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The episode is embarrassing—and familiar. You've witnessed this scene just like I have: A child is screaming and kicking on the floor, pointing to candy at the checkout stand. The mother, ignoring the entire situation, hurriedly writes her check for the groceries. "What's the matter with her?" you wonder. "Can't she control her child?"

Maybe not—especially if she doesn't know how to train the will of her child. The challenge before that mother is one every parent must encounter: How do I train my child to make the right decisions that will help him in life and not harm him?

Relief Is Here!
The answer is within reach! You have someone to pattern your parenting after, and it isn't Dr. Spock! It's God, who is worthy of imitation. Ephesians 3:14-15 says, "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name." Since God is your model for parenting, you don't have to control your child any more than your Heavenly Father controls you. What good news!

"But, Vikki, are you saying I'm supposed to just turn my child loose to do whatever he wants?" No. Your role is to train the will of your child so he will learn how to make choices that are consistent with God's purpose for him.

Let's look at six things you can begin doing today that will help pump up your parental influence—actions and attitudes you can use to help your child set the course for his destiny in God.

1. Respect the Bent
Your influence as a parent begins with discovering God's plan for your child - a plan indicated by the individual gift, or bent, in his life. A very familiar verse translated in The Amplified Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go (and in keeping with his individual gift or bent), and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Prov. 22:6)

A gift is a natural endowment, aptitude or talent. A bent is a personal inclination, a strong liking, or favor for something. Knowing your child's aptitudes and inclinations, you can understand the motivations for his actions and help direct your child into God's purposes for his life.

This is much more important than making him conform to some image you may have for his future. I have heard parents say of a newborn, "My son is going to be a prophet." That's wonderful if God has called him to that, but if He has not, they are manipulating instead of influencing.

When parents impose their own desires upon a child, it becomes control. You cannot confess gifts and callings upon another person, even your own child. It's God's purposes - not yours - that you want to help your child discover. To do this, first seek God for His plan. Second, follow that plan in the way you influence your child.

2. Help Him Value Right Choices
The only way your child can learn to make right choices is by exercising his will through freedom of choice. This is by God's design.

God did not make man to be controlled or oppressed, and He never forces a decision on anyone. Look how God presented the blessings of His covenant to His people: "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity" (Deut. 30:15). He always leaves the final choice to man.

If the freedom of His children to make their own choices is important to God, it should be no less important to you as a parent. If you force your child's choices, you are controlling him. Instead, show him what a tremendous gift and responsibility his freedom to choose is. Let him know that the final responsibility of the choices he makes (and the consequences of those choices!) always remains with him, and not with you as his parent.

Breaking your child's will is not the goal here. When talking about the will here, I am referring to decision making, or choosing between two possible actions. The thought that parents are to break the will of their child goes totally against the character of God. Breaking the will forces an action against one's choice, which always results in resentment, bitterness and rebellion.

A child with a broken will is not equipped to face the challenges of adulthood, nor will he have the power to sustain the attacks of the world. Learning to express his will through freedom of choice is an essential part of growing up. For your child to confidently and consistently decide the right action, he must have his will trained—not broken. 

3. Help Your Child Understand Consequences
In God's system, freedom to choose is always followed by the consequences of those choices (Deut. 30:15). God makes the outcome clear in advance, but the decision is up to the individual.

Let your child know what his options are, and the consequences of each choice. Clearly and consistently state the rules and boundaries. This is the only way he can be certain of what you expect and be secure about his actions and your reactions.

What should you do if your child refuses to comply with your request? Persuade him to be influenced the next time! If your child refuses to cooperate, simply respond, "It is your choice to obey or disobey. You can do what I have asked or receive the penalty for your disobedience."

This places the power in his hand. Once again he is free to make a choice. If he chooses disobedience, he must receive the penalty in appropriate discipline. In this manner, punishment and penalty are clearly linked to his choice, not to the issue, and not to the parent enforcing the penalty.

Remember, you will not change a child's will by anger or force, but by gentle encouragement to a wiser, more excellent choice. It's by the goodness or kindness of God that men are led to repentance—not by harshness or control (Romans 2:4). To arouse children emotionally, such as with threats, only frustrates the process of training his will. Instead, set before them the standard of the Word of God and let it sway them.

