It’s all about relationships. Whether you are a professing Christian or an unbeliever, you cannot refute the solemn principle that your life is filled with a culmination of various relationships. These relationships can be healthy and constructive, or unhealthy and detrimental. The essence of these relationships hangs in a constant state of flux. The Bible’s entire essence stands firmly on the principle of relationships.
Parents, Children & Discipline
Growing up in an “old-school” modality of parenting forged my view of how children are to be disciplined. I was brought up in a very disciplined and highly structured environment that was behavior-focused. My siblings and I respected our parents for the position they held and understood that we were to behave as instructed. This undergirded my perspective of parenting. You [the parent] are the authority and your children are subject to that authority. They are to do what you say and to behave as you instruct them. Any diversion from this methodology was just cause for punitive discipline. This is just the way it was done. This was our example of how it was supposed to be done and I carried that over into the parenting of my two oldest children.
Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NASB)
Heart Focused vs. Behavior Focused
The Bible clearly charges parents to properly train up a child. In this, Christ must be at the center. When Jesus enters the parenting process, He reveals The Way. As scripture clearly reveals to mankind, the original children of our Trinitarian God, Adam and Eve, “misbehaved” in the Garden of Eden. Adam failed to lead and they both failed to take heed of their Father’s parental direction. Their hearts turned away from The Father and they behaved in a self-serving and prideful manner. They may not have physically uttered the words, “Dad, I know you told us not to, but we don’t feel like obeying you.” Nonetheless, their actions revealed their heart’s motivations. We will exercise our will over the will of The Father. Can we not see this type of intrinsic, self- focused behavior in our children today (let alone ourselves)? Your child may not intentionally decide to disobey you as their parent, but their impulsive actions do spring from the heart. What they believe they want and need can and will trump parental direction.
A paradigm shift is needed for many of our parents today and of old.
Mark 7:20b – 23, Jesus states: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (NASB)
The Gospel of Mark records these words from Christ as He spoke to His disciples regarding the heart of man. As for many of us, when we are faced with a multitude of daily decisions, our sinful nature drives us to continually evaluate relational decisions on the basis of ‘how will this benefit me.’ This flesh-motivated criteria is cast aside when we focus on our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Enters the Building
Old-School parenting has many valued and time-tested positive attributes. I still use and encourage many of them. I am not advocating for stepping completely away from many of these positive parenting principles, but wish to add clarity to the mission of parenting. A paradigm shift is needed for many of our parents today and of old. It is mission-critical that parents focus on the heart behind the behavior and not be simply behavior focused. Being behavior focused causes us to overlook the motivations behind the behavior. What sprang forth from the heart to cause or spark these actions? When we directly identify the core motivational issues, this allows us as parents to teach and train our children keeping Christ rightfully at the center of their developing worldview.
Our kinsman redeemer, Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life and perfectly modeled for us how we are to properly live in relationship with one another. Most all of us live very busy lives and if you have children, that busy factor is amplified ten-fold! The day-to-day busyness of life, operating in survival mode, tends to force us to focus on behaviors versus taking time to address the heart behind relational decisions. As we parent, we must remember that what our children say and do is a clear reflection of what’s in their hearts. To better steward the blessing of the child[ren] in your charge, we must be intentional in our efforts to usher them into a biblical worldview that places the personhood of Jesus at the center of their world. They must know He is The Way, and why we must follow Him.
Following Christ’s example as how to properly establish and nurture relationships will be blessed by God. As parents, we must take the time to get to the heart of the matter and remember not to simply focus on the external behavior of our children. Biblically addressing and correcting the underlying motivations of a child’s heart teaches and trains them how to evaluate their actions against a biblical worldview. Exercising this form of parental discipline will help point you and your child towards the heart of God.
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