Parenting. So many things could be said. So many things need to be said. It is a job like no other. You will have no greater influence on the world and the church as when you become a godly parent. Sometimes we don’t think about parenting that way but we need to start. We are training up the future of our societies and congregations; how we raise our kids will have a direct result on the future generations.
A question that comes up frequently is, how much is too much? How much is too much discipline? When have I reached the point of exasperating my child? The answer is easy, I don’t know. Each kid is different, each situation is different. Here are some things I do know, “train up your child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it,”… “children obey your parents in the Lord, for it is right”…. “Father’s do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Here are just a few principles that we as parents need to keep in our back pockets. These remain true whether we are disciplining, teaching them life skills, talking with them about sex (yes we need to be talking with them about sex), teaching them about the importance of a good work ethic, and so much more.
So then, how much is too much? I want us to consider Eli, a man of God, who raised Samuel in the ways of the Lord and taught him how to work in the temple and have faith in God. In some ways Eli is to be admired, in other ways he is not. If you recall in 1 Samuel 2, we learn that the “sons of Eli were worthless men, they did not know the Lord.” I want to pause here, how could sons of a priest, who spent time training up the great man of faith, Samuel, not “know” the Lord? I see two options, one Eli spent more time with Samuel and did not spend the adequate time needed to train up his sons, or second, the boys were taught the ways of the Lord but rejected those teachings for whatever reasons. That being said the Lord is going to blame Eli for not “restraining” or “rebuking” his sons.
Here is where we get a good look into what “disciplining” a child really means. It does not mean that your child will always turn out right, that is not our job, eventually they will have to make decisions for themselves, our job is to make sure they know right from wrong. Sometimes this can be a gentle persuasion but other times it needs to come in the form of open rebuke. Eli, taught his children God’s word but his job as a parent never stopped, God was going to punish him for continuing to allow his children to live in sin and not rebuke. He is not being punished for their sin but his passiveness about their sin (c.f. Ezekiel 18). As a parent, I know that it can be easier not to deal with it and there is a time when we need to pick and choose our battles, especially at the younger ages but as our kids grow older and mature, they need to have more expected from them. Things that were “okay” as a kid, can no longer be “okay.” We cannot continue to make excuses for our kids, we need to rebuke at times if necessary.
I grew up in a generation where parents were more concerned about defending their kids when they did wrong than punish them. I had an experience in middle school, where a young girl spit in my face and so the teacher sent her to the principle office. Later that day I was asked to go down as well and give my side of the story, what happened next I could not believe. Her mother was actually yelling at the teacher for punishing her, even after she knew that this girl spit in my face. She did not care about that, she had the attitude, “How dare you punish my sweet daughter.” I know what my mom would have done, and it would not have been a fun night for me.
Godly parenting needs to be done in a prayerful manner, we do not want to exhaust our kids in punishment. We need to understand they will make mistakes and they need to see as much grace from us as they see disappointment. We need to be balanced in our discipline of our kids and it always needs to be done in love, but just like with Eli, we will be judged on how we raised our kids and there are always consequences for not being the spiritual parents God has called us to be.
I hope this can encourage you and your spouse to be praying to God for wisdom on how to train up your children and to get you to think seriously about your responsibility as a parent. It’s not societies job to train your kids, it is yours!