4. Make the Love Connection
What does it take to have this kind of influence in guiding your child? It takes a loving relationship. Remember, God is your pattern. And He doesn't parent by dictatorship, but by relationship.

A relationship is a connection between two people. When a connection is made, there is a flow of power, just like electricity. Some parents never make that connection. They never create the bonds that let love flow easily to and from their children.

You and your son or daughter need to make contact with one another. This is more than being in the same room. It's flowing, joining and bonding together. Ruling with absolute power does not form this kind of bond. Sooner or later, dictatorship always results in rebellion. The kind of bonding that will hold you together when things get tough doesn't stop at birth, but is a process that continues for life, cementing you together and making you both strong.

5. Demonstrate Integrity
The strength of this bond demands integrity. Children are experts at spotting a fake. Don't try to lift before your son or daughter a standard by which you are not willing to live.

The hypocritical words, "Do as I say, not as I do," are powerless. If you continually make demands of your child that you are unwilling to fulfill yourself, he will rebel. I heard someone put it this way: "Rules without relationship create rebellion."

You must be a living demonstration that the "commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach" (Deut. 30:11). This may require you to make some adjustments in your life, but that's good. One of the greatest functions of the Holy Spirit is His guidance. He will show you how to get on track and away from snares and pitfalls.

6. Esteem the Child
To give respect, your child must be shown respect. The commandment to honor father and mother is given to children with the promise of a long life full of blessing (Eph. 6:2-3). But if your child does not receive honor and respect in the home, he will not give it to you in return, or to anyone else.

Remember Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Money is not the only issue here. If you were raised with honor and respect, you will give it to your child. If you were raised with criticism, that's what you will give unless you break its power and replace it with honor and respect.

Honoring your child is not difficult - merely esteem him as God's child. This does not mean that he rules the house, or has the right to behave without proper discipline. It means you give him recognition and treat him with respect and courtesy.

See your child as God sees him...with pleasure, affection and approval. One way you show your esteem for your child is by showing your desire to spend time with him like God showed His desire to have fellowship with Adam in the Garden of Eden. God desired to dwell among His people (see Exodus 25:8, 29:42-46). But He wasn't satisfied with simply dwelling among them. He sent His own Spirit to dwell in His people (1 John 4:13). His desire is to be close, so close He lives within every child of God.

Don't forget that however you view your child, he will sense it, and it will become the way in which he esteems himself, both in your family and God's.

Mirrors of God's Glory
Adam's purpose was to reflect the glory of God. God wanted to demonstrate His holiness, love, wisdom, comfort, faithfulness and grace through is to be the reflection of God's character.

It shouldn't surprise us that God has given children the inborn desire to imitate their parents. Every child has said, "I want to be like my daddy (or mommy) when I grow up." That's one reason they crave fellowship with you more than anything else that could be offered to them. They want to be near you, to spend time with you.

When children from five to eighteen years old were asked by a television host, "If you could have anything in the world from your parents, what would it be?" they all answered essentially this way: "I would like to spend time with my parents." A relationship with their parents is necessary to helping them feel accepted and approved.

This inborn desire gives you a great opportunity to guide them in their choices, rather than to control them. Like a mirror, your children will reflect your life. If you have patterned your parenting after God, they will manifest the values you display and be reflections of God's glory.

Show them that their freedom of choice is a gift to be valued and protected. Help them appreciate the privilege and responsibility of that freedom. Build the bond and the connection that lets love flow freely between you. Then watch as the choices they make lead them into fulfillment of their destiny in God.

Source: One Word from God Can Change Your Family by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland
Excerpt permission granted by Harrison House Publishers

Author Biography

Vikki Burke
Web site: Dennis Burke Ministries
Vikki and Dennis began as youth pastors in 1973 in Southern California where they received tremendous insight into the work of the local church. In 1976, they moved to Ft. Worth, Texas, to work with Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Vikki worked with KCM for three years before entering full-time ministry with her husband. Since that time, their relationship and involvement with Kenneth Copeland Ministries has continued. Vikki and Dennis have had numerous articles published in the Believer's Voice of Victory magazine.

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