that is working is discipline that is changing the child from the inside out. If your spanking doesn’t bring about the expected changes then you aren’t doing it right.
Just because a child modifies their behavior, even making it acceptable or obedient does not guarantee a healthy heart. This was the same concern that Jesus confronted with the religious behaviors of the Pharisees. The potential tragedy is that children will modify their behavior, but because of a lack of being trained by discipline (Hebrews 12) the soul and spirit is unformed and the life is now conformed to either a life of religious showmanship, worldly influenced peer pressure or self elected and seated as their own authority.
There are three critical hinges on the door of a child’s life.
- 2-3: The Toddler, when motor skills are gearing up, need to be nurtured and given the rod.
- 12-13: Teenager, when hormonal changes are heating up, need to be given guidance
- 22-23: Twenty something… when life decisions are opening up, need to be given wisdom
If you let your child’s soul go undisciplined at the initial stage then every successive stage will be more difficult for both you and them. I have seen so many parents in for counseling with and about their teenagers and they throw up their hands…not knowing what to do with them and yet they always say he/she is a good kid. Parents are very stressed by their child’s unruly behavior and the child resents the idea that the parent is just now trying to control their behavior. That is why we must train them up while they are young. The other great neglect is the parents who once their children become teenagers they almost completely abandon them to living their own life and making their own decisions rather than mentoring and guiding them through the rough waters of young adulthood.
So then, as the undisciplined child grows up they may appear to function well in society, but their interior quality of life will now be tested as never before because it was never formed and harnessed as a toddler and teen. It will be tested in friendships, opposite sex relationships, authorities in life, productivity on the job, and in handling the everyday temptations of life.
Richard Foster refers to discipline as a means of grace. Therefore, if a child is unformed by discipline they are missing out on the grace of life/God. They become deficient in matters of self control and character development. So I admonish you to read the Proverbs about training up your child, and recognize that discipline is the means of giving to the spirit, the grace necessary to form it into the character of Christ.