CONTRIBUTED BY ANDREW HART
Every few weeks our Men’s group meets to discuss topics raised in a brilliant book called “The Masculine Mandate”, by Richard Phillips.
A recent chapter had us discussing the topic of disciplining children, and the differences between discipline and punishment. The chapter identifies the differences between what parents intend to achieve, compared to what is actually achieved, when we are trying to “lead our children to Christ”.
The introduction portrays to us a very familiar pathway; where children are raised in a Christian home; taken to church on Sunday; brought to a Christian school; with good family controls over the internet, TV and books; etc. But this doesn’t lead a child to Christ. If we put our hopes on this, we are deluding ourselves. It is clear that parents should not just controlling the child’s environment, but needs to be influential in the shaping of the child’s mind.
Which brought us to the topic of discipline. One of the men in the group explained how he discusses with his pre-school child episodes of misbehaviour. This discussion would usually centre around the God-given authority the parent has to raise the child, and how the parents are disappointed (and sometimes angry) at the child’s misbehaviour; and how this behaviour had also upset God. So it would now be important to pray God for forgiveness, and to ask Him for obedience to follow the instructions of the parents.
This got us thinking: how has this conversation shaped the child’s mind? Would a child have a better understanding of God as a result of this conversation? Has the full richness of God’s love been demonstrated to the child?
It was not that long ago that children were taught “form” prayers. I can remember (and visiting other families still hear) children pray “Lord, bless this food, in Jesus name, amen” at the beginning of a meal. And as a child, a recall singing “Time has come for me to sleep…” when going to bed.
I consider these prayers form part of what was discussed at the start of this article, where children are required to perform certain things, apparently these being the demonstration of your love for God. But they were far from that. They had no true value to me, they were simply required, so we faithfully did what we were required to do.
Can we help our children speak freely and honestly to God, who has given us so much, but to whom we give so little? As parents we would love our children to be able to openly discuss things with us, so isn’t it true that God would love the same?
In our group discussion we tried to explore this a bit more. We asked questions like
- How do children get to know about God?
- Is the relationship they have with their Lord real and fulfilling?
- Is disciplining our children about explaining how God is upset by their misbehaviour?
- What should a child’s prayer actually consist of?
- How can we, as parent, facilitate a child’s prayer?
We had a great discussion on the approach we could take with our children. We could
- Read a portion of Scripture.
- Discuss and reflect how our behaviours have pleased or upset those around us, and how we have been able to demonstrates Christs love for us to others.
- Perhaps even write things down in a notebook or a diary.
- Offer a prayer to God, which will bring to Him the things spoken about.
This approach to speak to God is far more honest and complete. This prayer can be far more conversational, less formal, a true discussion with Him to raise all the things that matter. It can be with eyes open, reading and talking about what has been written. And the parent can help, by prompting and leading by example.
As parents, we are the role models for our children. They learn about God through us, and how we behave. Do we want them to learn from us about a God who is angry with them every time they do something to upset their mummy or daddy, or are we able to use the opportunity to demonstrate the fullness of God’s love for them?
And it’s also a better way for adults too. After all, adults are God’s children as well, and we need the same things as our children. This will make us far more aware of how much we have received, and how our hearts need to swell with the love of our saviour, that we can demonstrate to others, especially our children.