This article has been excerpted from Raising Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans.
Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Discipline involves a number of things. It is not only a corrective influence in a child’s life, it also involves instilling personal discipline within his or her life.
Discipline is a key factor in any victorious Christian life, whether it is discipline in money management, time spent, or personal morality. Job wrote during his distress that he had disciplined his eyes so as to not lust on a woman: “I have made a covenant with my eyes” (Job 31:1). And Paul spoke of the discipline he had maintained so that he would finish his race strong: “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Parental discipline, when done well, trains your children to apply personal discipline as they grow older, as well as prevents them from making poor decisions later in life.
The parents of the great missionary to China during the 1800s, Hudson Taylor, strove to teach him personal discipline by putting a piece of dessert on the table in front of his evening meal and giving him the option of not eating it because he trusted them for a greater reward at a later time. In this way, he had the option to eat it, but he also received the greater reward of his parents’ affirmation and an unexpected treat later on when he chose not to do so.
That reward of their affirmation would stay with Taylor over a period of several days as a reminder of his choice. He said that this affirmation, even more so than the greater reward later on, was a critical learning opportunity for him as a child. Not only that, it later transferred to his adult life when he had choices to make on a much larger scale. Because he was able to delay the rewards of immediate gratification for an even deeper, more meaningful, and lasting reward from his heavenly Father, he had a positive impact on the nation of China.
There are also corrective measures a parent must apply in order to raise kingdom kids. Essentially, your children are born with hell in them—a sin nature—and it is your job to correct and train them so the Holy Spirit is the dominant influencer in their life instead of their flesh.
Corrective discipline is designed to break a strong, rebellious will that a child might have—yet without breaking the precious spirit God has placed within that child.
Discipline comes in a variety of different forms, and depending on your children’s personalities, what works for one may not work for another. For some children, the greatest discipline might include being sent to their room alone. For another child, however, that could be a reward. This is why it is so critical to understand and know your children so you are able to raise them according to their individual personalities and needs.
My father knew what worked with me. And because he did, he didn’t have to discipline me much. When he did, it was done in such a way that I would never forget it. My dad called my discipline “sessions,” and they took place in the basement. What’s worse is that he would send me down for a “session” and then make me wait. I knew what was about to happen, and he wanted me to have plenty of time to think about whatever I had done to get myself into this mess in the first place.
Before my dad started a session, he would say something like, “Now, are we ever going to do such-and-such again?” I would always say, “No, Dad.” He usually asked me again to confirm it, and I would say no again—often loud enough that the neighbors could hear. And I meant it.
Now, keep in mind, disciplining your child is not the same as child abuse. That is completely wrong and has nothing to do with love. While discipline ought to produce some level of pain—whether by removing games, reducing socializing or spending, putting your child to work on an extra laborious chore, or some other rational form—it should be constructive pain, designed to teach your child not to engage in the wrong behavior again. The goal in discipline is always correction. You’re trying to create obedience while maintaining your child’s personal dignity and esteem.
Discipline is not yelling at your child—that’s venting. It must be coupled with love or your child will not see it for the good you hope to gain through it. You will end up only provoking your child to anger by being angry yourself. Discipline must flow out of a heart of compassion for your child’s well-being and future, just as we read in Hebrews concerning God: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Hebrews 12:6).
Another critical element in performing discipline that will establish kingdom principles in your child is setting clear boundaries ahead of time. Disciplining your children for something they didn’t realize was wrong—and maybe was something that just irritated you—will bring about only confusion and animosity in them, not spiritual growth. God always sets clear boundaries with us, and we should do the same with our own children.
When you teach your children that boundaries are actually an open door to freedom, they will be more receptive to them. You can establish freedom by instructing your children that they are free to do what they want within the boundaries you have provided. As they continue to honor those boundaries, they earn more freedom. Let’s say they faithfully adhere to a 10:00 p.m. curfew. In time you could reward them with more freedom by moving that curfew to 10:30 p.m. This will teach them that rewards come from obeying boundaries.
Parents, remember that it’s okay to reward obedience. God modeled this for us all the time throughout Scripture. Often His promises to the Israelites were dependent upon whether they obeyed His commands.
Teach your children to obey with honor. This means the child is not walking around with a scowl on his or her face, “obeying” you but at the same time making the atmosphere smolder. If that happens, you need to let your child know that it is not obedience until he or she also fixes his or her facial expression and attitude.
Along with the area of boundaries, parents must establish clearly defined expectations about what children are to contribute to the function of the home. Whether that means chores they perform, meals they prepare, or helping out with siblings, a healthy family atmosphere is one where there is clear communication about expectations. In addition, be consistent in enforcing those expectations.
Raising Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans
From the bestselling author of Kingdom Man and Kingdom Woman, Raising Kingdom Kids equips parents to raise their children with a Kingdom perspective and also offers practical how-to advice on providing spiritual training as instructed in Scripture.
Dr. Tony Evans begins with an overarching look at the need for Kingdom parenting, our roles and responsibilities in raising God-following children, and how to prepare children to take on the assignments God has for their lives. He then takes a practical turn, with examples and illustrations to help parents understand and provide specific training for kids in the power of prayer, wisdom, loving God’s Word, getting through trials, controlling their tongues, developing patience, the surrender of service, and much more.
This book is for every dad or mom who wants to fulfill the parenting role God has given them—not just in raising healthy kids intellectually, physically, and socially, but in contributing to their child’s relationship with God and alignment under His plan.